Now, I am all for debating the long term electoral viability of the Republican Party with anyone who wanders down the pike, provided that they themselves are pikeless and I have Smith & Wesson’s latest and best bit of hardware in my pocket, just as I am in favor of debating anyone about anything, up to and including sex, religion, race, and whether or not jars of mayonnaise should give the contents’ calorie from fat percentage on the label—I think the label should just say Yes at that point; if the oily white goop you’re putting on your chicken sandwich to make it even halfway palatable after that dried out chicken’s been sitting in the back of your refrigerator since last weekend doesn’t get 100% of its calories from fat, then the oily white goop you’re putting on your chicken sandwich isn’t real mayonnaise—at least, that’s my opinion; I am not, however, in favor of debating anything with anyone so long as there is a prosthetic leg, complete with Reebok running shoe, protruding from my windshield. In this situation, I don’t care one way or another about the long-term electoral viability of the Republican Party; I want to know who’s going to pay to fix the damage to my car. And don’t tell me to call my insurance company; I refuse to let those thieving skunks jack my rates through the roof just because some dope started coming apart at the seams some 5,ooo feet up.
You might not think that dealing with the ongoing plague of disintegrating parachutists might not be the most important problem of our modern age, but it is one that will grow in size and intensity as the baby boom generation ages. This generational cohort, stuck as it is in a perpetual adolescence, will refuse to grow gracefully as previous generations did and will spend an inordinate amount of time doing things any normal person would think beyond the physical capacity of someone of an advanced age. But the baby boomers, for whom life means never really having to grow up, will try to deny the biological effects of passing time and as a result of this denial the skies over this our Great Republic will soon fill with dentures, limbs, pacemakers, walkers, bifocals, AARP membership cards, and the occasional veteran of the Summer of Love, all of them raining down upon an unsuspecting populace like so much unwanted space debris. Things will definitely get uglier hereabouts before they get any better, folks.
In any case, and yes, I am about to digress from the point here; I thought you’d want to know that before I actually did it so you wouldn’t be wondering just how this other subject came up without any prior notice—there was a time in this country, and I know that a lot of the young people here will find this hard to believe, when it was possible for an ordinary citizen without any sort of prolonged psychological training whatsoever to walk down any street in a fairly good-sized American town and be able, with a fair degree of accuracy, tell which of their fellow pedestrians was a complete raving lunatic. Your average citizen required no special skills for this task; loonies, being a polite lot in general, made detection much easier with their constant habit of carrying on conversations with people not immediately observable to the naked eye.
Modern loonies still carry on conversations with themselves, of course; no one willingly gets rid of a good gig; but detecting loonies from the broad mass of people is now so much harder to do that many people simply give up and hope that the man sitting near the emergency exit muttering to himself is on the phone to his broker and not someone who thinks that aliens from the planet Mongo are out to steal his brain waves with fly paper and Gorgonzola cheese. Modern communications technology has brought us to this; phones are now so small that they fit in your ear and I am sure that some clever scientist somewhere is working on a model that the phone company can insert directly into your brain, the better to bill you for thinking about calling someone outside your family circle.
Such technological compactness may be a good thing, for all I know, but I think I can speak for many people when I say that I find people I do not know suddenly starting conversations about their private matters as I am trying to read my newspaper disconcerting in the extreme. No, I do not want to hear about your cousin’s wedding and no, I don’t care what the bride was wearing or whether the maid of honor had had to much to drink when she brought up that bit about her sleeping with the groom the night before and wasn’t it wonderful that the lawyer was a friend of the family and would only charge half his normal fee for handling the divorce (if I were a betting man, I’d say that the answers to both questions is yes, but what do I know? I could only hear one side of the conversation). Clearly, someone must devise a system whereby those of us who are merely wandering by can tell whether or not people are on the phone or just speaking to the top tenor in the choir invisible. Perhaps if people on the phone could hold up a sign and let the rest of us know one way or the other, this would be a nice gesture, I think. Life is hard enough here on the ground as it is, what with crazies raining down on us all the time these days.