So Long, 2004

So Long, 2004

Schrimpf, Paul

WHAT A YEAR 2004 WAS, EH? I’M SURE you’ve all been sitting on the edge of your chairs, waiting breathlessly for our traditional year in review edition of this column. “Maybe, just maybe,” you think, “he’ll share some thoughts on what it was like during the presidential campaign in Ohio, the most contested ‘swing state’ in the country? Or maybe he’ll provide an insightful analysis of the progress we’ve made in agricultural technology in the past 12 months! Please, don’t keep us in suspense!”

Well, ok. I have two words for being a swing state in this election. It stunk. Beyond the thousands of commercials, the excessive front yard signage, and all the media attention, the candidates kept coming back to visit like some horrible, down and out relative – loud, demanding, and with little notice.

Every time one of these guys rolled out the bandwagon it shut down highways and cost tens of thousands of dollars in security and special attention to our already financially strapped cities. After the vice presidential debate, everyone in the world now knows Cleveland is No. 1 in terms of poverty in the country (thanks for that, by the way). They could have helped us keep our coffers full by just staying the heck away.

Frankly, the only thing that kept my wife and I sane was turning off the boob tube and picking up a couple of books. Inspired by a vacation to Philadelphia this summer, I started reading David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of John Adams, and my wife chose a volume on Ben Franklin.

Folks, if you still suffer the illusion that our Founding Fathers charged as one into a united vision of democracy once the Declaration of Independence was signed, you need to read John Adams. The Swift Boat Veterans and MoveOn.org were relative wimps compared to the merciless war of words waged by our earliest politicians and media moguls. There’s truly nothing new under the sun.

Well, there’s no time to live in the past, eh? Bring on 2005! And let’s make it a good one.

ANOTHER YEAR HAS COME AND GONE, and it’s time for me to face the hard truth: I’m not getting any taller. That hope was hard to let go of: One of my all-time favorite favorite athletes, David Robinson of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, shot up 7 inches while in the Navy, past the age of 18. If David can do it, why not me? (Ignoring the fact that there a great many things that a 7-foot-tall professional athlete can do that I cannot, like take out the garbage without straining my back).

Not that I’m short, I just thought it’d be cool to have strangers refer to me as “that tall guy” once in a while instead of the typical “the third guy from the left” in the police line-up. So now I’m considering imposing a height cap on my friends and family, where I don’t associate with anyone over 6 feet tall. If I can’t grow, you all can shrink.

But I digress. The big event of ’04 obviously was the election, and I had the weird experience of watching our president be chosen from overseas while attending a European crop protection conference in Scotland. I voted before I left, which was strange in itself- you basically hand your ballot to someone who may or may not actually be employed by the government, and try to filter out the hums of paper shredders and wooshes of flushing toilets as you leave. But watching the BBC’s anchors struggle to explain the US electoral college was unforgettable. Their analyses typically ended with the exasperated anchor creating some kind of diversion so he could run away and go get a scone or something.

One person who called a news show asked, “They give each state a certain number of votes to represent their populations, so each vote is equal?” To which the anchor replied, “Exactly.” And the caller, not missing a beat, asked, “Why don’t they just count all the votes?”

And the anchor said, “They do, but … Hey, look over there!” By the time the camera turned to see what he was pointing at and returned to his desk, he was gone.

The man next to me in the hotel lounge asked me to explain it, but I ignored him. He was over the height cap.

Editors Paul Schrimpf and Scott Lucas square off

Copyright Meister Media Worldwide Dec 2004

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