Eluding carp attacks among ’08 blessings

Posted Nov. 21, 2008, at 7:24 p.m.

The confused bank customer writes a note to his bank. “Dear Sir: In view of current developments in the banking business, if one of my checks is returned marked ‘insufficient funds,’ does that refer to me, or to you? Sincerely yours …”

Good question. The sentiment, expressed in a bit of e-mail levity from one of my far-flung cyberspace pals, seemed to pretty much sum up the national skittishness toward a shaky financial system and an economy heading south as the natives hunker down for the pending Thanksgiving Day feasting.

The republic may be going to hell in a handbasket while the experts seem every bit as clueless as the rest of us — maybe even more so — as to how to best check the downward spiral. But this sorry turn of events does not preclude us from taking a break come Thursday to appreciate whatever blessings we may have accumulated to this point.

Good health. Good neighbors. A roof over our heads and food on the table. Baseball. Chickadees. A new day dawning. Little kids giggling and hopscotching their way to school in the morning. Mount Katahdin at any time of year, but especially when cloaked in a mantle of snow in the dead of winter. And, as old philosophers in my neck of the woods are fond of saying, “money in the bank and friends in New York.” The list seems endless.

But in taking inventory of things for which to be thankful at this time of year, one should not overlook unfortunate things that have been charged to someone else’s account. Clippings from the morning newspaper over the past year present opportunities for thankfulness in that quarter, as well.

I am thankful, for example, that I am not the Arkansas teenager who was riding on a large inner tube being towed by a boat on Lake Chicot when a Silver Asian carp leaped from the water and smacked him in the face, breaking his jaw and rendering him unconscious. When the lad awakened in a nearby hospital he commenced to carp about back pain. Doctors attributed it to whiplash from the high-speed collision.

A news story out of Fort Riley, Kan., about a parachutist who went off course at the start of a military review and dropped feet-first into the 1st Infantry Division band reminds me that — supposing I had been numb enough to jump out of an airplane in the first place — there but for the grace of God might I have landed. “I hear, ‘Oh [expletive],’ and immediately I hear a crash,” the band director later told reporters. Three band members were slightly injured, but the chief casualty was the chutist’s ego.

And, speaking of expletives deleted, I am just as happy that I am not the Delta Airlines baggage handler who opened a jetliner’s cargo door in Atlanta and found a cheetah running loose amid the luggage. The big cat, being flown in the cargo hold from Portland, Ore. to Atlanta, had somehow slipped its cage. Yikes.

I feel fortunate, too, that I was not the attorney who filed a 465-page lawsuit in a Tacoma, Wash., court and had it thrown back at him by the judge, with orders to return to the drawing board and come up with something readable. The judge suggested that the man might start by revising the lawsuit’s title which was eight pages long, or roughly the length of an average convoluted sentence by the late lamented conservative writer William F. Buckley.

Johnny Carson, the former host of NBC’s “Tonight” show, once described Thanksgiving as “an emotional holiday” when people “travel thousands of miles to be with people they see only once a year. And they discover that once a year is way too often.”

I know just what the man meant. Bump into some people only once every 30 years or so and it can be one time too often, as well. Fortunately, that species is vastly outnumbered by the people we enjoy being with, the ones we can never see too often.

While we are contemplating gifts for which to be thankful in the spirit of Thanksgiving, that one should top the list.

BDN columnist Kent Ward lives in Limestone. Readers may reach him by e-mail at olddawg@bangordailynews.net.

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