A TELESTUPOR fills the room. Hours have I been here? Days? Weeks? No, no, it is this overpowering drowsiness that distorts all time. "Time warp," people say nowadays. "Spring fever," we used to call it.
We were younger then of course, of course, of course. Pre-time-warp people said things like "spring fever." Didn't use vile language either when they wanted to signify they felt peppy enough to cuss right out loud.
Modern cussers are always trying to impress you with how brutal, vulgar, slobbish, tough, tough, tough they are. Put you to sleep, they do, with those same old four, five tiresome old four-letter jobs that once had real zing power, now just make eyes go glassy. Want to talk tedium? Cuss bores is all we've got left. Maybe cuss boors.
Supreme Court did that in the name of the First Amendment. Freedom to be utterly gross. Every American's inalienable right. Destroyed great old namby-pamby cuss words like "holy moly," "holy smoke," "holy Moses," "horsefeathers," "fiddlesticks."
Pussyfoot talk? Sure, still it required tiny little minor effort to do original phrase-making, which meant putting brain in switched-on position, even if very-low-voltage.
People really buy this stuff they show on these chopping shannels? Shopping shannels? Ole telestupor's got your tongue. People still ask that of shy kids? "Cat got your tongue?"
Probably not. Don't say "spring fever," don't say "holy smoke!" Why would they say "Cat got your tongue?" When's the last time anybody said "the cat's pajamas" or "look like something the cat dragged in"?
Spring comes on little cat feet and rubs its back against the window pane. Is it this telestupor or is it spring fever that mixes Carl Sandburg with T.S. Eliot before my word processor has gleaned my teeming brain?
What's more, is it Granada I see or only Asbury Park? No, it's Frank Sinatra. We were younger then. Of course, of course, of course. Now Sandburg is out. Second-rater, according to received wisdom. Out, out, out you go, old second-rate Carl.
Where is the wisdom received, and by whom, and with what? With a grain of salt? No, salt is out, out, out. Blood pressure in, salt out. T.S. Eliot out like salt? Or in like Flynn? Still OK with terrifyingly brilliant new deconstructionizers?
Holy smoke, cow, moly and Moses, plus unholy Moloch and Baal! What are these telephone commercials about anyhow? Twenty-five percent cheaper than what? People really switch back and forth from one phone company to another day and night to save 79 cents a month?
Need six lawyers and a certified public accountant to decide which phone company to believe. All downhill since they broke up the telephone company.
AMC, old-movie channel, why you have so many John Payne movies? No sireee, John Payne, you don't sneak into my telestupor today even if you do have the great Cesar Romero in a supporting role! Not while my powerful John-Payne-zapping remote zapper is handy.
Oy vay, another telephone commercial. How lucky Granddaddy was dying in 1908 like that, no telephone, not even television to make him fret and stew with discontent about the telephone he didn't have, the darned old lucky cuss.
Never experienced a good old telestupor either, of course. That's what he gets for not leading the healthy, well-exercised life that helps people live longer. Living longer is all well and good, of course, but they never tell you how much longer is longer enough.
This news item about the latest study, for instance. Shows exercise is great stuff but won't help you live longer unless you exercise to beat the band, which is an old pre-Supreme-Court way of saying like a full-time cussin' automaton. If Granddaddy'd done that, the resulting living-longer might have him here today sharing this very telestupor, age 150-something and worried sick about whether he's using the right telephone company.
Russell Baker is a columnist for the New York Times.