Friday, September 2, 2011

Cover Story

When I was a child (see my memoir In Happier Days: Growing Up In Eisenhower's America) it was easy to get me to show up for any appointment - just promise me magazines in the waiting room!  The dentist's office in those days overlooked a garden with a swing swinging from a swaying tree, so I would read The New Yorker happily, in a Robert Louis Stevenson sort of mindframe.  The doctor's office had TIME magazine, the old-style TIME, in which "Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind. Where it all will end, knows God!" as Wolcott Gibbs said, to my amusement.  And when I had to go to the eye doctor because reading all those newspapers made me myopic, at least I got to enjoy Highlights magazine.  

Highlights was the home of Goofus and Gallant comics, in which a guy named Garry Cleveland Myers drew a strip that showed how most kids acted and then how Gallant kids acted.  Or not.  I don't know.  Even as a kid, I figured that even the Goofus-iest of the bunch were good to know for something, and that there were drawbacks in being Gallant, not least of which was that most of them wound up being Nixon White House aides.  Every now and then, a blind squirrel is right twice a day, and a stopped clock gathers no moss, and what if it did?  

But as we became adults, there turned out to be easily drawn delineations between proper behavior and the unacceptable.    For instance, if I were drawing G&G, first of all, they'd look more like B & B (Beavis & Butthead), and second, they would say things like, Goofus: "Corporations are people, my friend" and Gallant: ''After a century of striving, after a year of debate, after a historic vote, health care reform is no longer an unmet promise. It is the law of the land.'' 

And here's one that really would hit home.  In the past week in the greater Baltimore area, there have been widespread power outages as a result of a fairly significant hurricane that hit over the past weekend.  Many people are surprised to find that traffic lights require electricity, in an apparent belief that the signals are controlled by moonbeams or gamma rays from Venus.  So, we have a situation in which a motorist - let's call him "Mark" -  is approaching an intersection  - let's call it "Cromwell Bridge Rd and Loch Raven Boulevard" - and all the lights are out.  If you're reading this in a faraway place with an exotic name, you might not know it, but this is a very big intersection.  They even built a high school right there, a school whose leading alumnus so far has been longtime NFL punter Sean Landeta.  Anyway, when you come steaming down Loch Raven Boulevard in your BA SUV, and you come to that intersection and find the lights are all out and people are courteously looking left and right and nodding to each other to take turns driving through, well,

GALLANT stops and allows people who were there before him to proceed with caution       


GOOFUS drives her BA SUV through the intersection and onto the Beltway on-ramp at about 75 MPH, never once acknowledging the presence of other people, vehicles, or anything else at all.

“No one is too big to be courteous, but some are too little”

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