Monday, November 8, 2010

Orange You Thrilled?

Many years ago, I worked in an office with a woman named Doris. Doris had been an affluent Marin County housewife whose doctor husband abandoned her for a younger woman -- which is why, at the age of 45, Doris found herself bitterly typing, in her hunt and peck manner, documents in a landscape architect's office. I suppose it goes without saying that she'd supported him through medical school.

This was back in the days when people still smoked in the workplace, and Doris smoked a lot. Our boss expressed concern for the company's new word processing system, imploring Doris to smoke outside because the particulates in cigaret smoke would certainly clog the equipment's processors. Doris would barely look up during these lectures, but when he left her to enter his large inner office she'd very purposefully blow a lungful of smoke straight into her computer's innards.

One day someone made the mistake of commenting to Doris about the sudden winning streak of a local sports team. Doris took a huge toke on her cigaret and blew a plume into the man's face. "I wouldn't give a rat's ass about it if they played it pantsless in Jello," she replied.

I felt a bit like Doris during the recent World Series, which saw the San Francisco Giants winning for the first time in 56 years. City Hall and Coit Tower were bathed in orange light in tribute to the team's jersey color, homemade fireworks twisted into the sky above the Mission, and the entire city erupted into a cacophony of blaring sirens, honking horns, and hooting fans. A million people attended the parade that pushed its way through downtown. And yet I cared not a particle for this achievement, and had no desire to be a part of this celebration. Why? I simply can't relate, or imagine what it would feel like to care.

I only have to hear that familiar tone of the announcer describing the action on the field, overlayed with the drone of the crowd, to be yanked back to those childhood days when my father would monopolize the living room -- and our one TV at the time -- to watch endless baseball games. I cared about them then as much as I do now.

I know that times are grim, and people will seize any opportunity to express joy and communal happiness. But all through the excitement I kept thinking that if all that energy had been expended toward something that really mattered -- Global Warming, say, or the slaying of horrifying politcal dragons like gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, or even heartfelt causes that I oppose -- it would have to be more satisfying and worthwhile.

Last weekend I asked my 86-year-old father if he had followed the World Series on television. Dementia is rapidly closing in on him -- "they tell me I saw a bob cat," he said, as though the sighting happened to someone else -- and he sadly said he didn't think so. Days later, I can still see the orange-lit dome of City Hall glowering like a sunburned nose in the middle of the city's face. But the carbon levels are still rising, civil liberties are still disappearing into the ether, and the homeless are still pushing their carts through the Civic Center in its rosy glow.

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