If you wake up in the morning with the blues because people treat you mean, you could sing a song about it, or you could shop around for an enormous conspiracy that has denied you your constitutional right to liberty and happiness — and how about Central Standard Time? What gives the feds the right to set your clock for you? It’s tyranny.
So you join the Free Time movement. You go to meetings. You tune in “The Bob Glenn Show” every day on Fox for your marching orders and set your clock as you darn well please and feel liberated from lockstep uniformity.
Before, you were worried about your novelty taxidermy business and the declining sales of mummified mice on tiny surfboards, but now that it’s gone under, thanks to Obama’s bank bailout, and you lost your mansion on Wyandotte Lane and Joan took the kids to Toledo and you moved into a studio rental, you have time to write scorching letters to authorities and attend Free Time rallies and go to the shooting range preparing for the Revolution.
You used to be a Republican, a Kiwanian, a Presbyterian, a go-along get-along kind of guy, but now, at age 62, you’ve awakened from decades of indifference — which, you now know, was caused by chemicals the Department of Agriculture puts into snack foods to induce torpor, and so you only eat dried organic veggies ordered from a Patriot company in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho — and you are filled with enormous energy. You join the good fight on all fronts. You are anti-union, opposed to the eight-hour workday, the 24-hour clock, the Gregorian calendar and the New York Times.
You don’t necessarily agree with all the other Free Timers, e.g. the religious wing that says Only God Can Know The Time and is opposed to the use of the future tense, or the wing that believes Barack Obama is using metal detectors at airport security checkpoints to program the minds of all who pass through, but these minor differences disappear in the joyful enthusiasm of the rallies and marches, which focus on Washington’s attempts to rule our daily lives and its indifference to you and to others in the novelty taxidermy business.
Meanwhile, your health insurance runs out and your gut hurts and it takes you 20 minutes to empty your bladder. You go to the ER, but they want to check your prostate and you happen to know, thanks to Bob, that the digital prostate exam is how the CIA inserts GPS chips into Patriots to monitor their movements, and so you go home and suffer.
And then the New York Times publishes a big story about the Free Time movement. All your fellow Patriots are thrilled. Sarah Palin is quoted as saying that the movement has raised important questions and that we must look to God for answers and put our clocks in His hands. David Broder says Free Time is an authentic voice of grass-roots anger. The chairman of the Republican National Committee meets with Free Time leaders and is “deeply impressed.” Democrats, meanwhile, are silent, confused, disheartened by the fact that Free Time has a 23 percent approval rate in some polls.
But in your own heart, you know that the crest has passed. Once the Times has recognized you, you’re on the way down. It’s the kiss of irrelevance. Meanwhile, your old friends avoid you, your own mother doesn’t call. You’ve burned through your savings and Joan is talking divorce.
And then a job offer. Teaching science to middle-schoolers, $900 a week through June 10. Your brother the school board liberal twisted an arm and you have two hours in which to decide. Congress doesn’t care what you do, neither does the president. Will you continue donating your life to Bob, or will you be a dad to your kids? They miss you. You may be a wingnut, but your kids don’t care about that. They love you deep down in their hearts, Daddy, and they always will.
And that’s what you’re going to do, pal. I’ve been there. I know.
I was with Che Guevara in Bolivia, selling T-shirts and fomenting revolution, and I got the offer to write a weekly column and had to decide: Do I want to die in the jungle and become an icon, or would I rather live in Minnesota and enjoy macaroni and cheese and quarter-pounders with cheese and deep-fried cheese curds. Call me a coward but I chose cheese.
— Garrison Keillor is the author of “77 Love Sonnets,” published by Common Good Books.