Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Lorax and I

July 29, 2012

I just watched "The Lorax". The early scenes reminded me of this story I wrote a few years ago.


The vacuum man was late.

At first his absence didn’t worry anybody. Although a vacuum man had arrived promptly at 8 a.m. every Thursday morning for the last 20 years, people who noticed he was late merely thought, “Well, he’s always come, so he’ll be here any time.” And they didn’t worry.

At 10:00, people started commenting, “Hey, the vacuum man is late. Do you suppose anything’s wrong?”

At 12:00, people started to worry about how his absence might affect their lives.

Cynthia Estes, who was being married on Saturday, had planned her wedding down to the last detail. But if the vacuum man didn’t come, her perfect day would be ruined. The wedding might not even be able to take place.

Mrs. O’Hara, who had promised her children a swimming party on Saturday as a reward for making it through another school year, was less concerned on logistical grounds—after all, they could have a swimming party any time—than she was with disappointing her children, who were looking forward to the party as a way to blow off steam after another tough year of school.

The mothers of the other children, faced with the possibility of having to entertain them instead of sending them to the party, tried to resign themselves; but they hoped with all their might that the vacuum man would show up in time and spare them the ordeal of listening to their children complain all Saturday about how they wished they were swimming at the O’Haras’ instead of being stuck at home all day.

Human Resource Directors, although used to dealing with a variety of catastrophes, still shuddered at the thought that the vacuum man might not come in time. Every employee in the valley was guaranteed two Fridays off a month; if the vacuum man didn’t come on Thursday, the employees who were to be off this Friday might demand to get their day off after the vacuum man had come, which would put the whole schedule out of whack. You couldn’t blame them, but there was absolutely no way to accommodate them. One HR Director even went so far as to draft a “We’re all in this together” speech, accompanied by the offer of reduced schedules on the day after the vacuum man had come, to help make up for the lost Friday.

At 3:00, CEO’s started to get a little nervous as well. Suppose the vacuum were seriously broken? Would traffic be banned after a day or two? If employees couldn’t get to work, how would they maintain production? What would happen to the bottom line?

At 3:30, Cynthia Estes’s mother, her nerves already thin from the wedding preparations, snapped at her daughter, “I don’t know when he’s coming. Go lie down!”

At 5:00, the TV stations ran news stories asking, “Do we pay our vacuum men enough?” The human interest angle, they felt, would sugar-coat the main thrust of their broadcasts, which was to panic the population in the guise of disseminating news.

Cynthia Estes’s mother started calling her friends to see if anyone could spare a Valium.

People who watched the news broadcasts wrote letters to the newspaper, demanding that steps be taken so that the vacuum men would be assured of fair payment for performing this vital job.

Judd Delaney, this week’s vacuum man, was having a hard day himself. He had been working on the vacuum since 6 a.m. (What a day to have forgotten his cell phone!) At 8 a.m. he had started to swear, softly but steadily. By 3 p.m. he had a pounding headache and tension knots all through his shoulders and back. The only bright spot in his day was the 5:00 news broadcasts. Judd, who was amply paid, grinned at the pay question and thought that, after all, it didn’t hurt for people to actually think about the matter every now and then.

At 8:02 p.m. the Purevac 2300 started humming softly. Judd sighed with relief and maneuvered her into position over the valley. Now people could have their clean air on Friday and during the weekend. He’d have to work all night, but that was better than making thousands of people have their Friday off in the dirty air that was almost impossible to breathe.

At 8:12 p.m., the vacuum man finally arrived. And the people in the valley all breathed easier.

Anyone who lives in a valley will be able to relate to this story. The air gets stuck between the mountains and won't move, so the quality gets worse and worse until a lot of wind comes through and clears it. But I think that having a vacuum would be very helpful.

In the movie, the man who wants to keep the air unbreathable so that he can sell bottled air to the townspeople is named Aloysius O'Hare. Funnily enough I also wrote a story that had a character named Aloysius. What are the odds?

August 16, 2012

For the past few days, the Treasure Valley has been having its worst air quality in years—at one point the smoke from the wildfires was so thick that everything looked hazy, not just objects in the distance. I’d really love to have an air purifier for the whole valley.

August 17, 2015

Reality check: In the story, I wrote that the kids couldn't attend a pool party because of the bad air. A friend in Idaho just wrote that they can't go to the pool lately because the air quality is horrible. See? It's not just fiction!

December 1, 2015: Looks like a vacuum isn't such a crazy idea after all!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Wait, There's More

July 14, 2012

 I was thinking about the last post (the one dealing women in songs) and I thought of two more. They’re not exactly abusive, but they shine an interesting light on how women were viewed in the sixties:

When I was a kid I heard Tom Jones singing, “She always knows her place, she’s got style, she’s got grace, she’s a winner,” and I wondered if he was talking about a racehorse, and how a racehorse would know her place.

And I heard, “One less bell to answer, one less egg to fry, one less man to pick up after, and all I do is cry,” and I thought—for real!—that the maid was sad because she was in love with a guy who lived in the house she worked in, and he moved out.

At least Glen Campbell acknowledged that “The Everyday Housewife” gave up the good life for him, and he appreciated it. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

We've Come a Long Way, Baby

July 13, 2012

From Leslie Gore crying because her man’s been cheating, and what can she do, because she knows he really loves her

And Lou Christie asking a woman to “live by his rules” (let him fool around until he’s ready to settle down with her)

To Carrie Underwood trashing her ex’s car because the guy cheated on her

(Note that if a guy did that to a woman’s car we wouldn’t feel nearly so sympathetic)

To Bruno Mars and One Direction singing about how the girls they like are beautiful just the way they are

And Orianthi telling her ex that while he thinks she’s stupid and useless, her new boyfriend thinks she’s smart and beautiful

(Although I’d like her to realize it for herself, without needing a guy’s opinion)

We are sort of moving in the right direction with what the pop songs are putting in the kids' heads.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Good Thing It's Not In Phil Hart's District

July 6, 2012

Idaho’s governor is staunchly against taking Federal money, because Idaho is independent and doesn't like government interference; but because of a wildfire in Pocatello, he’s asking for federal disaster funds. I think he’s showing good sense, but it’s funny all the same.

The only thing that would be funnier is if the place needing the funds was the district of Rep. Phil Hart, who hasn’t paid income tax since 1996. Maybe if he needed the funding for his district he’d figure out the value of paying taxes. 

Who knows, maybe the feds could hit him up for his share before they kicked in.