No real news in July
I spent last Monday and Tuesday at Wiawaka Holiday Center, a retreat center of Lake George, volunteering at an archaeological dig. My cellphone is still fairly primitive, and I didn’t feel like lugging my laptop along with me. So I decided to go without the Internet for a night. “Maybe it will be good for me,” I thought. Because occasionally, I wonder whether my habit of checking my email 600 times a day is healthy.
After dinner on Monday, I went for a quick swim, dried off and found a quiet bench from which to bask in the cool evening temperatures. As I sat there, I reflected upon the fact that I’d only told a handful of people where I was going. Would my parents be alarmed by my failure to post a blog for two days, and wonder what had become of me? Also, what was going on in the world? Was I missing out on some important news?
I needn’t have worried.
The next morning, I asked some of my fellow dig participants what was going on in the world.
“The royal baby was born,” they said.
There are lots of people who care about the royal baby, but I am not one of them. Hearing that the royal baby was born didn’t exactly make me think, “Boy, I sure regret going without the Internet for 24 hours.” It made me think, “Maybe I should forgo the Internet more often.”
Of course, it is July, and July is one of those months where the news tends to be a little sillier than average. People are on vacation, school is out and the pace of life is slower, but the 24/7 news hole still needs to be filled.
Which is how you end up with a raging controversy about Rolling Stone magazine’s decision to put alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover. I’m not surprised that this decision angered some people, but I suspect it dominated the news cycle because there just weren’t that many things to talk about, other than the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. It was the classic “July story” — something that probably would have quickly receded from public consciousness during a more serious month, such as October, but took on a life of its own because it’s summer.
All I can say is that by the time this issue of Rolling Stone arrived in my mailbox (I’ve been a subscriber for about 20 years), I was eager to read the article. Of course, I generally like to decide for myself whether I should be offended about something rather than have a bunch of people scream at me about how I offended I should be.
The Anthony Weiner story is another example of the July story, but at least it has some entertainment value. That said, this is a guy who needs to go away. He has every right to stay in the New York City mayor’s race and throw away his money, but his 15 minutes should have been up long ago.
It’s long been obvious that Weiner’s a total cad, which isn’t all that unusual in politics. What boggles the mind is his lack of political talent. In a world that requires successful politicians to be masters of messaging and image management, Weiner is now known by his sexting alias, Carlos Danger. It’s funny, but is it important? No. Unless you live in New York City. Which I do not.
I recently stumbled across a New Yorker cartoon from May that perfectly captures what happens to people, and the news, during the lazy days of summer.
The cartoon depicts a group of corporate executives sitting around a table; they are clad in suits and ties and look very serious. They are all gazing upward at a man who is floating up near the ceiling; he is dressed only in shorts, and appears to be batting around a beach ball. The caption reads: “Damn it, Chalmers, can’t that wait until at least July?”
In other words: You’re unlikely to see a corporate executive strip off his clothes, float up to the ceiling and bat around a beach ball during the month of October.
In addition to July stories, there are also July problems.
Right now, my problems include: figuring out how I’m going to get to Lake Placid on Sunday to root for my friend Kim when she competes in this year’s Ironman, finding time to visit all of the friends traveling through the Northeast in the next month and clearing my garden of weeds.
These are not serious problems, and they are very specifically summer problems — problems that rarely occur during other times of the year.
However, I was jolted out of my summer stupor last week by a real problem.
I discovered this problem when I attempted to pay for my Wiawaka lodging with my ATM card, and it was declined. I was a little baffled, because I was fairly confident there was money in my bank account, but it wasn’t a big deal — I supplied another credit card, and that was that. When I got home, I tried to use the card again, and learned that it had been shut down; when I contacted the bank, they alerted me to the fact that thieves had been trying to make purchases through my account.
I was relieved to learn that the shutdown had been triggered by an unsuccessful attempt to steal all my money, rather than a successful attempt. What could have been a major headache turned out to be a minor annoyance — a minor annoyance that served to remind me that most problems are fixable. When you get right down to it, most problems are July problems — the trick is learning to view them that way, and reserving your anxiety for problems that deserve it.
Glancing at the Internet, I see that the Paula Deen-racism controversy has resurfaced. Racism is bad, of course. But I can think of no reason to click on this story and read it. Or to read anything about Paula Deen ever again.
It’s July, and I’m going to tune out as much nonsense as I can. If you need me, I’ll be floating around the ceiling in shorts and sandals, playing with a beach ball.
Foss Forward makes a weekly appearance in print, in The Gazette’s Saturday Lifestyles section. You can email Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org.