I mentioned a random act of kindness that was bestowed upon my wife and me last week, when an anonymous, kindly soul fed the parking meter on King Street, left a note of blessings and probably kept me from getting a parking ticket. Or should I say definitely? It doesn't take long.

Well, a few days later, my King Street shopping companion happened to be at a Starbucks in Mount Pleasant when a gentleman in line behind her started talking. He was being complimentary and admiring her boots and so forth. (Relax - in the company of his wife and a friend.) When they got to the cashier, he insisted on paying for her coffee. "Pay it forward," he said gallantly.

How nice! Glad to see that chivalry is alive and well.

The comments about the Maybank Highway "Gathering Place" appearing in this space a couple weeks ago elicited the following response from Carl Blum (in part): "I'm driving the roads to get somewhere and not be forced to 'socialize' at a gathering place. If I wanted to socialize I'd park my car and meet friends - not total strangers in a traffic jam. I think this sort of planning leads to making our roads canyons devoid of happy people."

Well, we'll see. The scope of the project is even bigger than I had imagined (at least on Maybank Highway), with a vast clear-cutting that will apparently facilitate the new parking garage. I agree with Mr. Blum that nobody is going to be forced to socialize necessarily, unless it's literally having tea on the highway as traffic starts to jam up from the awkwardly placed stoplight at the intersection of Old Folly Road and Maybank Highway.

I've got a bit of a schizophrenic feel for James Island and the peninsula, having lived both places. Lifelong James Islanders don't like what they've seen happen to the island over the years, and many justifiably take great pride in their township.

Between a nearly century-old preservation movement and a series of strong and forward-thinking mayors, peninsular Charleston looks to be about a 12 on a 10-scale.

No wonder it's gotten so popular, to the extent that natives truly have become a minority. With that popularity comes the issue of tourist management and the interminable arguments that ensue between downtown residents and those who deliver tourists to their neighborhoods - namely carriages, busses and rickshaws.

Whereas they're all an annoyance, I think most people put up with the carriages and busses, realizing that they provide jobs and effectively spread the good word about Charleston to significant numbers of people, and that this might in some way reflect back positively on various business interests.

But wouldn't the rickshaws look better if they all found their way back to the Far East? They could give wonderful guided tours along the way, be models of green energy utilization, and very effectively slow down the American way of life, which is much too hectic as it is.

It's always nice to hear from Walter Duane, who addresses another age-old problem: What to do with poinsettias after Christmas.

"I have never had much luck planting them (lack of green - or should I say red thumb,)" he writes. "Even those who get the bushes to grow here have little luck in getting the leaves to bloom.

"Since the poinsettia was first imported to this area, it's interesting that we don't really grow them here. Most are hot house-grown in California.

"When I was a kid we used to see poinsettias blooming on Wentworth Street and upper Rutledge Avenue as well as several other places. Wouldn't it be nice to see them at the Waterfront Park, the Battery, Hampton Park and in some private gardens?"

Yes, it certainly would be. Might be one of the nice consequences of global warming, a concept somewhat difficult to grasp with the winter we've been having!

Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at edwardgilbreth@