This Facebook status update caught my eye:
Chris Rooney doesn’t like when cars drive too fast down his street.
Have you ever heard anyone complain that they drive too slow? Of course not. We all think they drive too fast —but what are you going to do chase after them and get all up in their grill, so to speak? That may have worked for T.S. Garp but it’s not a good idea these days.
In The World According to Garp, Garp gets into the habit of chasing after cars speeding through his neighborhood. In the book he’d catch up to them at the stop sign and give them a piece of his mind. It worked. Try that today and they’ll run you over.
Years ago the town showed up and yanked out the stop signs on the corner where I live. When I complained they helpfully explained that the signs created an unsafe situation and actually encouraged people to drive faster. I don’t know about that —but I do know that as soon as the signs came down the speed of the cars went up.
I decided to take matters into my own hands and request people slow down by yelling at them when they drove past. This did nothing to slow the cars but a number of people did return to yell back, threaten me, etc.
Now when they zip past I keep my mouth shut —instead seeking revenge by doddering along that road like an 80-year-old, driving a speed safe and reasonable for a place teeming with kids: 20 MPH.
In Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later Britain is horrifically decimated by the outbreak of a virus —and it doesn’t merely kill people it transforms them into raging homicidal maniacs. Stephen King’s masterpiece, The Stand, also features the release of a superbug that brings civilization to its knees.
Swine flu may not be as scary as the viruses in fiction, but the outbreak is a potent reminder of how the invisible world around us is rife with danger —real and imagined. There was a quaint time when radiation was the most ominous specter we faced. The atomic age inspired works as diverse as On the Beach, Godzilla, and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.
Of course it was frightening —but somewhere along the line microbes became our most popular boogeymen. Killer bug stories run the gamut from Michael Crichton’s science minded thriller Andromeda Strain to the over-the-top 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead.
It’s still early to say if life will imitate art and the swine flu crisis will hop the fence and become a pandemic. My advice is don’t panic —but just in case you may want to read this handy article about dealing with zombies.
Australian Shepherd Maddy has been attacking my copy of Richard Russo’s Bridge of Sighs. First she ripped off the back cover and gnawed a corner of the book, lending a whole new meaning to the term dog eared. Then she tore off the front cover and pulled out page 71 —which thankfully I’d already read.
She is not destructive by nature. The most mischief she gets into is carrying off socks that are left on the floor, presumably to go somewhere suck the footy goodness out of them. But there’s something about books she finds intolerable. Or is it just this book? Could it be the picture of Russo on the cover? Or maybe the part where a dog is shot in the ass with a pellet gun. It could be she’s peeved that I’d rather sit and read than give her my undivided attention. The book is a rival.
Or maybe she is just a dog.
There’s big money these days in treating dogs like mystical and deeply complex creatures. Marley & Me is the number one movie and The Dog Whisperer is on cable every night it, so it’s easy to start ascribing human traits to our canine friends. On the other side of the fence is Jon Katz, who’s made a business of telling us that dogs are actually just being dogs and we are the ones who are messed up.
I’m surprised she didn’t rip the cover off of one of his books.