Sunday, October 12, 2008

I don’t like elevators.

It’s not because of claustrophobia or a fear that too many people will get on with me and the cabin will grind to a sudden halt and the cable will snap and I’ll hurtle downward toward a certain death, screaming like a little girl, only to discover that the cable didn’t snap and everyone else in the cabin is looking at me and wondering how I produced that shriek. OK, maybe it’s a little of that.

But the main thing is that elevators are just places for the exercise of social awkwardness.

All those little social cues — eye contact, small talk, body odor — come into play in the cramped, airless confines of a rickety elevator cabin.

For example, I was in the elevator at work the other day, and a lady got in with me.

“What floor?” I asked, offering to push the button for her.

“I don’t need you to push the button,” she said. “I have a finger. I can push my own button.”

I was taken aback.

I thought, “Well, excuse me, Miss Finger. I was afraid you were too busy picking your nose to push the button.”

I thought that in my head.

Apparently, I also thought that out loud.

n n n

Remember the good old days, when everything was better than it is today?

With all the crises we’ve got with energy and the economy, I guess I’ve been feeling a bit of nostalgia for times past.

Remember when:

• $3 could buy you a gallon of gasoline?

• Illegal immigration was the No. 1 issue in the country?

• All those funny no-name guys were running for president?

• Your home was a gold mine waiting to be tapped?

• The Hollywood writers were on strike and TV shows really stank, so you began reading again and pursuing hobbies and taking walks and talking to people around you, and you realized you didn’t really miss TV all that much?


Those were the good old days.

If only we’d known it then.

n n n

So a O.J. Simpson guilty of kidnapping and armed robbery.

Who says there’s no justice in Sin City?

And get this: The guilty verdict came 13 years to the day after O.J. was acquitted in the murder of his ex-wife and her friend in Los Angeles - Oct. 3, 1995. Almost sounds like a setup for picking lottery numbers (“Let’s see, 13, 10, 3, 95 …”).

Now O.J. faces up to life in prison when he’s sentenced on Dec. 5. Maybe if he had testified in his own defense, things would have gone his way - again. Um, probably not.

Unfortunately, this thing isn’t over yet. O.J.’s attorneys will appeal the conviction. And they might have a case. After all, one of O.J.’s co-conspirators is a reputed pimp who testified that he had a vision from God telling him to take a plea deal. That’s The TRUTH.

Now, I don’t want to criticize someone’s divine vision, but I find this one a little hard to take. If God was going to reveal himself to this guy, I think God would have said: “STOP BEING A PIMP!”

n n n

Our portion sizes have become ridiculous.

“Bigger” isn’t always “better.” Most of the time it’s just “more,” and sometimes it’s just “too much.”

I went to see a movie a while ago and ordered a small soda and a medium popcorn at the concession stand.

The teenage girl behind the counter reached for what looked like a Big Gulp container, something you might fill for a long hike in the woods or maybe a half marathon.

I stopped her.

“I ordered a small soda,” I said, emphasizing the word “small” as you would if you were talking to a slow youngster.

“This is a small,” she said, emphasizing the word “small” as you would if you were talking to a senile retiree.

“THAT’S a small?” I said. “How many ounces is that?”

“Thirty-two,” she said, holding the container and looking at it as if she just realized the enormity of the cup.

“Thirty-two ounces?” I said. “If that’s a small, what’s a large?”

The girl reached under the counter and sheepishly lifted a container that looked like a mop bucket without a handle.

“How many ounces is that?”

“Sixty-four.” She giggled at my stunned expression.

“OK. I’ll take the small soda and the medium popcorn.”

I did not flinch when she popped open a Hefty tall kitchen trash bag and began filling it with popcorn. I could see behind the counter the 55-gallon repurposed oil drums they use for “large” popcorn.

I took my drink and popcorn into the theater. (I was afraid I’d have to buy an extra ticket because I had to put the trash bag of corn in the seat next to me.)

I couldn’t eat all that popcorn, since, you know, I wasn’t a herd of cattle.

But I drank every drop of soda.

My bladder did not thank me.

n n n

It’s official: The national debt is just under a bazillion dollars.

To be precise, it was $10,158,093,898,694.13, as of 10:43:11 GMT on Oct. 5, 2008. (You have to be precise like that with Greenwich Mean Time because the national debt was growing by $36,000 per second at that time. I kid you not!)

Ten trillion is one of those figures that we in journalism call Really Big Numbers. The way we try to help people understand Really Big Numbers is to relate them to stuff that people are already familiar with. So here goes:

Remember using a microscope to look at a blood cell in biology class? Well, according to some estimates, there are about 10 trillion cells in the human body. Kinda makes you feel like dieting, huh?

How about this?

Ten trillion seconds ago, it was 315,000 B.C. and homo sapiens first appeared in Africa.

Ten trillion minutes ago, it was the Miocene Period (about 19 million years ago). The world looked pretty much like it does today, except that the continents were much closer together and the oceans were ruled by megalodons (Think “Jaws.” On steroids.).

Ten trillion hours ago, multicellular life was evolving (about 1.14 billion years ago). Those were good times.

Ten trillion days ago, well, that would be about 27.4 billion years ago, and the universe as we know it is only about 13.7 billion years old. So we don’t really know what was going on then.

Much like today with the national debt.

n n n

I don’t know about you, but I feel a whole lot better now that the $700 billion economic rescue has become the law of the land.

All of our economic worries are history. What a relief!

Now I guess we can get down to stuff like health care and Social Security.

What’s that? How are we going to pay for them, you say?

That’s what the “rescue” was for, wasn’t it? That’s why they changed it from “bailout,” right? It’s supposed to help everybody, isn’t it?

Not just Wall Street.

Main Street.

My street.


• Read Carleton Bryant’s daily blog at https://www.washingtontimes. com/weblogs/out-context/

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