November 7, 2009 10:25:00 PM
Once upon a time, when the world was a simpler place, there were only four seasons. In those days, it was easy to understand spring and summer, winter and autumn. The seasons were sort of color-coded and clearly-themed. Back-to-school ads and photographic calendars were always embellished with falling leaves in tones of gold and rust and fiery reds. No matter where you lived, winter meant Currier and Ives-inspired snow scenes.
We knew when particular colors were appropriate, and when certain things were never worn. (No white shoes after Labor Day or before Easter.) I could go on and on about the very precise rules of proper dress, but that''s another column.
Even in New Orleans, considered the sub-tropics in horticultural classification, winter was the time to display sleds and ice skaters in any sort of marketing campaign or retail decor. However, with the exception of an occasional frigid day or two, we wore shorts and sandals year-round. (Remember the Paul Simon song about Mardi Gras? ... "You can wear your summer clothes in New Orleans ... ")
Today, the world has shifted so very much that we have added another season ... get used to the "Cold and Flu Season." This one is Madison Avenue''s dream; even the news media has locked onto this terrible time of year. The germs are flying, silent and unseen, all around us. Be afraid.
We hear so much scary info about the swine flu that it is difficult to figure out what to do. Our government tries to soften the fear by changing the name to H1N1, just to confuse us all the more. Perhaps those in power are afraid we may stop eating the "other white meat," or run terrified from any piglets we may encounter.
It is all quite Orwellian, where the Ministry of Truth controls all information. Big Brother may be watching, but that''s all. He is certainly doing a pathetic job of protecting us, or even keeping us correctly informed.
The beauty of cold and flu season is that there are no arbitrary boundaries. It transcends traditional calendar delineations. Expect it to bleed into the summer months. We can be frightened all year long with this one.
Imagine the possibilities. I predict 12 months of profits for over-the-counter meds, "valid" excuses for missing work, and, of course, a ton of job security for those slick pitchmen.
In the end, most of us are likely to survive in fairly good shape. Well, we may be a bit poorer, thanks to all those cold meds we bought, and slightly more paranoid, thanks to the networks'' babble.
I keep thinking about one of George Orwell''s other books, "Animal Farm." In it, the pigs may have been the smartest animal on the farm. But, unquestionably, they were the most devious.
Could it be possible that the terrifying swine flu epidemic was only a creation of the pig faction? Perhaps some portly, curly-tailed activists fabricated this ubiquitous terror to free their species of "human oppression." That is, we may be fearful enough to give up bacon and pulled pork sandwiches and crowds of our own kind.
Alas, I hope everyone flourishes during this menacing and seemingly endless "season," and that the frightening rumors are groundless. And, I especially wish that humanism triumphs intellectually over animalism. Stay well, my friends, both physically and spiritually. Remember, the pigs are still earthbound.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.