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Off Main Street: Don’t be flippant

Flipped out over a wrong turn

A little Driving 101 advice: If you are going to flip the bird to a fellow motorist on the road, be ready to pay the price.

A woman driving along Whirlpool Street in Niagara Falls on Wednesday afternoon executed a right turn onto Elmwood Avenue from the left lane, turning into the path of an oncoming car. The oncoming driver nearly struck her, and he honked his horn as he slammed on the brakes.

That is when the woman turned and gave him the one-finger salute.

Turns out the other motorist was Niagara Falls Detective Patrick Hennegan, in an unmarked police car, who promptly activated his emergency lights and pulled over LaToya M. Smith, 24, of Hyde Park Boulevard.

Smith said she thought it was a one-way road because of the snow, but she did not have an explanation for the obscene gesture.

The detective gave Smith two tickets – for an improper turn and an expired registration. He left her with these parting words: “Have a good day.”

Going, going, gone

Steven J. Stepniak, who will oversee major renovations at the Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Pavilion, has fond memories of the East Side site.

The right-hand-hitting Stepniak, now the Buffalo public works commissioner, drove a ball over the right-field roof when it was War Memorial Stadium. The tape-measure shot, hit in 1987, led Canisius College to a 1-0 victory over Utica College.

That was the last season for the WPA-built stadium, which opened in 1937 and was home to the Bills and the Bisons.

Stepniak was signed by the Cleveland Indians as a free agent in the offseason, but the hard-hitting outfielder and future Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer’s career was cut short after he suffered a rotator cuff injury the next season while playing with the minor league Batavia Clippers.

“I continued with the injury through the season, but later realized my career was better suited elsewhere,” Stepniak said with a laugh.

He started working in the city’s public works department the next year. After taking the helm in every department, Stepniak was tapped by Mayor Byron W. Brown to be commissioner in 2007.

The price of free paczki

There’s no such thing as free kielbasa.

At least, that’s the feeling of some partygoers who attended the supposedly free Fat Thursday celebration at the Millennium Hotel in Cheektowaga earlier this month.

Apparently, the event left them with a bad case of agita. But it wasn’t the paczki, the Zywiec or even the polka tunes that contributed to their grumblings. It happened before they even walked in the door. They said they had to wait outside the party for more than half an hour because organizers offered paying guests entry and first dibs on the food – for a price.

Twenty bucks would get you in the door before those who didn’t want – or expect – to pay. A few felt they shouldn’t have to pony up any cash because the Feb. 4 event was billed as a free Polish party.

Free admission. Free food. It said so right on the advertisements on Facebook.

Keeping guests from entering for not paying a price amounted to a gross misrepresentation of how the shindig would be handled, they said. And it came with some serious attitude from organizers, who, according to several witnesses, told people they could walk out the door if they didn’t like it.

Sounds like they were left with the taste of bad sauerkraut in their mouths.

Sticky fingerprints

Occasionally, the state trooper responsible for online news releases gets a bit creative at crafting headlines for reports on minor crimes. A recent report about petit larceny at a 7-Eleven store in Allegany County prompted the clever headline: “Five Finger ‘Discount’ Leads to Five Finger ‘Prints.’ ”

Off Main Street is written by Harold McNeil, with contributions from Nancy A. Fischer, Mark Sommer and Aaron Besecker. email: