The way of the peaceful worrier

By Ron Scopelliti

I worry too much.

Last month, just before the magazine came out, I started worrying that I’d spelled Beowulf wrong in my column. It’s not like I have a history of spelling Beowulf wrong, but I felt I might have. And if I did it would be a tremendous disservice to our literary heritage, not to mention a serious blow to my reputation as a book nerd. Then again, maybe that’s not a reputation I should aim for.

When I checked, it wasn’t misspelled, but that’s not the point. The point is that I worry about too many things. Stupid things. Things that don’t really matter. I worry that Netflix will stop streaming items on my list before I have a chance to watch them. I worry about whether it’s ok to call Batman a superhero when he has no actual superpowers. I worry that the ridiculous new parking meter situation in Providence will drive some of my favorite places out of business. Oh wait – that one’s legit.

I worry about the current lack of vests in second-hand shops. I wear vests pretty frequently, because I find them very comfortable and practical. They give you a couple extra pockets, and the lack of arms makes them much less obtrusive than a sport coat. Plus, look at all the great characters in TV, film, and literature that were known for their vests: Bilbo Baggins, Matt Dillon, Ed Norton… If vests disappear from thrift shops, I’ll have to splurge on new vests, which lack the personality of used ones.

I also worry when fast-food places offer a special item on the menu. What if I get completely hooked on it, and it disappears, never to be seen again? There are times when I go out of my way not to try the specials, just so I won’t set myself up for that kind of disappointment. I’m still getting over the disappearance of the rather weird tacos Burger King briefly served, as are the 424 people who liked the “Bring back the Crispy Tacos” Facebook page.

Of course, there are some serious things that I worry about. For instance, I worry about the convoluted system we use to elect presidents.

We need to get something simpler and more democratic – where people have a more direct voice. I say, now that “American Idol” is gone, we give it a re-boot as “American President”. We take away caucuses and super-delegates and electoral colleges and leave it up to the viewers. And also Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson, just to throw in a bit more drama.

Most importantly, we don’t allow the candidates to advertise. Instead they have to wage their campaign entirely through the show, during which they’ll be forced to debate actual issues. The rules would dictate no yelling, no literal finger pointing, no name-calling or other personal attacks. We could make our choice based on clearly stated opinions and policy statements instead of sound bites and carefully choreographed commercials. Who am I kidding? Nobody would watch it. Maybe an “American Gladiators” reboot…

One serious issue I don’t worry about is organizations collecting “big data” based on my Facebook posts, because I very seldom post anything on Facebook. I’m more worried about what Facebook and Twitter and texting are doing to the way we communicate.

I worry that written language is dying. Punctuation and grammar are becoming optional. Spelling is becoming arbitrary. Words are becoming secondary. There was recently a big fuss because a bunch of new emojis were approved by whatever worldwide organization approves such things. I also worry that there’s a worldwide organization to approve smiley faces and “thumbs-up” symbols for texting, but I’ll probably explore that in another column.

When I heard this, I thought “Great; I spent all that money on an English degree to polish my writing skills, and now we’re going back to hieroglyphics.” It’s just as well, because when we’re not using emojis we’re writing in unpunctuated semi-sentences filled with abbreviations like OMG, LOL, or IMHO. Crap. Now I’m worried that I’m part of the problem.

As a sign of protest, maybe I should start embellishing my texts by giving textual descriptions of emojis rather than using the actual images. Texts like “You’re looking good today ‘winking yellow smiley face’” or “This day stinks ‘pyramidal pile of dog poop with wavy lines signifying the smell’.”

But now I worry that I’ve spent too much time worrying about worrying. If worrying is stress inducing and bad for me, then worrying about worrying must compound that. But if I don’t worry about my worrying, am I simply ignoring the problem? The conundrum frustrates me beyond words, so I’ll just sum it up with: red frowning face with angry, squinty eyes and steam coming out of its ears.