For worriers, everything looks worse in this drought

This Just In...

August 12, 2002|By Dan Rodricks

ANYBODY ELSE getting nervous? Anybody else having trouble sleeping? Had any bad dreams? Do you find yourself shutting the television off and staying away from CNN for longer and longer periods? Thought about stockpiling bottled water and canned goods in the basement? Thought about dousing yourself in bug spray every time you leave the house? Seen any dead crows lately?

Thought about moving to a modest A-frame in the Idaho panhandle?

As you sent your daughter off for a bicycle ride, did you have second thoughts about it?

Did you change your vacation travel plans this summer? Did you scratch from your list of touristy things to do that walking tour of an abandoned Pennsylvania coal mine?

Did you decide not to eat any white perch from Maryland rivers? Seen any snakeheads lately?

Staying out of skyscrapers?

Ever had the strange thought that to live to old age, your kids might have to ship off this ozone-depleted, drought-stricken planet and colonize the moon?

Take two Xanax and call me in the morning - if your phone company hasn't gone bankrupt.

May I just remind everyone that America is still at war, Geraldo is still on Fox, George Bush is still president, and either Robert Ehrlich or Kathleen Kennedy Townsend could become Maryland's next governor?

As my former neighbor Skeeter used to say, "If it ain't one thing, it's another thing."

That was true then, and it's truer now.

Or maybe we just know more about everything - all news, all Geraldo, all the time - and we're all adjusting to a higher level of intellectual and emotional stress.

If it's not West Nile virus, it's drought. If it's not drought, it's Enron. If it's not Enron, it's WorldCom. If it's not WorldCom, it's the Catholic Church. And that's just the domestic stuff. Throw in the usually depressing foreign news, with almost daily bloodshed in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and you have a good reason to take a walk in the woods.

Which is what I did in the White Mountains of New Hampshire a few weeks ago. But I turned back when even the usually effective bug spray I carry in my back pack didn't seem to be effective against mosquitos. And, in addition to a worry about West Nile, there's always the threat of Lyme disease, right?

I know worriers. They amuse me. They worry about so many things and perceive so many dangers - and see so many conspiracies - they render themselves practically immobile. In their eyes even the simple joys of life have a dark edge - spaghetti alla carbonara is a great dish, but one taste will send your cholesterol count off the charts; camping is fun, but the bears will get you; cell phones are a wonderful convenience, but you could get a brain tumor using them.

I am the child of an irrational worrier. I've been fighting the inherited tendency toward high anxiety for years, mostly with success.

But lately, I suspect, I'm not the only self-styled steely nonworrier who has been worrying about the big stuff, about the world falling apart - about famine, disease and the forces of evil leading to the downfall of civilization!

God save us!

I haven't given up hope. Far from it. I listened to Bruce Springsteen's The Rising carefully the other day, and I was glad to hear that The Boss hasn't given up hope either, and I was inspired by the fact that his new CD cost only $12.99 at Record & Tape.

But something's up. It's something you sense. Something in the air, like the sizzling sound of cicadas in summer.

It's clearly related to what happened in this country Sept. 11.

But, above all, here in the Northeast, I've concluded that it's drought, more than anything, that stimulates the worry neurons in the human body.

We might continue to worry about terrorism, but we also believe most of that threat has been licked in the caves of Afghanistan, and that because of the damage terrorists did to financial institutions, in particular, you can count on America's military to be forever more vigilant.

But what can we do about drought?

Here in the Northeast, we're having one again, and we've had others in recent years. Municipal water supplies have fallen to record lows. Wells have dried up. It seems like too many droughts in too short a period of time, and it makes me think something's up with the natural order of things on Earth, that we've really screwed up some critical formula in the planet's chemistry. Too many people. Too many cars. You know, the big stuff nobody seems to be willing to do anything about.

There you have it: Everything, even Martha Stewart, looks worse in a drought.

So I'm going to do what my mother, the worrier, always does. I'm going to put a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the window, facing out, and pray for rain.

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