Bob Driver is a former columnist and editorial page editor for the Clearwater Sun. Send Driver an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Out of the sound and fury of the past year has come a question that on Election Day may well determine the fate of our country, if not the entire universe: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?”
The Polled Answers Institute (PAI) of Schellsburg, Pa., recently put that question to 1,355 Americans from all known socio-economic-politico-erotic-psychotic sectors. Here are some of the replies the PAI received.
Hector R., Maine. “Yep. Four years ago I was living alone in a double-wide without a wife, a girl friend or even a dog to keep me company. Today I have a springer spaniel named Sam who won’t shut up five minutes a day. Also a lady friend, Sarah, who cooks and cleans and hates Judge Judy’s TV program just as much as I do. You can’t beat that lifestyle with a stick.”
Arleen W., Utah. “Absolutely not. In 2008 I weighed 115 pounds and gave tango instructions to renegade Mormons in a secret hideaway 35 miles east of Salt Lake City. My husband Joe made a good living hauling marijuana for growers throughout the Northwest. Our house was paid for, and our children were safely in college. Then one day a tornado ripped through our valley and destroyed our house and my husband’s truck, plus my tango school. Now I’m flipping burgers in a Wendy’s, and I weigh 160 pounds. And it’s all Barack Obama’s fault!”
David B., Ohio. “What a cruel question! I’m 87 years old and can’t even remember what I had for breakfast today, let alone how things were four years ago. If you and your clipboard aren’t off my propitty within sixty seconds, I’m gonna get my shotgun and pretend your backsides is a shooting gallery.”
Susan K., Florida. “Better off today? Are you kidding? Four years ago I could buy prescription drugs from a hundred pill mills within 30 miles of where I live. I had buckets full of painkillers on my shelf. But then they elected a new attorney general, some blonde named Bondi, who started a campaign against crooked doctors and druggists. Today I’m lucky to keep half a dozen hydrocodone pills in my purse. How are me and my friends supposed to enjoy life?”
Olive R., Kansas. “I have three small children. Four years ago I was worried sick about how to keep my kids from hearing all kinds of dirty words on TV and radio. But the passage of time has solved the problem. With each month, as the language became even more foul, the networks have learned how to beep out all the bad stuff, obliterating it from my children’s ears. Today we can sit through hours of `Law and Order’ or the Chelsea Handler show without hearing a single cussword or obscenity. All we hear are beeps, and finally we switch to the Disney channel or Lawrence Welk re-runs. Isn’t this a grand country?”
Fred K., Montana. “I’m much happier now. I’m a would-be writer. In 2008 I hadn’t sold a thing. No one knew my name. I was lonely. Editors keep rejecting my stuff because my grammer and speling was offul. I was ready to give up all thoughts of literary greatness. Then I discovered blogging, plus Facebook, Linkedin and other places on the web where you can publish your thoughts without some dumb editor looking over your shoulder. Today I spend sixty hours a week at my computer, telling all my friends about my lunch, my cat, a girl I once met and all sorts of other important stuff. I still haven’t sold a single line to a publisher, but now I don’t care. On the web everyone can pretend to be a writer. That’s even better than actually being one.”
George M., Kentucky. “Things have gone downhill. Back in the summer of 2008 me and my fishing buddies bought a cabin up on Wolverton Mountain, right next to a lake owned by a group of religious fanatics who believe in worshipping in the nude. The lake is loaded with all kinds of fish, and me and my buddies asked the owners if we could fish there. They said yes, providing we were nekkid as we fished, and sang at least four well-known hymns per hour as we sat in our boats. We agreed, but then we started forgetting the words to some of the hymns. The religious freaks said we had defaulted on our agreement, and kicked us off the lake. Is this what religious freedom has come to in America?”
Bob Driver is a former columnist and editorial page editor for the Clearwater Sun. Send him an email at email@example.com.