Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cosmic Perils

Dear George,
What with all the recent hurricanes, droughts, etc., global warming is at the top of people’s minds.   In the process, though, we seem to have lost sight of the biggest threat of all.  I mean, of course, the constantly growing collapse of the ozone layer.  You’ll remember that because of cows passing gas and effusions from spray deodorant cans a continent-sized hole has developed in the ozone layer.  While most people rarely worry about it, we have a vested interest in ozone because it protects us from deadly ultraviolet rays from outer space.  As best as I can tell, the problem is reaching catastrophic proportions.  I read on a website put up by a guy named Wild-Eyed Eddie that the ultraviolet rays are melting the neurons in the frontal cortex and people’s brains are turning to mush. Ever since I learned this, I’ve become more and more aware how strangely people are acting these days.  Sometimes they don’t show any more sense than a mongoose or a horsefly.

I wasn’t that worried about Wild-Eyed Eddie’s theory until last Tuesday when I stopped by our neighborhood dairy store for a midday snack.  The sign on the frozen yogurt machine at the end of the counter offered a choice between French vanilla and black raspberry.  I told the clerk I’d like a small black raspberry yogurt cone.  “What kind of cone do you want?” the clerk asked.  “Just the regular,” I said.  The clerk, who had a lot of tattoos on his arms and neck, looked puzzled.  “I never heard of ‘regular’,” he said.  “We don’t have regular.”  “You know,” I replied, “the cones that people normally get.”  He scrunched up his nose, then reached back on the rack and got a sugar cone.  I didn’t want a sugar cone because it cost more, but I didn’t try to correct him.  Then he went to the bin and started to scoop out some black raspberry ice cream.  “No, no,” I said, “ I want yogurt.”  “We don’t have yogurt,” he said.  “Yes, you do, you do,” I said with some frustration.  “It’s right here in this machine,” pointing to the big machine at the end of the counter.  “That’s softserve,” the clerk said, getting frustrated too.  “Yes,” I said, “it’s soft serve yogurt.”  I pointed at the sign over his head to prove my point.  “What I’d like is a black raspberry softserve yogurt cone.  Small.”  The clerk still seemed unconvinced, but he went ahead and dished up a cone.  I think it was smaller than the normal small.  I wondered if this guy had been spending an excessive amount of time out of doors which would increase his exposure to ultraviolet rays. 

If I had my doubts, the final clincher about the ozone crisis came a couple of days later when I encountered another young person whose mind seemed to have been totally eradicated.  I was driving through a green traffic light into the Kroger parking lot when a high school girl stepped off the curb right in the path of my car.  She was talking on her cell phone with her head down and didn’t look either way, despite walking against the light.  I jammed on my brakes and came to a stop a few feet away from her, though she still didn’t notice anything.  Then, without looking either way, she stepped right in front of a pickup truck approaching on the opposite side of the street.  That car too had a green light.  The driver hit the brakes and came to an abrupt stop.  The girl, chatting away, still didn’t notice anything.  Having gotten across the street without getting killed, she stepped up on the curb and continued on her way.  She was lucky that the other driver and I have at least a few functioning neurons left, but the future doesn’t bode well for the young girl (or for the rest of us).

Worried that humanity is facing a fate similar to the dinosaurs, I took the sheepdogs on a hike in Eden Park the following Sunday with our friend Donna.  On our return to the car we stopped to rest on the bench outside the conservatory.  Various people came up to see the dogs, including a group of a dozen or more adults who were wearing nametags.  There was just one child with them -- a little girl, two and a half -- who came up to pet the dogs.  Her father, a red-haired, mid-20s guy named Jesse, explained that his daughter loved dogs.  When the group moved off with their guide, Jesse followed along with them, leaving his daughter behind.  After a while Donna went into the conservatory to the ladies’ room while I kept watch on the little girl.  Her dad and the rest of the group had gotten about fifty yards away.  The dad seemed entirely unconcerned about his daughter’s whereabouts.  Whether very trusting or just obtuse, he didn’t cast a single glance in her direction the entire time she was gone.  For a moment the little girl noticed that her father had disappeared, and she looked around nervously.  I pointed to him across the lawn, but he was too far away for her to see him, and she went back to petting the dogs.  When Donna came back, I picked the little girl up and carried her across the lawn to her oblivious father.  He didn’t notice me coming, and, when I set her down, he said, “Oh, there you are.”  He seemed surprised that she was still there.  The little girl turned around and started running back toward the dogs.  Her father hesitated, but then followed behind and eventually took her by the hand, telling her they’d see more dogs where they were going.  I just shook my head.  I didn’t know if there was a mother at home, but I hoped that Jesse would manage to get his daughter home safely.  I think the ultraviolet rays had wiped out the paternal instinct center in his brain.    

It’s pretty shocking.  I don’t want to appear holier-than-thou, because, of course, my brain is decompressing at least as quickly as everybody else’s.  Wild-Eyed Eddie recommends wearing titanium helmets to ward off the ultraviolet rays.  I went to the Dollar Bargain Store to try to get one, but they didn’t have any in stock.  In fact, they didn’t even know what I was talking about.  I hope I’ll find one this weekend while I still have my wits about me.

G-mail Comments
-Linda C (2-28): David , this is so scary, I live in a college town and I thought it was all the drinking that was killing brain cells. And I have to say some students have not been affected. But a lot of students do work in the service industry.  At check out in krogers yesterday, and I don't do self check out so some jobs for students are saved, but check out is not as busy as it used to be and the check out workers have extra time.  My check out guy, a bagger, and check out guy in next aisle were all talking to each other. Conversation went some thing like this. " did you see new Girl in the deli "  " you mean the ones with the big ummms " " yeah , but doggy face "  Me," excuse me , but you do see me , the customer standing right here don't you?"  Slightly embarrassed glances.  Me "why would you treat a co worker like that? "  Bagger "ummm, like what ?" 
Me " saying negative things like you just did, I might seem old to you but I got the " big ummms", you could be fired for this and be part of a lawsuit" 
Check out guy " we weren't being mean about her tho.”  At this point I realized these brats were going to actually argue with me and defend their behavior.  Me " I'm not going to report you today, but please think about what you said, and if it was appropriate or not, and whether I as a customer should have to hear this, I see the three of you in here all the time so I'm going to get back with you when you have had time to think this over"  I will too, does this mean I've turned into a jackass from years of climate problems?  No, I think I would of always said that.
-Donna D (2-27): so good and weirdly funny, david :)

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