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Flu Shots, Mindful Shopping and the Dog that Thought She was Human

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Flu Shots, Mindful Shopping and the Dog that Thought She was Human

Just call me Scrooge and let’s get it over with. I’ve been very cranky lately but I’m entitled. Recovering from the indignities of root canal, I found myself thrown off by the unexpected side effects of a flu shot – chills, achiness and general ennui. Toss in a bad cold and conjunctivitis for good measure and I was a mess.

Well, I’m happy to report that I’m fine now. But, while I’m under the weather, I feel as though I’m slogging along in slow mo. It reminds me of those occasions when I find myself stuck in the slow lane on the highway. I sit there, motionless, for what feels like forever, while cars in every other lane whiz by. Of course at times like this, changing lanes is useless: the curse doggedly follows me like half-chewed gum on a new pair of shoes.

So there I was Ms. Crabby herself, finding myself at Bed Bath and Beyond, picking out a wedding shower gift for the son of some old friends. In that annoying way life has of piling umpteen events on the same exact day and hour, I won’t even be at this shower– I have someplace else to be. Murphy’s law.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was already approaching this with the wrong attitude. The simple truth is that I hate shopping. I also anticipated problems with the wish list itself. It had nothing to do with the happy couple’s taste. Priding myself on being a mindful shopper, I do my best to buy American. When that fails (more times than not, I’m afraid), my fall back position is ABC– anywhere but China. It was an uphill battle. Here’s how it went.

First stop, kitchenware. On the list were many clever and useful items, including Oxo easy-grip gadgets, colanders, cutting boards, kitchen timers, mixing bowls and can openers. The only item among them that was made in the USA was a single, solitary Pyrex measuring cup. It was a start. Clutching the measuring cup tightly, I proceeded to bed and bath. I emerged twenty minutes later, with a partial victory: two pillows with covers made in China but fitted and filled in America. I had to get back to deliver my car so my son could get to basketball practice. “Made in China” signs began to dance in my head like sugar plum fairies. It was clearly time to call it a day.

While I waited for the package to be gift-wrapped, I perused the Christmas and Hanukah merchandise near the cashiers. No matter that we were weeks away from Thanksgiving and Halloween hadn’t even happened yet. First stop, the Hanukah tchotchkes. which were all made in China, including the candles and dreidels. Only the paper plates were American-born. Then, I wandered over to the Christmas stuff, amassed on an adjoining end-cap. Again, all of it from China – this time, even the paper plates. I was able to find some cute paper napkins that were made in Germany. The package still wasn’t ready – I guess it’s not so easy to creatively wrap a couple of pillows – so I continued my admittedly unscientific research. From folding umbrellas to humidifiers named Fred, the shelves were stocked floor to ceiling with items made in – you guessed it – China. Why would anyone feel compelled to name their humidifier – maybe would-be pet owners living in pet-free apartments?

I mused on my findings as I drove home. It had been a thoroughly discouraging outing and added to my already high level of general crabbiness. It’s easy to see why so many of our fellow citizens feel strongly that our country is heading in the wrong direction. My shopping expedition illuminated just one part of the total picture. When we’re not being told to fear a terrorist attack at any moment, we can obsess about the shrinking manufacturing sector, those increasingly rare good paying jobs, a war spiraling out of control and an economy that is this close to tanking. Anyone check the rate of the dollar in Europe or Canada lately? One positive outcome of the expansion of the ‘no fly’ list is that people will be forced to vacation in spots they can drive to. That could help our local economies.

I haven’t even mentioned unprecedented foreclosure rates, the rise of personal debt, skyrocketing college tuition costs, more and more people with poor health coverage or none at all. It’s a lot to take in and the steady barrage of bad news leaves us fearful and anxiety-ridden in its wake. And who’s in our corner, ostensibly working for us– the obsequious press and curiously spineless Congress. Great! I feel better already. I got an email recently which asked: “What kind of political courage does it take to stand up to a lame duck president with a 28*% approval rating, for god's sake?????” Excellent question.

Suddenly, a memory floated to the surface, like a message in one of those Magic 8 balls from my youth. The summer between my junior and senior years in college, I worked at Yellowstone National Park, riding on the back of a truck, picking up garbage. Not the usual past-time for a soft, suburban girl, but a very interesting and eventful summer, nevertheless. I came home with a lot of good stories and a feisty part Shepherd mix. I’d never had a dog of my own. It made me feel very grown up, and I wanted an extra special name for her. After casting around for suggestions, I chose Inte, which, I was told, was Peruvian for sun. (Only years later did I meet someone from Peru who confirmed that this was indeed the translation of sun and not some horrible South American curse word.)

Inte, or Into for short, was an amazing dog. She truly thought she was a human being and her many fans agreed. She had a wonderful temperament and was very people-friendly. She went to class with me and some of my professors kept dog bones for her in their desk drawers. When I graduated, she attended the ceremony, of course, and my friends made her a little mortarboard cap complete with tassel so we could be twins. She wasn’t one of those little yipping dust mops that masquerade as canines; she was a real dog, whatever that means. She was just the right size to fit in the space behind the driver’s seat for cross-country drives. I had worried that she and Rafi, my future husband, might not get along. To my tremendous relief, they became fast friends. I was so glad that I didn’t have to choose between them. This dog was practically perfect in every way. Her only blind spots were a fear of men in uniforms and an antipathy for other dogs. Her fear of uniforms was understandable; she had been mistreated by the staff at Jackson Hole National Park and she never got over it. I think that she didn’t like other dogs because she was a snob and didn’t want to bother with the hoi polloi.

Now, for the memory. One summer day, Rafi, Into and I were sunning ourselves after work. A friend passed by. He was raising Doberman puppies as a business venture. As the three of them approached, Into took an instant dislike to those dogs and latched onto the snout of one of them. Her mouth was like a steel trap– she just wouldn’t let go. From that moment on, those pups headed the other way when they saw her coming. Even though they grew into strong and aggressive adults, they never forgot the drubbing they got that afternoon. And, despite the fact that they both later outweighed and outnumbered her, she forever retained that crucial psychological edge.

Sound familiar? This administration has so mastered the art of intimidation, that even now in its floundering end stages, it retains a mystical, if mythic advantage. What will it take to get the opposition to grow some spine? Don’t hold your breath. Ariana Huffington wrote a book a few years ago entitled Fanatics and Fools. You don’t need me to tell you who’s who.

* The email quoted above cited an article written on Memorial Day. By now, I think Bush’s approval ratings have sunk even lower.


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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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