Friday, August 08, 2003

Confessions of a man curiously silenced

I do not think of myself as a shy individual. Yet certain situations cause me to be transformed into a timid soul. This metamorphose occasionally occurs when I approach a group of unfamiliar men and women who are crowded together in a hot tub.

Recently, while seeking relaxation at a California hotel, I was once again reminded of this bizarre character trait. The banal act of lowering my body into hot water with strangers brings on mental paralysis. My muscles find comfort; my head does not.

On this occasion, as I stepped down into the bubbling cauldron, I observed the six occupants of the tub look up at me warily. My attempt at a verbal pleasantry was met with a grunt by a hairy fellow to my left. The stern woman in my line of sight who was holding a magazine, peered at me with a disagreeable stare and went back to her reading. To my right, two bearded professorial types, who were talking in guarded tones about academic inequities at Berkeley, ignored my presence. The others in the communal tub had their eyes tightly shut, having elected to shut out the world by adopting a comatose posture.

It was all somewhat inhibiting. To break the spell, I wanted to perform an outrageous act. I thought of standing up, removing my bathing trunks and throwing them high in the air while shouting �huzzah!� This would have surely elevated my spirits and at the same time attracted the attention of my tub mates. A lively discussion might well have ensued about the reasons for my conduct and the etymology of my chosen exclamatory word. But, upon reflection, I realized that the shock value of public nudity went out with the sixties.

Instead, after a few minutes, I bid adieu to the group. As I stepped out of the water I heard the hirsute fellow grunt once more. I turned to look at him. We exchanged smiles and I headed for the door.

I receive my weather information from Yahoo which relies upon the National Weather Service. This past week it was predicted we would encounter nothing but thunderstorms for six disheartening days. On my computer monitor, marking each gloomy twenty-four hour period, were displayed clusters of forbidding black clouds, sometimes accompanied by scary bolts of yellow lightning. Nowhere was hope given that a ray or two of sun might venture forth.
But the reality was quite different. I heard the distant rumble of thunder only twice and while most of the time the sky was overcast, rain was infrequent and now and then the sun appeared.
What is my point, you say? Am I expecting perfection?
Not at all. But I would like the National Weather Service to display a bit of humility and go no further out on a limb than to express the caveat that on some of these consecutive days a thunderstorm or two is possible or even likely --- but hardly a certainty. Such an approach would uplift the mood of those of us depressed by having experienced the rainiest summer in recent memory. It would also create some confidence in the oft-criticized ability of our government to provide tne nation with accurate intelligence. All this will undoubtedly seem trivial to some but I am convinced that whether Washington speaks about the likelihood of a terrorist attack or warns us of repeated thunderstorms, the ripple effect of careless speech is carried far and wide. (Did I hear you say ---- get a life?)


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