We live in hysterical times. Sure, in the old days we had the Red Scare, Reefer Madness and Tulip Mania, but these were the exceptions. For the most part, life was simple.
My grandson is a typical example of the younger generation. Every Sunday dinner it’s a new crisis. Bird flu, Ebola, the Euro, mass shootings, missing dictators. Last week it was “our crumbling infrastructure.”
“The American Society of Civil Engineers gave our nation’s infrastructure a D+!” he said. “China’s whupping our butt. The Dutch bicycle on solar panels. Japanese trains go 200 mph!” To hear him tell it, it’s sheer luck that’s preventing America’s bridges from tumbling into the water with minivans and school buses on them, and every time water comes out the tap or the toilet goes flush we’re on borrowed time.
In the spirit of his concerns, I’ve prepared a list of similarly impartial ratings:
- The American Society of Fly By Night Gypsy Pavers gives American driveways a D+.
- The American Society of Oil Change and Lubrication Professionals gives Americans a D for adherence to the three months or 3,000 miles rule.
- The American Society of Shampoo and Conditioner Companies gives the nation a C- (you can’t just rinse, you need to repeat, thereby washing your clean hair and using twice as much).
- The American Society of Chimney Sweeps & Chimney-Related Technicians gives America’s chimneys a D- (supposed to be swept every other year, you know!).
- The Saugerties Society of Curmudgeon Corner Collectable Box Sets gives Saugerties households a D- for dangerously low levels of participation. (Should be one on every hearth.)
If any reader finds this list persuasive, I got a rusty bridge to sell ya!
I OPEN the paper and get a warning: There’s a new stop sign at intersection of Canoe Hill Rd., Peoples Rd. and Mike Kraut Rd.! New stop signs in ritzy Bishop’s Gate! Of course there are. That’s all we get is new stop signs. Stop. Stop. Stop. Come to a complete stop. Notice they never remove a stop sign. Heavens no! Because if they did and there was an accident, sure enough some litigious crybaby would raise hell and sue the town. (And the very thought of lawsuits give town councilmen night terrors.) I don’t like this trend one bit. I figure in addition to my taxes quadrupling since I bought the old homestead, this preponderance of stop signs has probably cost me another few grand in clutch assemblies and brake pads.
How did we ever get along in the old days? Police force half the size. Drunks on the roads every weekend night. Everybody eating gluten. Smoking cigarettes indoors. Little kids turned loose in the neighborhood to make their fun. Amazing we lived so long!
Something ain’t right
Have you noticed the jobs listings these days? It’s all health care, government, schools, taking care of disabled kids, waiting on people. In the future are we just going to be taking care of each other? Does that make economic sense? I don’t think that’s going to work. Some of my buddies get all nostalgic about the time “when this country made stuff.” Well, I admit that seems to make sense. You can sell your stuff to someone else. Then at least you got some money coming in, and it’s coming from something tangible instead of invisible figures on a piece of plastic switching bank accounts for services amongst ourselves. But then I remind ’em what working in the factory was like… standing in the same place, doing the same thing x number of times an hour, eight hours a day, 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, etc. They don’t have anything to say to that!
FROM THE I’m Mad About Something Which I’ll Pose As A Question Which Probably Has An Answer Which I’m Not Going To Research But Even If It Does There’s No Answer That Won’t Get Me Mad For Another Reason Desk: This paper reported the unemployment level fell to 5.4 percent, suggesting things are going well. Well I have one question for that: Why are there so many cars at WalMart on a weekday? 11 a.m.? 2 p.m.? Full parking lot. Don’t these people have jobs?
The big game
I don’t spend as much time at the local watering holes as I used to, but if a bar looks promising, I’ll give it a try.
On a recent afternoon, after renewing the registration on several of my vehicles, I happened upon an old-fashioned whiskey bar. I walked in and immediately felt comfortable. No blaring television, lottery or jukebox. Nobody doing shots. The clientele seemed to be a mix of local professionals, blue collar and white. A jaunty dog roamed the floor.
I bellied up to the bar and ordered a rye. It tasted good. An honest whiskey. I decided I liked this bar and would stay awhile.
A few stools over there sat a young man. He was only a few years older than my grandson, but looked completely different. My grandson wears tight pants, has pierced eyebrows, and combs his hair over his eyes and dyes the tips blonde such that he appears at a quick glance to be a ruptured skunk. The young man a few stools over wore a flannel shirt, well fitting jeans, workman’s boots, had a normal man’s haircut, and a large beard. I thought he must be a mechanic or skilled tradesman of some kind.
It was a few days before the Super Bowl. I asked, “Who do you like for the big game?”
“What do you mean?” he replied in a voice about an octave higher than I was expecting. “The World Cup isn’t for another three years.”
I promptly left.
Rod Selway’s column appears irregularly.