April 3, 2002


A Clutch of Nettles
By Virginia Dare


2:00-2:03: Stop and smell roses


Once in a while, I read a news article that in the course of pointing out something wrong about our society drives home to me how much crazier we are than we think we are. I ran across a prime example recently in USA Today.

A feature story written by Rick Hampson detailed how the town of Ridgewood, New Jersey, an affluent suburb, was declaring an official "Family Night Off" to acknowledge how the overscheduling of meetings, school events, church events, and kids' activities caused residents to rush from one obligation to another in increasing desperation.

Now, I'm willing to admit that my own appointment book is a crazy quilt of business meetings, dentists' appointments, scheduled leisure activities, condo board meetings, church services, and so on, but I also have a way of dealing with overload: I ditch the occasional nonmandatory meeting, refuse to schedule obligations on certain days, and try to schedule nonnegotiable items such as doctors' appointments and major grocery-shopping runs on the same day as other things so as to get it all over at once. I also block out "down time" and tell people who want a piece of me that those times are already scheduled.

But here's how one Ridgewood resident deals with the modern time-shortage, according to Hampson: "The night had its genesis last year, when a harried mother of three [name withheld to protect the clueless, O Best Beloved], realized how overscheduled her family was. She formed a committee to discuss the problem, and it talked about programs and discussion groups."

Stop right there and think about that sentence for a minute. Instead of merely exercising her sovereign authority over her own life, as a responsible mother and human being, she formed a committee to validate her right to some down time? Instead of insisting that the family was required to eat dinner together and give up a few activities, she formed a committee? Whose meetings would be yet another time-devouring activity that would have to be shoehorned in?

What kind of brain-dead zombies are raising future generations, voting for the rulers of the United State, passing local ordinances in your city council? Do you want your life controlled by these people? Umm — don't look now, but it already is.

Ordinarily when I snatch the curtain away from some bubbling absurdity in our midst, I try to draw some conclusions, or reduce it to a few unassailable points to remember, or at least parody it. As a remedy we might try quarantining Ridgewood, I suppose; but as for parody, forget it. With this silly situation we are just beyond parody, and I can think of nothing to say about it that's half as hilarious as the straightforward news account of it, or a tenth so chilling.

Sometimes I wonder whether the vast herd of sheeple is worth rescuing from itself. And once in a while, I'm convinced, if only for a glaring second, that it's not.

© 2002 by WTM Enterprises. All rights reserved.

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