Thursday, December 6, 2007

BEST OF: Silly season clean-up

When I get to the stage where I really enjoy seeing a used-car commercial on TV, then the election “silly” season has been too long.

From the nearly universal grousing I’m hearing from the electorate, I assume I’m not alone in being fed up.

Now, I’m a dedicated voter. I’ve never missed an election since I was old enough to cast ballots (back in the dark ages when we voted with quill and ink, no doubt).

Yes, I have my preferences. I can be as passionate about given causes as anybody else. But I don’t need 18 months to make my decisions, especially when so much of that time is dominated by hammer-and-tongs charges, counter charges and enough “spin” to make the earth start turning backwards.

This pre-voting process is a circus, and I leave it to you who I think the clowns are.

It’s the unintended consequences of all this that worry me the most. Sure, some voters will get disgusted with this candidate or that ballot measure, and that’s fine. But some people — especially the thousands of recently registered first-time voters — will be so revolted by the election season’s endurance mud bath that they’ll give up on the whole process.

That’s not fine. In fact, it’s not acceptable.

I want to tell the candidates “don’t tell me what’s wrong with your opponents. I’m not dumb. I can figure that out for myself. Just tell me what’s right with you and what you can do that nobody else can or will do.”

Faced with another weekend of non-stop political negativity, we tuned out. Rather than spending our time listening to and reading about the latest week-before-the-vote polls, interviews and ads, we chose one of the optional evils.

We decided we’d really rather spend our Saturday-Sunday doing a once-in-10-years cleaning of our jammed-to-the-rafters, two-story, 40-foot-by-22-foot storage garage. Really we did.

The garage is a big gray building my parents built in 1974 to house their fifth-wheel trailer, the truck it came in on and all the things Mom and Dad wanted to store. Some 30 years later, youngest son Sean decided it was time we relieved ourselves of a lot of “barn stuff.” In the process, we wound up creating minor circus of our own.

In mid-cleanup Saturday, we were faced with a VW-bug-sized stack of pure, unadulterated trash, and a Lincoln Navigator-sized heap of things too good to toss but not good enough to keep and store any more.

The thought of giving a garage sale sounded worse than watching the political news coverage. So, some of it went to Achievement House … on Monday.

In the meantime, the stuff was stacked, piled and tossed in front of the house, and looked absolutely awful.

Caught between a chaotic rock and the decidedly hard place of dragging everything back into the barn for the night and back out again to load into the truck, I grabbed a piece of scrap wood and began lettering.

“If you want it, take it NOW! FREE! The truck will haul it away on Monday.”

In garage-sale-happy Cambria, I’m sure your imagination fills in the blanks of what happened next.

Until dark on that day and dawn-to-dusk on Sunday, most people walking or driving past stopped and picked up a couple of things, at least. Some returned with a bigger vehicle, or with friends. Others said something to the effect of “Sam sent me.”

Several curious Georges peered into the barn, saying, “I’ve always wondered what was in here.” Many wanted to know if we were moving, and if not, then what in tarnation were we doing.

We were amused and amazed by the array of stuff that people seemed so overjoyed to take home …. including fishing lures, doors, rusty tools, a hippie-style crocheted top, an inner tube, a small inflatable boat that just passed the quarter-century mark and 25 pairs of my late mother’s 1970s-era Beachcomber Bills flip-flops (which went to children in Nicaragua, we understand.)

By Sunday night, we were stiff, sore, grubby, grateful for all the help and euphoric over the weekend’s work.

And one of the best parts? We had absolutely no idea what the candidates and pundits had said about the election during the entire weekend.

This column ran Oct. 28, 2004, in The Cambrian. Since then, another political season has gotten into full swing, and with the return of our middle son to the household, we’ve managed to fill up the barn again. Sigh.

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