Rain Gauges and Lozenges

April 17, 2024


This story previously appeared in Lagnappe News. You can see a video version by subscribing to Andy Andrew's Wisdom Harbour.

I've finally figured out why old people love to keep rain gauges and giant thermometers in their yards. It's so they don't have to talk about politics. 

The greatest generation and those who came just after knew the art of avoidance. It was impolite to talk about controversial things, so instead, they measured rainfall to a fraction of an inch and constructed magnificent birdhouses, some even made from dried gourds. 

Standing around admiring the bird condos like Da Vinci sculptures, our dads would kick the dirt and say, "The mosquitoes don't stand a chance this year." With yard accessories, there was always plenty to focus on, like last night's storm, weeds, spring gardens, and the ever-controversial mulch pile. With all those pressing issues, no one had time to argue about politics. 

Ladies of that generation kept their own neutralizing secret weapon tucked in their pocketbooks. If someone mentioned an uncomfortable topic, they would lean in and say, "Would you care for a lozenge?" No one carries "lozenges" anymore and look how ugly everyone behaves. 

With a mouth full of tongue-numbing Sucrets, there's no way you could continue babbling about dim-witted politicians who take two hours to watch 60 minutes or a tacky-as-fire woman jiggling around singing the National Anthem like she thinks she’s Whitney Houston. "Suck on this, honey, it will make your throat feel better." "But my throat doesn't hurt." "Hush up and suck." 

With the disappearance of birdhouses, rain gauges, thermometers, and lozenges, people are resorting to other forms of entertainment, like beating each other up on airplanes or screaming at sweet cashiers at the Dixie Dandy Grocery Emporium. The world's ugliness and violence may just be due, in part, to a lack of retro-conversational accessories. 

Now, we are engaged in a great civil war, for the next few months, testing whether "this guy" or "that guy" will long endure. Local and national campaigns are sure to bring hot discussions that shatter friendships and families. I used to enjoy discussing politics, but no more. The art of civil debate and honest evaluation is gone. It seems mean-spirited, and closed-minded people can be found on both sides of every candidate and issue. 

I plan on staying sane this year and rising above the riff-raff rigamarole mud-slinging by pretending I'm 98 years old. I'm a well-educated and highly (or adequately) informed woman who can make up my own mind about political candidates. If I have a question, I know where to find answers. No one else is going to change my mind with their bumper sticker, yard sign, robocall, or yelling on a street corner.

Similarly, I surround myself with educated and informed people who won't be swayed by my opinion. So, I keep it to myself unless specifically asked, which is rare. I'm more likely to be asked and eager to share my opinion on Della Jean's daughter-in-law than a candidate. And if the daughter-in-law is also the candidate, hallelujah, that's a real conversation I can roll around in the mud with — hey, they asked my opinion. (Somebody pass me a lozenge, real quick-like). 

For the sake of our nation's mental health, we need to return to a civilized vintage nation focusing on birdhouses, rainfall, and perhaps a good Jell-O mold recipe (seriously, try the Jell-O thing—it stops all conversation immediately, and people go wild recalling Grandmother’s suspended pineapple in jiggly orange gelatin). 

Perhaps the greatest generation didn't really know the secret to polite conversation as much as they knew the way to sanity and living a long, healthy life.

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