February 1, 2013

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

What happened while I was sleeping?

Cynthia DewesLord knows, I’m not the most observant person there is. If I notice something that looks different to me in the yard or the house and remark on it, my husband always says, “It’s been that way for three years.” So you see what I mean.

That being said, I’m still wondering about some things which seem to have escaped me over time. Of course, there’s one decade earlier in my life that doesn’t count in this analysis of inattention.

During that time, I was busy having babies, dealing with serious illness in my family, moving, giving up smoking, etc. So I have no clue what went on then in foreign policy, popular music or sports, or whatever was happening in the rest of the world. But much of the time I was oblivious just on general principles.

For example, when did festival voting become the norm? I’ve always voted on the second Tuesday of November or on the appointed primary election day. Voting early was reserved for those who had to be out of the country on election day or had an equally serious excuse.

Now, apparently, a person can vote almost whenever or wherever they feel like it with no other excuse than that they, well, feel like it. Maybe that’s why they require photo IDs now. You think?

And, when did good manners become archaic rituals of an uptight past? I always thought keeping one’s voice down in public, or walking to the right, or not taking phone calls during conversations with others were just common courtesies. I enjoyed them myself, so why not extend them to others? Silly me.

When did “No problem” become the standard reply to someone saying “Thank you”? While I appreciate the obvious sincerity of such a phrase, I’m mystified why anyone thought there was a problem in the first place.

Then there’s the “rush hour” mentality which now appears to extend to the entire day. When did we all get to be in such a hurry? The To Kill a Mockingbird time when kids sprawled on the summer grass chewing a weed and gazing at clouds disappeared when I wasn’t looking.

Now, all of a sudden, we seem overanxious to get somewhere fast, commuting to or from work, or picking up the kids from the baby sitter, or running them to soccer, dance lessons or karate class. We’re rushing through the grocery store, trying to beat the light or tearing out of church as close as possible behind the celebrant.

Now we are left with all this saved time on our hands, and don’t quite know how to use it. In fact, it makes us nervous. So we try to fill it with quick diversions like video games and “un”reality shows on TV. It’s technology to the rescue.

Indeed, when did technology become not just helpful, but the chief ingredient of a good life? Last I knew, the electric typewriter was a big deal. And the result is, we sit more than we used to, which in turn leads to an overwhelming urge to be fit.

Old guys sprain joints playing softball, and ladies of a certain age do Zumba maneuvers. Not to mention all the running, speed walking, jogging, even jumping rope that goes on at all ages. It’s enough to make a person feel out of the loop!

Like I say, I must’ve been sleeping while all these things were shaping up. Being human is so interesting, isn’t it?

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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