FREE FALLING

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BOB WOELK
Some random thoughts as we approach the shortest day of the year:

— Now that we have “fallen back” from Daylight Saving Time, isn’t it the perfect opportunity to attempt to convince our leaders that DST is a stupid idea?

I become angry every time I have to “spring forward.” It takes me a long time to adjust and even longer to set the clocks in my house, my cars and my VCR and DVD players.

— Some people just don’t get it. Marilyn Manson is one person whose elevator obviously doesn’t reach the top floor.

At a recent concert in Kansas City, the alleged singer stopped after only a couple of songs because the crowd was becoming unruly. Surprise, surprise!

What kinds of people were promoters expecting to draw to such a concert, little old ladies?

— I wonder why people don’t realize that they often receive what they ask for. Example: Celebrities. They crave the limelight, but many of them lament their loss of personal freedoms.

Michael Jackson once rented an entire grocery store just so he could get a sense of what it felt like to shop like a normal person would.

Our president recently taunted the Iraqi upstarts who failed to get the message that the war was over. He dared them to “bring it on.” They did. Now our leaders are wringing their hands and wondering why our Black Hawks are falling from the sky, and our teenagers are dying.

–On a local level, I see students writing things like “4:20” on their arms and clothes in an apparent attempt to draw attention to themselves; then they wonder why they are always singled out as troublemakers by the adults around them.

4:20, for those unfamiliar with the “term,” is representative of the marijuana culture; it’s the rallying cry of pot smokers.

— It’s no secret that America is getting fatter. I ran across some interesting facts about our eating habits, however, that seem to contradict conventional wisdom.

For example, according to the November 2003 issue of Men’s Health, eating at least one midday snack per day drops your risk of obesity by 39 percent.

On the other hand, failing to eat breakfast increases your risk of getting fat by a whopping 450 percent. That’s right. Not eating breakfast makes you gain weight.

Even more surprisingly, perhaps, going to bed hungry increases your chances of becoming overweight by 101 percent.

— When I was a kid, those tests of the Emergency Broadcasting System used to scare me half to death. I always figured the Russians were on the way to nuke us all. The announcer would come on the TV or radio and tell us that we were about to hear a test. Then, we would be subjected to a series of beeps and buzzes, followed by the announcer once again pointing out that it was only a test. Were it an actual emergency, we would have been informed where to tune in our local area for the latest news and information.

I still occasionally hear these tests, but since the fall of the Berlin Wall, I don’t get nearly as uptight about them. I wonder, however, just what sort of an emergency would activate the system for real. Maybe it has already happened, and our local media just took over to give us the news we needed.

You’d think something like the World Trade Center attacks two years ago would have activated the network. If it didn’t, I’d shudder to think what kind of an act would be required.

— The annual parent-teacher conferences at the high school are always interesting. If nothing else, they force a teacher to come up with something good to say about each student-and I have found over the years that I can indeed find something positive in each kid. That’s a good feeling.

I have to wonder, though, why the number of parents who meet with high school teachers isn’t higher. I know of one Marion County school that is disappointed if the teachers don’t visit with more than 95 percent of their students’ parents. My numbers this year were about 69 percent for my English I students and under 58 percent for English III classes.

I’d like to see those numbers a lot higher. But, then again, I was in the gym for two nights from 5 p.m. to about 8:30 p.m. with virtually no time to get up even to get a drink. I wonder when I would have time to fit in more visits if more parents showed. They already are stacked up at my table like planes over O’Hare during a Chicago snowstorm.

— About 150 people die each year nationwide in more than 1.5 million traffic accidents involving collisions with deer, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The economic impact? $1.1 billion per year.

It never hurts to remind ourselves that November is peak season for deer and automobile mishaps.

I read recently of one unfortunate Kansan who has hit many of the antlered creatures over the years. In fact, he claims once he came to a complete stop before hitting a buck, only to have the big guy charge his car and damage it anyway.

— And finally, just in case the shorter days and colder nights have you down, some e-mail gems I recently received:

How do they get deer to cross the road only at those yellow road signs?

Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.

Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, “Where’s the self-help section?” She said if she told me it would defeat the purpose.

What if there were no hypothetical questions?

If a deaf person swears, does his mother wash his hands with soap?

Is there another word for synonym?

What do you do when you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant?

If a parsley farmer is sued, can they garnish his wages?

Would a fly without wings be called a walk?

Why do they lock gas station bathrooms? Are they afraid someone will clean them?

If a turtle doesn’t have a shell, is he homeless or naked?

If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?

What was the best thing before sliced bread?

One nice thing about egotists: they don’t talk about other people.

Does the Little Mermaid wear an algebra?

If you ate both pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry?

Whose cruel idea was it for the word “Lisp” to have “S” in it?

Why is there an expiration date on sour cream?

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