Uppermost House: Good news for cheap

PeterLewisTreehouseCMYKBy S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

They say the news is all bad. But it’s not. It’s only the news that we see and hear that’s all bad.

On your local channel, or CNN, or Fox, or Yahoo, or whatever your outlet of choice is, yes, the news is almost universally rotten. Like a refrigerator full of nothing but green meat, cheese with legs, and hairy bread. Negative, brutal, sad, discouraging, disturbing and the grotesque, list goes on and on. I’m not sure why they peddle this lousy fare, this crud du jour, but I assume that it has something to do with our base appetites and money. Lots of money.

Oh, sometimes there will be a little “feel good” story spread on at the end of a broadcast, like frosting across the top of a litter box, but it doesn’t make us feel good for long because we know that the rest of it is disgusting.

This sort of stuff can weigh you down, if you let it. So maybe you turn all your technology off and wander about in your insulated little life for a day or two, or even a week. Off the grid, as they say. Unplugged. But way down inside your head you know that the whole time you’ve been oblivious, the same cruddy news has been piling up on the shore of the world like dead fish on a beach after an oil tanker splits open.

A guy could get depressed.

But then you’re driving south on route such-and-such, and you get stuck behind some dude at a toll booth driving an ancient Subaru with the muffler dragging sparks. Fumbling with his money. Back and forth with the toll collector like he can’t figure out that 75 cents is just a quarter short of a dollar. And there you are with your three obedient quarters pinched between your thumb and forefinger and hanging out the window in a light rain.

And so finally the beat-up Subaru roars away and you pull up and stop and hold out your exact change and the toll booth man is just laughing.

“You’re all set, man. That guy just paid for you.”

“But I don’t even know him.”

Yeah, I know! It’s like awesome, ain’t it!

And then there’s this awkward pause while you mentally absorb the fact that you just won the three-quarter lottery without even buying a ticket, and all of a sudden you get a great idea, a truly good idea, an almost newsworthy idea, and you press your loose change in the guy’s hand anyway.

“Okay, then I’ll pay for the SUV behind me,” you say, suddenly flushed with niceness and feeling generous.

“All right! We’ll just keep her goin’ then!” your new friend says.

And then you drive away slowly, looking in the rearview mirror, and you see the hand come out of the white van and the toll-guy holding his hands up, as if to say “stop” and then, no kidding, the lady in the SUV shakes her hand vigorously and you can just imagine the dialogue — incredulity and debate spreading out into smiles and laughter — and then plunk goes the new change and lookout world that guy way back in the green pickup with the stinky dog in the front seat is just about to have the best 30 seconds of his whole day.

The problem with the news is that we are so often just passive participants, morbidly curious voyeurs in our comfy recliners with our remote controls and our eyes pasted to the peephole of the world, watching the rotten stuff that happens to the other guy (or the other country).

I say ditch the remote, grab a bunch of loose change, and head out to the turnpike. Forget your E-ZPass, scoot into the exact change lane, pay for the family behind you and start a chain reaction of good news. Cost you less than a buck.

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