"This is the state of man: today he puts forth the tender leaves of hope; Tomorrow blossoms, and bears his blushing honors thick upon him; The third day comes a frost ...."
National Public Radio's weekend host was beaming from word to word.
After months - years - of nothing but failed peace treaties in the Middle East, mounting casualties from Iraq and political warfare here at home, I stopped my Saturday morning chores, set down my French Vanilla tea and stood in rapt attention as the lady announced, "We have some hopeful news for you this morning..."
What? Did Iran stop enriching uranium overnight, or Congress start "making nice" with each other and the President? Do we finally know why Brittany shaved her head, who fathered Anna Nicole's baby, or...
"....on the environmental front."
I should have known, what with Al Gore's Academy Award and all. I know, environmental issues are important, but with the above-mentioned dilemmas already crowding my radarscope, the green machine hasn't yet made the top 10 on my worry sheet.
Still, if the excitement in Ms. NPR's voice was any clue, this announcement could be momentous. I continued listening:
"Remember all those frogs with six legs we found a few years back? Well, I'm happy to report this morning that the cause of these deformities has nothing to do with what we humans have done to the environment. Scientists have discovered a parasite that attacks young tadpoles and causes the extra limbs to form."
What a relief. Being chastised for driving an air-polluting car or using an occasional non-biodegradable sytrofoam cup is bad enough. At least I don't have to do penance any more for malformed frogs.
The, uh, "hopeful" environmental announcement reminded me of other bubble-bursting times when reality didn't match its exaggerated lure. I thought of those old road signs telling travelers about some wondrous attraction - fresh produce, reptile zoo, world's largest (fill in the blank) - only to find the attraction closed, or looking like it should be, when you drove "1,000 yards ahead."
You don't have to look far to find "hopeful news" that doesn't live up to its hype. I still have the full-page furniture store ad in my files announcing their fabulous mattress and box spring sale. Under the centered, 2-inch high letters, F - R - E - E, was the following: "Ten FREE reasons to a better night's sleep."
Although there seemed to be something grammatically wrong with that opening statement, I kept reading to see what "gifts" I would receive if I visited their store.
1) FREE guaranteed lowest prices. Considering the mattress set was presumed to be free in the first place, I thought there was something wrong with that sentence, too.
2) FREE 30-day sleep guarantee. If I thought there was a chance I could sleep for 30 days without waking, working or starving to death, I'd have given that store a call. The furniture people probably meant I would sleep better on their mattress than on whatever I'm sleeping now, but that's not what "free, 30-day sleep guarantee" means to me.
3), 4), and 5): FREE pillows, pillowcases, and sheets, I could understand, but freebie No. 6 had me baffled again: FREE 15-year, non-prorated warranty." I guessed that meant my new sleep set would last 15 years, or about half as long as the still-comfortable mattress I'm sleeping on now.
Finally, after adding all my freebies together, No. 10 assured me the good store would deliver my new bedding set FREE - for only $579.98 plus tax, as long as I lived a limited distance away. Maybe the store's ad-writer had a different dictionary from mine as well as a different grammar book, but I thought if something were FREE, it would have cost $579.98 plus tax less than that.
Maybe the best news I could hope for now is that my old mattress will last another 15 years, or at least until I recover from thinking I was responsible for all those freaky-legged frogs.
Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to seabara at aol.com.
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