Just another perfect day in paradise. There was a bright orange ball beginning to push its way over the eastern horizon when we started out of the driveway, headed toward the golf course where we had scheduled an early tee time. The weather forecasters had promised another bright day of sunshine, and the cloudless sky seemed to suggest that their promises would be kept.
Fortunately I was a little slow moving ahead when the light turned green at the first corner or I surely would have been hit broadside. Somebody who had apparently gotten a late start went barreling through the intersection as the traffic light in front of her turned red. After a short pause to be certain there was no one traveling with her, I made the turn and started to accelerate toward the speed limit. Almost immediately another early-morning speedster loomed into my rearview mirror. He was content to ride my bumper for only a couple of blocks before he swerved into the left lane with tires squealing, horn blowing and middle finger of the right hand extended skyward. Everybody seems to have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. I can't help wondering why there is so much anger everywhere we go in the world.
Not long ago during the television broadcast of a basketball game the camera caught a rather large chunk of ice being flung from the stands and hitting one of the coaches full in the chest. Just a short way down the sideline a few moments later one of the announcers at the press table was struck by another missile. Earlier that same day in a different part of the country, players on a major-league baseball field were bombarded by baseballs, beer cans, pieces of heavy metal and other lethal objects flung angrily and maliciously from the stands. Once upon a time that kind of behavior would have caused the offending parties to be ostracized by other members of the audience. Quite likely they would have been evicted from the stadium, perhaps even arrested for disorderly conduct.
Another day during the same week, the evening sports broadcast showed a batter charging toward the pitcher's mound with assault and battery in mind. His move inspired all the players from both dugouts to come storming onto the field to attack one another. The batter had been hit by a pitched ball. There was a time when that would have been considered part of the game, just one of the risks taken when a batter steps up to the plate. The pitcher might have offered an apology as the batter moved toward first base. There would have been no cause for a declaration of war.
Journalists search for and feature violent crimes and abusive behavior. Unfortunately, they don't have to look far to find it. Almost every day there is a story about a drive-by shooting and kids carrying firearms to school. The Times recently featured a story about a large man slapping a small child sharply across the face with force deemed to be abusive by those who saw it. Shopping malls and supermarkets _ anyplace where adults and children can be seen together _ all too often will display discipline bordering on child abuse.
There must be something that can be done to curb some of the anger that prevails. Wouldn't it be fun to identify a day, perhaps the Fourth of July or maybe just the first of August, when everybody would resolve to enjoy an anger-free day? Move into the fast lane only if you have to pass somebody. Use your turn signal, yield the right of way, give the other driver a friendly wave of the hand instead of the finger as you roll by. Go to the ballgame to have fun. Cheer the good guys instead of flinging missiles at those you consider bad. Encourage the players to play the game for fun and entertainment instead of greed. Hold a door open for people and smile at them as they pass through. Return the grocery cart to the rack provided.
Right now I have to hurry up and get to the golf course before they give someone else my tee time. It won't be long before I can knock the hell out of that little, white pellet sitting there between my feet.
Just another perfect day in paradise!
Robert H. Wiltse is a retired federal employee and a member of the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg.