At the beginning of this year, people told CBS pollsters that they were overwhelmingly — by two thirds — optimistic about the economy, but almost as many people were pessimistic about how the country overall was doing. Then the Gallup organization confirmed in August that only 36 percent of people were satisfied with how things are going in the United States. That’s better than the 7 percent who said things were awesome great in late 2008, but that was when the bottom had fallen out of the country’s economy.
But buck up! We still have several more months to go before we can cross this year off our bucket list and start 2020 — which, a highly placed fortune cookie informs this reporter, will be a year of “success in business and love.” The backside of the fortune also gave me some lottery numbers, which will come in handy if all else fails.
So here are some handy tips for surviving Q4 of 2019.
THE GREAT AMERICAN-DANISH CONFLICT
True fact: During the last presidential campaign, Senator Ted Cruz warned that if Donald Trump became president, we might find ourselves at war with Denmark. Time went by, and we put that danger in the back of our minds, until August 2019 rolled around and President Trump decided he wanted to purchase Greenland, which is part of the Kingdom of Denmark and which — this is important — isn’t for sale. When Denmark’s prime minister said it was an “absurd” idea, Trump called her “nasty” and canceled a planned visit to Denmark.
White House spokesminions were summoned from their FBI depositions long enough to declare that the president thought Greenland was strategic because it would strengthen the U.S. presence in the Arctic. This despite the U.S. military bases that are already in Denmark. If we can drink the milk for free, why buy the cow?
But if people thought this was a passing fancy and that tempers would calm, they were mistaken. Toward the end of the month, the State Department announced plans to set up a consulate in Greenland, because, well, we can. They likely had a difficult time deciding whether to locate the consulate in Sermersooq, Kujalleq, Qeqertalik, Qeqqata, or Avannaata. In the end, they chose the city of Nuuk, probably because it was easiest to spell. Nuuk, by the way, is the largest city in Greenland and has a population of 17,984 people, about 1,000 fewer than live in North Beach.
So if that nasty prime minister and the absurd president decide to fight it out for Greenland, might I suggest you load up on food to survive the coming shortages of Danish pastries (I’m sorry, I mean freedom pastries). Danish pancakes are also probably at risk, so cook up a hundred batches of delicious æbleskiver and freeze them so you can survive the coming Bisquick blockade.
Wait — didn’t we just have an election?
Anyway, on Nov. 5 city voters will decide if London Breed gets a full term as mayor; who gets to be city attorney, district attorney, sheriff, and a few other city jobs; and a handful of ballot measures for affordable housing, the regulation and deregulation of vaping products (honestly, Proposition C is a prime example of why people should not be allowed to have referendums), taxing ride-share companies and so on. You are probably already receiving an avalanche of mail demanding you vote for candidates and that you support or vociferously oppose ballot measures. The best way to survive this election season involves ignoring volatile social media posts on the campaigns, recycling the campaign mailers as soon as you pick them out of your mailbox, doing your own research on the candidates and referendums, and stocking up on the wine of your preference.
The key thing here, and I mean this sincerely, is that you should vote the way I want you to vote or else you should abstain altogether because the system is rigged.
More than 4,000 wildfires have been recorded in California just during 2019. We know what that means for air quality in the city, and we all likely know someone who suffered loss of property or worse in the North Bay fires. We have something else to dread: PG&E is going to follow the lead of other utilities and “de-energize” transmission lines during times of high fire danger. This could affect even cities far from the fire areas. And, as Utility Reform Network head Mark Toney told San Francisco’s Climate One recently, “before they can turn the power back on, they have to inspect every mile of the lines that have been shut off, so the average time of this type of shutoff is 72 hours.”
Yes, three days without electricity. That means no power to run your air filter and air conditioner. On the upside, it means you don’t have power to check your friends’ annoying Facebook conspiracy posts.
Nevertheless, buy your stock of facemasks now (they should be N95 or P100 to filter out most of the dangerous elements of wildfire smoke) and be sure to have some extras available for anyone you know with compromised health.
True but annoying fact: Every fall as the end-of-year holidays roll around, someone you know will share a social media post claiming that there are more suicides at Christmas because people are stressed and saddened by the supposedly joyful holiday. True fact: That claim is not true and has been debunked many times. (Depending on what source you check, suicide rates either don’t change at Christmas or they actually slightly decline.) That’s good news, but the lie gets reshared every year because many people really do feel stressed out at that time of the year, so it sounds like it would have an even worse impact on people who are vulnerable emotionally.
So what can you do to get through the Thanksgiving-to-New Years gauntlet? Ignore the media. Wait — except for the Marina Times. Ignore the news reports, “lifestyle” features, and social media memes that try to make you feel like a loser if you don’t spend a zillion dollars on food, gifts, and entertaining. If you’ve got friends and family you love and who make you feel good, then just spend time with them. If you don’t, be happy in your own time and space.
Final true fact: The worst gift I ever gave was when I was maybe 8 years old. I left my present-buying until the last minute, and I had just one more gift to buy. It was for my older brother Andy. I prowled the aisles of the local discount department store, looking for something that was in my price range (probably about $5, this being the mid-1970s). Finally, desperate and too stupid to just give him $5, which he would have appreciated and could have used, I found in the Christmas decorations aisle a plastic raindeer mounted on a stick for planting in the ground. It was a decoration that you would put with an outdoor display, especially if you wanted there to be reindeer at your little manger scene. I bought it; I’d finished my shopping! Too bad the final gift was a complete piece of garbage that probably ended up in the garbage 20 minutes after Andy unwrapped it.
So remember, you almost certainly can’t do worse this holiday season than I did.
Luckily, Andy is a great brother and doesn’t hold a grudge. In fact, he would probably think it was really funny if I bought a stupid decorative reindeer for him today. But then, timing is everything.
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