Thursday, September 30, 2004

Shake Dog Shake

Cathy doesn’t get any vacation days her first year on the job. As a dedicated civil servant she also spent her first 6 months in an office without windows. She’d call me from time to time toward the end of the day and ask, “What’s the weather look like?”

I don’t get any vacation days for the first 6 months. Amazingly enough, that landmark is rapidly approaching. Until then I’ve accumulated a healthy amount of sick days and it’s into that pool that I’ve dipped this morning. I’m not physically ill unless you count being a little on the tired side. It’s more that I was in dire need of some free time.

In Sebastian De Grazia’s Of Time, Work and Leisure, he writes:

There are 168 hours to the week. If a man holds down a job of 40 hours a week, how much free time does he have- 128 hours? He would answer no. First of all he sleeps and eats, and these activities subtract a large sum from the total. Nor are they all he would subtract from the total before he arrived at free time. An early slogan of the shorter-hours movement in the United States proclaimed “8 hours for work, 8 hours for sleep, 8 hours for all the rest.” The eight-hour remainder is not all free time, however. Instead it covers, as the pat phrase puts it, “all the rest”- shopping, grooming, chores, transportation, voting, making love, helping children with homework, reading the newspaper, getting the roof repaired, trying to locate the doctor, going to church, visiting relatives, and so on. Do all these activities rightly belong to free time?

No way, man!

He later compiles a list, a fascinating one at that, taken from surveys that asked people what they did with their free time. (Keep in mind that the book was first published in 1962.)

We can then say that at present the American’s use of free time includes watching television; listening to the radio, listening to records; reading newspapers, magazines, books; working around yard or in garden; pleasure diving; going to meetings or organizational activities; attending lectures or adult school; visiting; going out to dinner; going to the theater, concerts, opera, movies; participating in sports (bowling riding, skating, fishing, swimming, golf); sight-seeing; singing; playing musical instruments; dancing; going to government parks and amusement parks; attending sports events; playing cards; engaging in special hobbies (photography, stamp collecting); keeping pets; and playing slot machines.

I find this book interesting, but isn’t it curious that I’ve never committed the kind of free time to reading it in its entirety? I’ve been meaning to for almost 10 years now. For now I just take little dips.

How much free time is spent in consideration?

So far today I’ve watered the lawn, ripped dozens of CD’s to feed my hungry iPod and read enough pre-debate coverage and spin to leave me convinced that tonight’s showdown will indeed play like two separate press conferences. I’d like very much to have magical powers right now, a way to cast a spell on Dubya just as he took his place behind his podium (carefully placed in relation to Kerry’s so as to not highlight his competitors 4 inch height advantage). In this sorcerous scenario Jim Lehrer would be introducing the candidates and as those Fox camera’s zoomed in on Dubya I’d wave my wand and have him stick his tongue out as the camera. It would be subtle at first, an action that that would cause the pundits to sit bolt upright in their chairs by the thousands and take amused and horrified notice. They’d wonder, “Is he doing that thing he does, that winking to folks in the audience, giving the thumbs up to a friend- didn’t Jenna do this a few months ago?” But their questions would be set aside by what would happen next. Dubya would bark. He’d undeniably bark. It would begin with something throaty- guttural- a growl suddenly eclipsed by a sharp, crisp yap. Lehrer would stumble over his introduction and pause to regain his congenial footing. At this pause, just after the bark, Dubya would offer by way of explanation, “My apologies Jim, but I’m so excited ‘bout debatin’ this squirrelly buck here that I’m goin all First Scottish Terrier on ya!”

The cogs in Kerry’s head would undeniably be churning, neuronal paths in an ember glow of action as he boldly took hold of the edges of his podium, leaned ever so slightly into his microphone and said, “Jim, should my opponent need to relieve himself at any time during the next 90 minutes I respectfully ask that he wait and use the hydrant located just outside the theater.”

But this kind of magic could backfire during post-debate debate- I’m perfectly aware. This is when the pundits and spinners (are they even distinguishable?) begin their conversations agnostically and make claims of never having seen anything quite like it in the 40 odd some years of televised debates. The Dems enjoy a couple post-debate days of unencumbered offense with Kerry and Edwards wondering aloud at numerous campaign stops if there wasn’t a certain “dog” in the White House that shouldn’t be taken to the pound come the second of November. There would be wild applause. T-shirts of Kerry taking Bush for a walk would appear.

But something happens on the third day. The Republicans would regain the advantage. It would begin with the right-wing TV and radio pundits hammering on about the profound disrespect Kerry showed to our nation’s firemen by encouraging public urination on fire hydrants. Imagine, the very firemen who lost their life on 9/11 and Kerry is desecrating their memory in a discharge of waste- why, it’s in shockingly bad taste, isn’t it? And was that really a dog bark. Please! It was a “barbaric YAWP”- a powerful sign of vigorous leadership. Certainly our men in uniform do just this sort of thing before going into battle and that’s really what this is, a battle for the very heart of this country, a safer and more secure country guarded by a President who is positively ferocious about maintaining our freedom!

Kerry would be back on the defensive, making claims that Dubya had actually made cuts to national hydrant allocations in each of his previous budgets, so that the safety of our nations cities was gravely imperiled. He’d be a President who, the first day in office, would sign a bill guaranteeing 500,000 new hydrants to those areas where our nation needs them most. Swing voters would pause to consider such bold initiatives and accusations.

And so it would go.

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