Tonight I made dinner, and it was one of those clean out the refrigerator and cabinets nights. I noticed that we had a box of Jiffy corn muffin mix — which is cheap and reliable — and also noticed that we had a handful of fresh blueberries in the refrigerator. Prepare the cornbread mix, throw in the blueberries, and voila! The Jiffy corn muffin mix had a nice little crust on it, and the blueberries sank to the bottom of the mix in the bread pan and left it both moist and sweet. Cornbread with blueberries tastes like summer.
Ninety six years ago this month, in Ohio Senator Warren G. Harding’s successful campaign for the presidency, he gave a famous speech about how, in the wake of World War I and the negotiation of the ultimately disastrous Versailles treaty and the invasion of the deadly Spanish flu and countless reform measures enacted by Woodrow Wilson and the progressives, what America really needed was a “return to normalcy.”
Harding’s speech drew a lot of criticism from the intelligentsia, who noted that “normalcy” wasn’t even a word until then. But it was Harding, not the sophisticates, who had accurately assessed the national mood, and the common folks got the point that he was trying to make. They were tired of disruption and wanted nothing more than a chance to go back to the way things were, and they voted for him in one of the greatest landslides in American politics. (Three years later, Harding was dead of a massive cerebral hemorrhage, his personal affairs became the talk of Washington, and now his administration is generally regarded as one of the most corrupt and scandal-filled in history, adding to the Buckeye State’s generally crappy record when it comes to Presidents.)
I thought of poor old Warren G. today, when — after long weeks of dust in the air and on everything, of workers stripping out the old, tiling, sanding, installing, and painting, I was finally able to take a steaming hot shower in our freshly remodeled upstairs bathroom. Sure, I admit that not having an upstairs bathroom doesn’t really compare to the doughboys marching off to fight in the Great War and a global pandemic and the bloody end to countless monarchies, but I felt a desire for a return to normalcy nevertheless.
Warren G. Harding may have been an inept leader and a cad, but at least he could put his finger on an important concept. I’ll be glad to get back to the way things were.
I was in the court clerk’s office the other day and got a chuckle out of this sign on the counter. Sure, it’s got an obvious passive-aggressive element to it, but if the alternative is dealing with inconsiderate jerks who are having loud cell phone conversations while you are trying to assist them, why not take affirmative action? It’s interesting, too, that it isn’t a handmade job — which suggests that there are so many people talking on cell phones at counters that there is a market for signs asking them to refrain from doing so.
I laughed at this sign, but I’m fed up with the cellification of our culture and people yakking on their handheld devices everywhere — even public restrooms. Aside from the library, there really are no quiet zones anywhere anymore. We now put up with people having noisy conversations in restaurants, on sidewalks, in parks, on public transportation, in airport waiting areas, and on those little buses that take you from the parking zones to the terminal. Even worse, the cellophiles and blue-toothers make no effort to step away from the rest of the world and find their own little nook where they can continue their gabfest. No, they think the rest of us just have to put up with their boorish intrusion into our world.
What is it that would make someone take a cell call, or make a cell call, while they are waiting to file or retrieve something at a court clerk’s office — or for that matter in all of the other places that have been invaded by cell phone conversations? Is it self-importance? It is trying to give tangible evidence that they are so important or so popular that they have to be on the phone at all times? Is it that their boredom tipping point is so low that a few quiet moments while walking down the street or riding the bus are unendurable?
I never thought I would say that I enjoy commercial air travel, but at least plane flights involve that quiet period between the cabin doors closing for takeoff and the plane pulling up to the jetway after landing. Oh, guess what — the FCC is considering new regulations that would allow the airlines to permit cell calls once a plane passes 10,000 feet. Another quiet zone might be falling by the wayside. Will the library be next?