Sunday, February 26, 2006


I was looking at my roof today, and wondering if I could somehow clamber up there and knock a hole in it if floodwaters came rushing into my home. I never was a very good swimmer and, if I needed to locate a saw or a hammer in a hurry, I would probably panic, so I might just have to claw my way through. I don't know if there would be time to grab a basket of food, a flask or two of water, or even a blanket. And I don't even know if I could STAY on a roof without tumbling off, unless it was very flat.

I worry about things like that, as I go about my daily life. Today, I tackled my very first Sudoku, which is evidently a Japanese phrase of some sort, meaning "composed of single digits." There is no reason why that game of Sudoku was so difficult for me. I have ten fingers and ten toes. I ought to be able to get nine numbers into little squares. But the end result looked as though a kindergartner had scribbled on the paper. So you see, both big problems and little ones occupy my mind.

I decided that anyone who could decipher Sudoku can probably understand the Medicare Prescription Plan. There are just people among us who can figure out things like that. They can find their way in a strange city. They can locate Orion or Mercury in a sky filled with thousands of twinkling stars. They can get the top off of jars, and they can get those plastic zipper containers back together after they're opened.

It hasn't been easy being one of the mentally challenged and amazingly inept, but it is a condition I have had to accept. The problem is, I have trouble finding anything to feel snobbish about. I can't be an intellectual snob, because the material isn't there to work with. And I don't have the money to be any other kind of a snob. It's not easy being a member of a minority group like that. We Snobless people have a rough time of it.

This week, I have wrestled with the problem of Arab control of our major ports. Now, President Bush says we have nothing to worry about, that the Arabs will not be in control of security, that the Coast Guard and other port employees will be in charge of all this. If this is true, it makes one wonder why we need the Arabs in the first place, but who am I to question this?

The president says that, if we do not agree to this contract, it will cause the Arabs to feel that we do not trust them. Believe me, Mr. President, we do not trust them! The truth is, the terrorists who took down those buildings on 9/11 were Arabic. And, currently, they are holding a little girl who is an aid worker, threatening to kill her, putting her on television with her little flower-like, frightened face begging for her life. We should trust Arabs? Not me! I will concede that a majority of them are nice people. It's the few who aren't that continue to worry me.

The whole affair boggles the mind. I have tried to make sense of it, to read the newspapers, to listen to television, but the utter differences in our cultures and our outlooks are beyond understanding. Even the names are difficult to comprehend...a collection of el and als and ums that sound like babble to the American ear. The different tribes...Shiite and Kurds and Sunni and Turkman...each with a different outlook on the Muslim religion, each with treasured mosques and artifacts, beloved clerics, and strange pilgrimages to cities whose names one can't pronounce. It is something like a foreigner coming over here trying to differentiate between the Presbyterians and the Baptists, the Republicans and the Democrats, the AA and the AAA.

Now, a near Civil War has broken out, because the Shiites believe the Sunnis are responsible for destroying the Golden Dome of a mosque where some relative of Mohammed evidently presided in the distant past and, according to Juan Cole, who understands this stuff and probably works out a Sudoku in a matter of minutes, the Shiites believe Mohammed's offspring should inherit this obeisance, where the Sunni do not believe this at all. Juan Cole is a professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of Michigan and I tell you this to inform you that, if you take his course, you might just understand things a little better than I do.

Anyway, these are the types of things that occupy my mind, along with the price of gas. Years ago, we would pull into a gas station and a man would pop out of the door to pump the gas, wipe off our windshields and ask if we needed oil, water, or anything else. Then some nincompoop created the Self Serve gas station. First thing you know, everyone is standing out there, trying to figure out some computerized pump, freezing or burning up as you stand there, depending upon what climate you live in, hoping the damned thing doesn't blow up in your face before you get back in your car, smelling less like Chanel Number Five and more like you had bathed in gasoline.

Today, not only do we have to pump our own gas, but it costs a good part of your salary just to get yourself to your destination. And some people, those miserably happy souls that always look on the good side of things instead of facing reality like I do, send you those cute little sayings, pointing out that we pay more for orange juice than gas. Well, unfortunately, my car won't go on orange juice. Perhaps they could do a little research and figure out a way that it could. They might even get a government grant for experimenting in alternative fuels.

President Bush visited Michigan last week, making a country-wide hop to push Alternative Fuels. He says we are addicted to fossil fuels, but when you pay at the pump, you're not going to get any pleasant high! If someone doesn't push alternative fuels, we may all be out pushing our cars along the highways, but then again, wasting all that gas just to rev us all up on the alternative fuel idea might not be such a good idea. We're already revved up about it. We just need someone to do it. Just tell us what it is. If it's corn, wheat, compressed coal, sunlight, wind, dog do, dandelions....we don't care, just put it in our tanks and send us on our way.

One Michigan union worker asked President Bush about the huge lay-offs at our factories here and the newspapers reported that he snapped, "I can't make your company sell cars!" Well, neither can we! We can't afford to buy them, let alone sell them, because salaries around here for unskilled workers and skilled workers have dropped to just a few dollars over minimum wage. The thing is, if we had a little more money, we could buy more cars. And, if we bought more cars, there might be more jobs around here. The whole thing is like a game of Sudoku, when you stop to think about it.

And there's the real problem, thinking about it. I sometimes wonder if President Bush has any solutions. If so, I wish he'd hop on Air Force One and let us know what they are....without saying "We're winning!", "Stay the course!", "The Iraqi people want Democracy!", or "Freedom is on the March!" If he could make one speech without those phrases, some of us might listen.