ROLLIN' AROUND MY NOGGIN'
By Zachary F. Newhall
Greetings, dear friends. Ordinarily, I'd start this column by expressing my heartfelt gratitude that the passing of another month has found us all safe, healthy and well. But that's simply not possible, given the grave business I have to discuss with you.
I'm sure you've heard by now that tragedy has befallen a pair of our beloved fellow retirees. On July 16, 86-year-old George Russell Weller drove his 1992 Buick through a farmers' market in Santa Monica, Calif., killing 10 people and injuring approximately another 35. Then, only nine days later, 79-year-old Louis Nirenstein piloted his own vehicle into a farmers' market in Flagler Beach, Fla., sending six more innocent bystanders to the hospital.
With a shocked populace searching for a way to come to grips with these horrifying developments, only old hands like you and I can see the truth: This country needs to outlaw farmers' markets right away. It's obvious. Those places are veritable black holes of disaster -- sinister beacons that attract high-speed calamity as surely as the waving of a red cape draws a bull to a matador's keister. They have to go.
Some will no doubt disagree. Why, just last week, I heard the grease-stained young smart-mouth who fixes my Frigidaire say that it's the driver's fault whenever an errant Skylark mows down a fruit stand. And to hear him tell it, the only way to make sure it doesn't happen again is to subject us drivers of several decades' experience to pointless and humiliating "review" tests every few years or so. (A more honest translation: "every time the pasty-faced little pipsqueak at the DMV wants to throw his weight around.") Frankly, free-flowing idiocy like this makes me so furious that I could dislodge a hip.
Let's blame the real villains here, shall we? Blame Detroit, for its endless parade of newfangled buggy designs that can't seem to decide which side the brake should be on. Blame Alexander Graham Bell, for inventing the horseless carriage in the first place. But most of all, blame the farmers' market, that vortex of automotive atrocity that's causing so much senseless suffering across this great land of ours.
Hypnosis by portabella mushroom is what we're really up against here, but no one wants to admit it. Instead, some folks treat sad events like these as convenient excuses to loose the hellhounds of ageist bigotry. Our junior critics act as if we seniors are as irresponsible as they are, grabbing the keys for a pleasant drive only after we've fogged our brains by staring at the Stereopticon all morning long. To them, it's simply not an option that the sight of those garden-fresh vegetables might be acting as a demonic lure, pulling well-meaning mature drivers toward doom as surely as Cleopatra tempted the Argonauts. But we know better, don't we, friends?
Now, no one's claiming a monopoly on grief here. The loss of those 10 lives is very nearly as upsetting as the indignities the motormen in question must have endured at the hands of the so-called police. (We can hear them now: "Was your seatbelt on, Grandpa?" Is my MedAlert badge pressing too hard on your windpipe, Sonny?) But no matter how bereaved we all are, it's time to lay off the seniorÃbashing. After all, we are the Greatest Generation, as that nice young man with the speech impediment keeps pointing out. He's going places, you mark my words. But not everybody his age is so discerning. I guess it's not good enough for some of today's irrepressibly yapping pups that we went to war for them. I suppose they're indifferent to the favors we did them by inventing penicillin and the yo-yo. I infer they couldn't care less that a phalanx of German subs is even now circling around the mighty ship Lusitania, waiting with quiet malevolence for the perfect moment to ... I'm sorry, where was I?
Oh, right, the farmer's markets. Damn 'em, I say. Damn 'em all to Hades. Their brand of outdoor misery we can do without. What price baked bread, when the cost is counted in human lives? Only swift and decisive action can spare us from the curse of the sun-dried tomato. This much we can all agree upon, no matter how deep our differences run. The point is the same whether we're Methodist or Lutheran; Dutch or Dutch-Irish; Democrat, Republican or Bull-Moose.
Somebody has to put a stop to the madness. And the only way to do that is to shut down the markets. But what's sad is that none of our most prized social crusaders is rising to the challenge. I haven't seen a single line of impassioned commentary in the Readers' Digest, and the normally on-the-beam Charles Kuralt has fallen ominously silent. So it looks as if it's up to your humble editor to spearhead the fight for justice. This month's newsletter is but the first step. As soon as it sees print, I'm organizing a series of protests at bingo parlors and dinner theaters from here to Saskatoon. And if that fails, I won't be afraid to plead my case before the highest audience in the land. I will go to the top with this one if necessary, my friends. To the very top.
Mark my words: President McKinley will hear of it.