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Better Than Human
There was a time when cars had nothing to say. In those days they just sat there until needed, quietly and without complaint, leaking oil onto your driveway. My 2007 Civic is of a different breed.

Among other things, it is deeply concerned about whether I have fastened my seatbelt. When I have not, it lets me know with an unpleasant noise: seven too-loud beeps, followed by fifteen seconds of silence, then the beeps again. The sequence continues until I comply with its wishes or until the car is turned off. It has other, different warning sounds as well — about headlights left on, emergency brakes unreleased, and doors ajar. Those noises are equally insistent and annoying,

I don’t want to seem ungrateful that my vehicle cares so much about me. After all, any one of my oversights might result in a severe inconvenience…or even my death. I am not yet ready to say that I can no longer take care of myself, but these conveniences spare me the need to try. That’s a good thing, right?

My only complaint about the Civic is the harsh, slightly judgmental tenor of its reminders. I don’t like being crabbed at, even if it’s for my own good. I suppose the unpleasantness is meant to make me act, if only to end the pain. I can honestly say that I would respond anyway. Even without the crabbing. Probably.

My kitchen appliances are also full of helpful hints and reminders. They are more considerate of my feelings, though. My microwave, which is about the same age as the Civic, can be a bit abrupt, but my new washing machine is a model of politeness. It signals that my wash is done with a lovely chimed rendition of “Clock Town Day.” Hearing it, I find myself looking forward to the rewards of a properly folded basket of laundry.

Come to think of it, the younger generation of machines (unlike their human counterparts) are noticeably better mannered than their elders. Some of them — the ones endowed with a capacity for spoken language — are disarmingly gracious. My Waze app (I’ve chosen the voice of a British woman named Natalie) is unfailingly positive. There are never any recriminations for a wrong turn or a piece of advice unheeded. She simply moves on to the next turn.

Natalie isn’t a nice person in the normal sense, of course. Neither are Siri, Alexa, Watson, or any of their ilk. They act nice (albeit a tad robotically), and I like that. Someday, with the proper programming, they might be able to simulate genuine niceness. I can even imagine them becoming likable, especially when if they lose their stiffness. Newer versions may come to possess an enhanced sensitivity to my needs, my desires, even my moods. In fact, they could someday be preferable to actual human beings.

You heard me. Better than human beings. Better conversationalists, better confidantes, better companions. And the drawbacks of actual humans would be absent. There would be no fights, no falling outs, no estrangements. And they would do exactly as they are told, always and without question.

Come to think of it, though, that might be a problem — that there would be no problems. No eccentricities to put up with, no flaws to forgive. Real friendship carries with it the willingness to accept the other in spite of the warts. Even if we could program our robot buddies to have a few flaws, I don’t think we would put up with them that way. We couldn’t resist the temptation to remove the warts and save ourselves the trouble.

I think I would tire of a perfect companion. Even if the likeness to a sensitive, interesting friend were seamless, it would be hollow. I would be entertained, perhaps, but essentially alone. In that world, I might even find myself longing for the company of my old Civic. It's crabby, annoying, and a terrible conversationalist, but loyal and thoughtful. To a fault, is all.
Just Go
I don’t care if he’s actually crazy. I don’t care about his latest outrage. I don’t care that our country is under threat on all sides, including the inside, because of him.

I do care about all that, of course, and much more, but I refuse to spend any more time worrying about it. It’s exhausting. Who can keep up with the lies and the crimes and the runaway stupidity of this ugly charade? The obsessing and the rage always end up at the same place anyway, so why don’t we just cut to the chase?

We’ve got to get rid of this guy. Asap. I don’t want to hear the reasons he should go, or what he’s done, or what he might do. All that is already baked into that one, simple conclusion. There is no need to talk about the why anymore, only the how.

So let’s get to it. His death, of course, would be the quickest way out. I am not for assassination, however. If someone killed him, it would be worse for the country than he is. That leaves us with the option of death from natural causes. Considering his bloated, unhealthy look and his rapidly decaying mental state, that could actually happen — and soon. His increasingly erratic behavior in the face of the Mueller probe even suggests the possibility of an exploding aneurysm that would end the whole matter very quickly. We’re not looking for him to suffer, after all, just for an end to our own pain.

The idea of divine intervention is another interesting alternative. It isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine God finally getting fed up with all the bullshit and stepping in to end it. He wouldn’t necessarily have to go with a lightning bolt. A runaway bread truck would work just as well. Or a tiny, violent tornado in the oval office. He could even keep His fingerprints off the caper entirely by just having the President go extinct. That said, I would never actually pray for the death of another human being. I am open to a little light hoping, though.

There is also a chance that the President might save us all a lot of heartache and just commit suicide. He certainly doesn’t look happy in his new line of work, and he could be overcome by crushing despair. I wouldn’t invest too much hope in this option, however. He is too animated by revenge and greed and ego gratification to leave the field before he was done.

I’ve heard the suggestion that he might just quit the Presidency and declare victory claiming he was forced out by the media and Hillary and the FBI. That would certainly comport with his tendency to create alternative realities, but I just don’t see it happening unless he really starts to feel the heat. That heat might come in the form of legal jeopardy for Junior and Jared, but we’re not there yet.

