The Idle American: Changing with the Changing Times

We now find ourselves living in a world of empty streets and empty shelves.

 In most cases of daily life for the masses, the “old normal” seems preferable to what we often currently refer to as “the new normal.”

It’s a challenge my 106-year-old Uncle Mort hasn’t faced–not ever–and the same is true for the rest of us.

The world teeters on a fulcrum of fear, much of it unknown. Enough is known, though, to shiver the strongest timbers and shake the boots previously best known for moving little dogies along and kicking aside rattlesnakes, as well as other critters that think it’s their home and their range.

Mort has been hanging around the general store down in the thicket, giving directions to lost motorists, happily engaging in conversation. He has also watched the “idiot box,” heard riddles and pondered hopes for humankind that have “risen to the top” over previously longstanding political ranting, and numerous other topics that no longer seem near as important as before….

*****

   Still, he had to smile when some occasional visitors to the store made observations ranging from the reasonable to the absurd.

A minister, gassing up, mused about amended biblical instruction that might warrant more specificity when mentioned today. “Jesus said, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan.’ Today, we’d add, ‘by at least six feet.’”

Mort grinned, “That wouldn’t be rocket surgery, would it?”…

Don Newbury

My uncle figures that most Americans are enduring “cabin fever,” and that even this term deserves clarification. “Suddenly, the expression is expanded to include many other structures, including houses, tents, apartments, barns, duplexes, mansions, hovels, shacks and double-wides,” he said.

There are more shortages than “longages,” and folks are learning that the preferred spelling of “canceled” has just one “l.” Formerly seldom-used words now frequently seen and heard include “canceled, postponed, extended, temporarily, suspended, and, the most-spotted signs posted in supermarket aisles are “out of stock.”

In most cases of daily life for the masses, the “old normal” seems preferable to what we often currently refer to as “the new normal.”…

*****

   One 18-year-old–using both bills and silver to buy a half-tank of gas–lamented that he’d hope to work at a grocery store during spring break. He learned, though, that his services weren’t needed. “Full-timers have taken on shelf-stocking, spreading themselves even thinner,” he said.

“As I drove to the thicket, I thought of sights and sounds I’d heard last summer when I worked at the store,” he claimed. “And last night, they returned to me in my dreams. They included dreams of empty shelves that used to bulge with products. Frequent announcement called for ‘clean-up on aisle four.’

“Now, when there’s nothing there to spill, there’s nothing to clean up.”…

*****

   Mort mentioned that he was going to spend the rest of the day “frog-gigging,” and the young man wanted to know more about a sport he’d never heard about. And he asked if he could come along.

Of course, he could. They went down well-worn trails on the beautiful spring day. Trees were budding, and early bluebonnet blooms cast bluish tints on hillsides awakening from winter. Birds sang, frogs croaked and fish splashed. A jet plane droned in the distance, but most sounds were from creatures unaware of viruses, and issues related thereto.

My uncle told stories of “frog-gigging” around the campfire. He said he fried up a mess of frog legs and ate a light dinner. “Then, just before going to bed, I read a chapter from a Newbury book,” he said. “Soon, I fell into deep sleep–with little on my stomach and nothing on my mind.”…

*****

   The ‘put-down’ didn’t bother me. It was “Mort being Mort.”

I yearned to visit him and get his take on these strange days. I’d tell him about the huge lighted sign on Dallas’ Omni Hotel, urging “Wash Your Hands,” and how businesses, churches, organizations, and individuals are “pitching in” to “flatten the curve.”

I would savor hearing birds in the thicket sing at spring’s awakening. My uncle and I would claim the day that the Lord has made to rejoice and be glad in….

*****

   Dr. Newbury is a former educator who writes weekly and is a longtime public speaker. Comments/speaking inquiries to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com Twitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: don newbury.

Don Newbury is the author of the humorous and inspirational book When the Porch Light’s On. Please click HERE to find it on Amazon.

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