A Flashing Episode
Mrs. Claus and I were at our bi-monthly appointment with the family doctor. Luckily, I was examined first, since I am far less sick with fewer things than Mrs. Claus, and my flash did not occur until after my examination was over. I could not stay in the tiny consulting room. The sense of claustrophobia, of being trapped in a bright livid hell, was overwhelming. The waiting room was empty, thank heavens. We were the last patients of the day, and one side of the room is deeply shadowed. So I could sit there and calm down.
One of the triggers for such things, I have found, is direct overhead lighting. Fluorescents or, particularly, sodium vapor lights in the ceiling are warnings to me. This is why I have so much trouble in places like Wal-Mart. Sam's Big Boxes are so big and the ceilings are so high that sodium vapors overhead are the only way to sustain an evenly bright light level throughout the store, preventing deep shadows from the twelve foot high aisles--which are also claustrophobic, if you are as sick as I can be. The spacious closets of my doctor's consulting rooms are lit in much the same way with fluorescents that cover fully 50 percent of the ceiling, and for much the same reasons--you cannot diagnose if you cannot see.
Even the overhead bulb in my study and shrine room is disturbing, and I have three clamp lights along the walls, pointed upward to wash the corners of the room with bounce lighting, to keep my disturbance under control.
This may seem less connected to my Progressive politics than it actually is. I won't go into tedious detail about why, since you can read it all in my compendium The American Decline and I have little new to add to what I have written there. But the inexorable path of this country over the last twenty-five years has been headed in the direction of turning everything in it into a Wal-Mart, with the vast majority of us wearing blue vests with How May I Help You? printed on the back.
The daily company stock price will be posted grandly on the wall by the restrooms and the layaway department, and the lone "associate" manning the decks there will bored out of his gourd for the better part of the day.
A few of us, of course, will remain routinely out of sight in comfortable offices as Top Management, driving home in the cocoons of rich luxury cars, imposing SUV's, or snappy little racers, and returning to our gated communities and Great Room clerestory ceilings, after diligently setting store policy all day.
But we will mostly be dammed in the arid air conditioning of that bright livid hell of endless looming aisles stuffed with cheap dry goods. We will live and work among the rubbery shoes in the slippery and insubstantial cardboard boxes; the insanely kaleidoscopic racks stuffed with CD's or DVD's, every package of which is designed to "catch the eye"; the frowzy and flimsy dried flowers, scrapbooking dainties, and hot glue guns of the "crafts" section; and being towered over by the cheap and tacky veneer of the hardboard parallelograms of the assemble-it-yourself furniture.
For a segment of truly lucky dogs, the vests will be orange, and they will get to tool around in forklifts with peeling yellow paint, a flashing amber light, and a honking beep when you have to throw the gears into reverse. At Home Depot, at least, the aisles have to be wide enough to get a forklift through while loaded down with eight foot high stacks of well-veneered plywood; the lumber in the far west side of the Big Box is real wood, and smells like it; the dry goods in the Tool Crib cannot be cheapened to the fragility of scrapbook samples or self-destructing shoes; and the garden section feels a little like a manicured arboretum rather than a dreary potting shed piled with 20 lb. bags of mulch and grass seed.
To have Progressive views is to desire something better than this and to be appalled by those who don't mind the current present and the coming future in the least, because they are sure that only they will get the cherries on top and the Great Room windows.
It is also to be devastated by the vast numbers of short-sighted people [about 55% of us at last count, and, mostly, the "independent" and "moderate" 35% of us] who will hate wearing the blue or the orange vests but are not paying serious attention to the great numbers of such vests in our future.
In other words, to be Progressive means to continuously have something like my flashing episode, a little less acute, a little less panic stricken, but a lot more horror-ridden because, sooner or later, there will be no dark quiet place for you to hide in and recover.