Clones

F. de SALES MEYERS

November 22, 1993|By F. de SALES MEYERS

The decision by Giant Food stores to be open for business on Thanksgiving Day is further addition to the sense of tedium and monotony that pervades these times. All days are the same now. Is there a need for a calendar at all? Monday could be Saturday, Friday is nothing less than Wednesday. Holidays are arranged ++ for the convenience of sales, not for celebration.

A dateline in this newspaper is useful only for informing that this is the day for garbage collection.

The days of the week have become worth only the value of seven now. Once they were implicit divisors in our social nature. You could tell, sensuously, really, what day it was and how it was not the day before or that which was to follow. You knew it was Sunday by its silence. There was lazy ease in strolling casually through an empty business district or shopping area. Stores not open for entry were made more intriguing by a display of goods available only at reasonable times.

There is something fascinatingly attractive about a suburban mall parking lot entirely vacant of automobiles and people. It's as though no one wants to be there. They are all elsewhere, carelessly having a grand old time, never mind the profit loss. Without the racket of commerce one felt a notion of relief that this was a day unlike all those that came before and the day became precious for its dissimilarity.

There was a need, then, for Sunday to be not like all the others. Religious observance was only a part of that. Sunday was the great divider, a removal from your psyche of what had gone before and provided an expectancy that what would follow Sunday would be worthwhile because it surely had to be different.

A holiday was a reward once, a release from the ordinary. Today it's an obligation to be as all others are. Now all the days are as occupied as any other and what you can expect of each, indeed, is that they will merely proceed in numerical repetitiveness on and on and on, and so on until there are no recognizable days at all to reckon, and measureable time itself will be lost to us.

The sameness of life is becoming depressing, and inescapable. One longs for the surprises of uncertainty. Where is the pleasure in driving a superhighway that is like all the throughways scattered throughout this broad land? Being hustled through Georgia on multiple lanes is no different now than passing through Pennsylvania or, regrettably, Western Maryland. Who would know by this swift passage that reveals only others in identical haste whether you were in South Carolina or Massachusetts? Topography sometimes offers a slight hint of how someplace is not like what you left, but who has time to look.

Now and then there is notification that out there beyond the tall trees and wide fields that comprise your traveling tunnel perhaps there is something different. Pictographs like those you saw in Virginia or New Jersey inform that gas, food and lodging are nearby, but you have to slow down, stop even, to know that what you encounter is not like what you passed all those miles back.

Speed on, traveler. Perhaps you can catch up to and capture time somewhere down the line. Encapsulated in your automobile, all you missed were the forgotten small towns, stop signs -- and people. A quiet lane leading over a hill provides no anticipatory excitement, does it? Don't you fear, though, that what you hurtle toward so rapidly will be that which you abandoned?

In our tumbling descent toward universal sameness the pleasure of listening to regional dialects and accents has been taken from us by the homogenizing ubiquity of television. We not only look alike in our jeans and running shoes but talk the same way. The tedious banalities of talk radio are now the same in Idaho as in West Texas: the ill-informed misinforming the uninformed. A shopping center in Tucson is no different from one in Omaha. Communication, once a lovely, companionable word, now only an electronic necessity and an obsession of confessional talk television, has made it so.

(Is there a more distressing sight in all the world than seeing hour after hour on your big screen a row of people in chairs on a little stage and someone walking before them with a hand microphone?)

Geography, formerly an engrossing study of earthly division, fails us, too. Unless seen as a legend on some T-shirt, one need not know where Sumatra is. By now it's all the same anyway.

So, who can blame Giant Food for what they do? After all, it's the trend. Still, aren't trends the hobgoblins of little minds? Thanksgiving, therefore, is only another day. All the stores are open. But where is the celebration in that?

F. De Sales Meyers writes from Reisterstown.

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