Editors Note: We live in superstitious times. Actually, that’s a silly and pointless comment ... all times are superstitious. It’s simply a matter of which myths and legends you choose to believe in and how strongly. Here, I’m mainly dealing with little ones. Just the ordinary crap that makes our lives what they are — the silly little things most of us seldom think about. 

Minor Mythologies of 2019

Here in the 21st century, we view most ancient cultures’ mythologies as primitive, quaint or fantastic. From Thor, Gilgamesh, Zeus and Anubis to Achilles, Cuchulain, and Romulus and Remus, we find these legendary figures entertaining, but have no real stake in the veracity of tales about the mischief of Loki, the labors of Hercules or the deeds of Egyptian pharaohs in the afterlife.

The exceptions are the myths and legends of antiquity foundational to Western religions still being practiced — Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Most Americans see nothing bizarre about Eve’s satanic talking garden snake, Balaam’s talking ass and Noah’s 40-day worldwide rain storm, or the water walking and demon-possessed pigs in the Gospels. Many readily accept that millions of born-again Christians will disappear in the Rapture, and, if the Book of Revelation isn’t strange enough for you, modern faiths, such as Mormonism and Scientology, offer new and improved and even weirder theological mythologies.

Still, such metaphysics have little to do with our day-to-day living. What affects us most are the minor myths — the little things we believe in, for no good reason, that eat up our time, such as the modern legend of “customer service.” Businesses claim to practice customer relationship management (CRM), which makes them “client-centric,” but anyone compelled to enter the first 48 digits of pi into his phone and navigate a maze of recordings, before listening to 45 minutes of elevator music while on hold, knows the CRM business model is merely the computerization of consumer inconvenience.

The robotic message, “We are currently experiencing unusually heavy call volumes” (do they ever have periods of “unusually light” call volumes?) is as misleading as the repetitive, automated affirmation, “Your call is important to us.” Both are components of modern technology designed to keep us away from customer service reps, who are, I suspect, three Sherpas in Nepal, whose full-time jobs involve the Himalayas. It’s comparable to the whimsical doormats emblazoned with the words “GO AWAY!” in red, uppercase letters. And, in the words of Michael Corleone, “It insults my intelligence.”

Equally insulting are cable and appliance installers who promise to show up sometime between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Do they ever arrive anywhere near 10:00? When they do get there, isn’t it usually at 3:48, after you’ve taken the day off and waited six hours? They probably spend those six hours working the phones — disconnecting customers who’ve just given them all their information, so that those callers will need to repeat that same information to the next rep an hour later.

And speaking of waiting, what happened to the myth that punctuality is a virtue? Just try arriving at 8:30 to a party that starts at 8:30. Your host, dripping onto the floor and wearing a bath towel, will probably mutter something about being “fashionably late,” and look at you like you brought pork chops to a vegan potluck dinner.

Years ago, I had a friend who always ran 45 minutes late. To find out why, I once drove to his house at the time he was scheduled to pick me up. I found him in his underwear, strumming a guitar, with shaving cream drying on his face. After years of waiting in restaurants next to empty bar stools, I’ve realized some people have a sixth sense that enables them to arrive everywhere a few minutes later than I do. No matter how hard you work at tardiness, you’ll never “out-late” them.

Wives often have this talent as well, and mine always makes me wait. I’ve dabbled in purposeful delay, but I still end up pacing downstairs, while she’s upstairs doing god knows what. Even if we both walk out together to the car, before I can back out of the driveway, I find myself sitting there, shivering and waiting for the heater to come on, while she’s back inside changing her shoes, feeding the cat or relocking the doors.

The emphasis on locking doors results from the myth that life in 2019 is unimaginably dangerous. We live in the safest period of America’s history, but we behave as if Connecticut is the Wild West. Unconvinced by crime statistics, today’s parents see murderers, kidnappers and molesters behind every bush, so they hover over their children, scheduling their lives so they’ll know where they are every minute of the day.

On summer mornings in my youth, which were far more dangerous times, mom would open the back door to let my brother and me out like dogs, and then not see us again until dinner time. Somehow, we survived to become only slightly damaged old men. In 2019, parents would love to implant GPS chips in their kids’ necks, and I’m surprised the chastity belt isn’t a more popular item.

Round-the-clock cable news now has us terrified of everything, including the mythical “War on Xmas.” Conservatives fear the words “Happy Holidays” and are outraged they don’t get to hear the phrase “Merry Christmas” often enough during the six-month Xmas season that now extends from Labor Day to Valentine’s Day. The words themselves have become an iconic talisman that nurtures believers’ self-esteem, affirming their values are superior to those of the amoral heathens who have the temerity to wish them “Season’s Greetings.”

Mythic right-wing hero Donald Trump has championed the right of beleaguered “values voters” to say “Merry Christmas.” Evangelical followers believe this thrice-married adulterer, former casino owner and sociopathic liar was born in a manger in order to Make America Great Again and rein in the power of the elites by enabling billionaires like the Trump family and the Koch Brothers to pay lower taxes. It may sound illogical, but just remember: Once upon a time, putting children in cages was considered unchristian.

If this makes sense, I have a bridge you might be interested in. It spans the border wall Mexico is now paying for, and you can cross it on the same winged steed Mohammed rode to ascend into heaven.

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