By the way, if you’re counting on the Mueller investigation to save the republic, please consider the possibility that it might come up empty. Even if he can prove indictable offenses of the worst possible kind, Republican cravenness could carry the day and they would then refuse to impeach and convict. It would be appalling, shocking, and unacceptable…but what else is new?

Impeachment resulting in conviction would be the ideal outcome, of course. The idea of our system working well enough to rid itself of this blight would be a great ending to this sad chapter of history. The only problem with this feel-good solution, as I have said, is that it would require Republican votes in the House and the Senate. Right now, I don’t see that happening.

There could be a bright side to such dereliction, however. Even though it would prolong our suffering under the crook-in-chief, when his fall finally did come it would bring with it the collapse of the Republican Party itself. That would almost be worth the wait.

But I’m not greedy. He should just go…now.
Save My Ceipt
Yes, I save my receipts. Most of them, anyway…especially if you count the ones I find in my coat pocket. Sometimes, I don’t throw these away until the next time I wear that coat. And sometimes, not even then. If that is not saving, what is?

I know some people who save all their receipts and preserve them neatly in a special drawer or a little box that is always in the same place no matter what. That’s very admirable, I’m sure, but to me this is not so much saving as hoarding, and it speaks of someone who cannot let go of even the most trivial possessions. I don’t really want to know what perverse personal need is being filled by this obsession, but I question the assumption that such people are “well-organized.”

I wonder…when these people go out for a dinner, do they actually keep the “customer copy?” I’ll bet they do — even though they’ve eaten the dinner and looked at the bill and added it all up three times, just to be sure. They probably even keep that other slip that restaurants give you (whatever it is) and put it in their special place in a nice neat pile with all the other little pieces of paper.

I do recognize, in a broader sense, the need to save one’s receipts. You might need some help remembering exactly what product or service you purchased or who sold it to you or how much you paid. Any mature, grown-up adult who has reached his majority might reasonably need to have this data on file. Such information is also helpful for enforcing guarantees or qualifying for refunds. I heartily endorse this modest level of anality.

A word of warning to young people, however: no matter how careful you have been in maintaining your filing system — no matter how particular you have been in keeping those documents safe and ready to secure some important benefit — no matter how anal your attention to stuffing them into that tattered folder that you refuse to replace…the one you actually need will not be there.

And that is sad. Sad because all that focus and care that you devoted to saving your receipts ended up being for naught. What is sadder still, though, is the thought of all those other receipts — the ones that were successfully preserved — who will ever be called upon to fulfill their destiny. They have waited dutifully in that file, sometimes for many years, looking to the moment when they are that proof of purchase that saves the day.

But no. Though they have remained steadfastly legible and in chronological order with all their forgotten companions, their day in the sun will never come. Their destiny is to remain in that folder — unread and untouched — until they are no longer relevant.

But I will continue to save them even then. I feel as though I owe them that much at least — even if it’s in the breast pocket of that old windbreaker in the back of my closet.
Morality Test
Remember the Moral Majority? I do, and you know what? I miss those guys!

They were, of course, birthed under the fundamentalist guidance of Jerry Falwell back in the late 70s, and they were a force on the national political scene for over a decade, working for Republican candidates like Ronald Reagan and Poppy Bush. I don’t honestly miss Jerry himself so much as the morality thing.

Granted, the brand of morality they were pitching wasn‘t my usual cup of probity. Their agenda included such imperatives as school prayer, pro-life (before birth at least), and the squelching of homosexuality in all its manifestations. Farther down the list, however, buried underneath such towering Christian values as opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment and those despicable Strategic Arms Limitation talks, was a firm belief in the concept of “decency.” On that subject, at least, I confess some solidarity with the Moral Majority.

I suppose that the exact parameters of decency would have to be pretty broadly drawn for us to find common ground, but I feel confident that we could at least see eye to eye when it comes to child molesting. It is behavior that can ruin lives as surely as a devastating physical injury, perhaps even more so. It is ugly, it is detestable, it is immoral.

The Moral Majority, as an organization, no longer exists. I’d like to think, though, that its belief in simple human decency is still out there. Including in Alabama. Republican leaders in The Yellowhammer State are shamelessly backing Roy Moore for the U.S. Senate despite the allegations of nine women that he is a predator and a child molester. You might expect that from politicians, but I was surprised to see that a good number of local church leaders are also supporting him. Many “have no reason to disbelieve” his accusers, but they still encourage their flocks to vote for the man who preyed on little girls.

It is my hope that the normal people in Alabama still value decency above craven political advantage. Indeed, I am counting on a moral majority of them to come forward and reject the unrepentant moral ugliness of Roy Moore.

It may be a faint hope. Church and politics are deeply intertwined in Alabama. Jerry Falwell, Jr. his father’s successor as head of Liberty University, says that he believes Roy Moore’s account over the women’s. My guess is that Jerry Sr., if he could speak from beyond the grave, would probably agree. Their followers, though, are free to decide for themselves. Let them vote their own morality over party loyalty and spare us all the shame of a child abuser in the U.S. Senate.
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee