All posts by Dick Toomey

Escape? Don’t Even Try.

Legend has it that humans spend lifetimes yearning for solace, for idyllic surroundings and freedom from clamor and stress. The notion is we put our noses to the grindstone and bust ass for decades to get away from the madding crowd. If only we can put enough away to buy a little place at the coast or at the top of a mountain to escape the chaos. If only. We despise the clogged highways, the choking fumes, the noise. Everywhere we turn. The economy stinks but development is on a rampage, squeezing us ever closer. Jets roar overhead. Semis, SUVS and 4×4 monsters barrel along, itching to cozy up behind our puny cars. We hate crowds, the press of flesh, the infected air. We loathe being treated like cattle, herded along the human corrals of airports, theme parks and branch banks. At Wendy’s, for Pete’s sake. It’s the bigness that afflicts us. We think it’s offensive and oppressive. We hate it. Baloney. What a bunch of hooey. The truth is humans love crowds and crowding. We are no different than the wildebeests of Africa or the penguins and seals of Antarctica. We find any excuse to congregate and huddle. We cram into neighborhoods, cram into concert halls, cram into sporting arenas, cram into discos, cram onto beaches and into restaurants and cruise ships and street scenes and courtrooms and prisons. We love the bigness and the congestion. We always vote for it because it means we’re growing. Nobody wants to shop in an empty store at Christmas. Almost prideful, we complain about traffic as if we had conquered Mt. Everest; but secretly we adore the endless interstate convoys and jammed parking lots. Teenagers cruise the streets and park in public places like elephants at a watering hole. Harley riders gather by the tens of thousands. If we happen to be alone, TV fills our vacuum, replacing live bodies with an endless lineup of talking heads. Growth, congestion and noise make us happy, especially the people in power. Some rare individuals who mistakenly love solitude believe they can avoid the rest of humanity. How naive. They find remote land and build a hideaway. Almost overnight, a grand development springs up all around them like kudzu. They build spacious enclaves insulated from the multitudes; but, with the insistence of caring family, they eventually end up rubbing bedpans with total strangers. Unless you’re an eagle, there’s no escaping your fellow humans who enjoy swarming no less than do sociable honeybees. For those loners who question this inevitable fate, park your favorite toys at the most remote corners of the shopping center parking lots, 500 yards from the nearest vehicles. When you return, you will have neighbors snuggled inches from your wax job. It’s what humans do, after all. And zebras, geese, antelope, hippos, rhinos, et. al.

The Thumb Was Never So Important.

Two people deserve Nobel Prizes. The person who invented the mute button. And the person who originally situated the mute button on the steering wheel. Eighty percent of the talk from car radio has the power to turn a normally intelligent person of average common sense into a raving lunatic. DJs ramble on about nothing, using grammar that proves the absolute demise of the education system. Media noise is like a perpetual avalanche. Everywhere you turn. In the gym, the restaurant, the hospital room, the car, the plane. Talking heads talking, talking. Telling you the same thing every half hour, repeating, repeating. Letting you know everything bad happening to everyone everywhere in the world. The avalanche is a roar. And then you remember you have an option. All you need is a thumb. And the button. Ahhhh.

Proof Of Prosperity

Anyone out there, worried sick about the economy, must not be paying attention as 2003 expires. Evidently, you’re selfishly fixated on not having a job. Or seeing your business languish. Or maybe you’re too preoccupied with your plummeting net worth. It’s a pity. Because the proof of prosperity is palpable. Look around. Every major highway is under expansion and miles of plowed earth promise new and wider beltways. Existing roadways are in gridlock. Stockholders of orange barrel stock are rolling in it. New retail shopping centers are outstripping the ones across the street, and they’re outstripped by newer ones under construction down the road. Housing starts are at a 20-year high. The populace has okayed millions to build new schools to prepare even more children to read at a 7th grade level when they apply to college. If, on your average Friday or Saturday night, you want gourmet food or simple road kill, be prepared to wait at least an hour as the unemployed in record numbers swill the suds and scarf the steaks. And throughout the land, thousands of the rank and file march into arenas and give a single day’s pay to watch athletes earn $50,000 for a single night’s work. But if these examples of a booming economy don’t persuade you that you’re better off then ever, all you need do is contemplate car dealer commercials on TV. You must have seen them. A throng fills the showrooms — excited, clean-cut, bright-eyed, ethnically diverse buyers flit here and there, swarming over the new models like ants at a Greek picnic. Announcers with gleaming smiles and piercing voices walk briskly among the crowds, gleefully inciting a buying frenzy. Or perhaps they simply have bladder problems. Regardless, the evidence of robust business is right there for all to witness. Car showroom after car showroom — literally awash with multitudes of eager patrons — is proof positive that the good times roll. Which is a colossal relief to me, because whenever I’m in a dealer showroom, it’s as vacant as aisle 13 at Home Depot.