Bummed Out In The Rim Country

AROUND THE RIM COUNTRY

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Remember those halcyon days of the Cold War, when air-raid shelters were the order of the day and it was just a matter of time before the Russkies dropped THE BOMB, probably in your back yard?

We practiced what to do and where to go in a multitude of drills, knowing full well that if THE BOMB ever did get dropped, those shelters would be totally inadequate and it would be a gazillion half years before the planet would be habitable again -- not to mention what would happen to your tulips at Ground Zero.

Those were stressful times, especially since we didn't have all the anti-depressants and tranquilizers available today, and because we hadn't even come to recognize stress as the big deal we now make it out to be.

Well, according to a recent article by Knight Ridder reporter Rick Montgomery, those days seem positively giddy compared to the doom and gloom scenarios we face today. As evidence, Montgomery cites SARS, Orange alerts, Mad Cow disease (in neighboring Canada, no less), West Nile mosquitoes hatching in your gutters, the conflict in Iraq, tornadoes in Kansas, a sagging economy, rogue asteroids and the fight against fat.

If that weren't enough, Montgomery quotes Martin Rees, Britain's Astronomer Royal, who said, "I think the odds are no better than 50-50 that our present civilization on Earth will survive to the end of the present century."

Despite all this, Montgomery reports that Americans "seem surprisingly chipper." In a recent Harris poll, only 8 percent said they were "very worried," while 57 percent said they were "very satisfied" with the lives they lead.

By comparison, only 11 percent of Greeks, 14 percent of French and 26 percent of Fins considered themselves "very satisfied."

Montgomery wonders if our optimism isn't based on fatalism. As proof of his theory, he notes how being instructed to stock up on duct tape and plastic sheeting during a recent Orange alert had the effect of underscoring our helplessness.

"Now that's scary, for we are a people who covet control," Montgomery wrote. "We list objectives and set goals. We read books on how to parent. We take pills to fix our moods."

As a master control coveter myself, I understand what Montgomery is saying -- that we are becoming increasingly powerless in the face of an endless list of worries and woes. And therefore it just doesn't jibe that a majority of Americans still claim to be "very satisfied."

It would make more sense if our satisfaction rating were wallowing around down there in the teens with the Greeks and French. And I think I can help that happen, especially for those of us who live in the Rim country.

I say that because there is so very much for us to be worried about up here in addition to all the national and international concerns cited above. Shouldn't you, for example, be worried about:

  • WATER WOES

Buzz Walker and Bob Hardcastle are not making this up. Water is scarce and most likely going to get scarcer. Since it is the component most necessary for life to exist, this should be scaring the bejeebers out of us. Instead we water merrily away like there's no tomorrow.

  • TYLER PARKWAY RESIDENTS

Do not -- I repeat, do not -- stir up this hornet's nest. I say we get out of our cars and push them down Tyler Parkway.

  • EFFLUENT FOR THE AFFLUENT

As they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure. If we have to take from the poor to give to the rich, I think this is a pretty fitting commodity. Still you have to wonder: how long can golf courses and drought co-exist?

  • BOYS IN BLACK

Payson High School senior boys swelter in black caps and gowns while their female counterparts cavort in balmy purple. Next year we should complete the outfit by issuing Darth Vader masks to all the boys and having them breathe really loud. Or here's a novel idea: why not move graduation indoors -- or move it up to 8 a.m. Or kill the interminable reading of the scholarships. Or make a canopy for the football field out of duct tape and plastic sheeting.

  • NASTY STREETS

Did you ever have a nightmare where you're driving merrily along on McLane Road and hit a pothole and fall in and everything goes black as you freefall straight to hell? Me neither, but it's one more thing to worry about.

There. Now how many of you still feel "very satisfied"?

That's better.

Now I have to go buy some more duct tape and plastic sheeting.

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