Short Attention Span News: A Wally Crankset Tale
The annoying squeal of ancient Mafac brakes pierced the quiet and announced Wally's arrival. I set my book aside and waited.
The front door flew open. Wally marched into my living room and snapped on the television set. “You gotta see this!” he exclaimed.
“Do you ever knock?” I asked. He ignored the question.
“In short attention span news tonight, a tragic story as a cyclist was...Motorist Oswald MacKenzie said...Police said he would not be charged.”
The station was broadcasting what looked like an ultra low-budget local news show in heavy rotation on our cable net. “...In sports...a couple of boxers beat the hell out of each other, and a couple of hockey players beat the hell out of each other with sticks. NASCAR went round and round. Baseball commissioners denied that any players were abusing steroids. The average baseball player now weighs 325 pounds.”
“We have breaking news. This just in – Britney Spears is driving somewhere in her car. We'll have video coverage from our helicopter....”
“Tomorrow's weather forecast – it might rain, but then again it might not.”
“News flash – Britney has just made a right turn. I repeat. Britney has just made a right turn. We're going to our resident Britney expert for analysis of this astounding development......and while it's probably not indicative of her political views, you have to remember that historically, she's turned more often to the right than the left...”
“That's fascinating, Doctor Fine, but now I'm being told India and Pakistan have massed troops on the border and are exchanging artillery barrages. Do you think that will have an effect on Britney's driving and even perhaps her ultimate destination?"
“Whoa! She just hit another one! Doctor Howard, we have a list of cyclists and pedestrians who've been mowed down by celebrities. Why do these people do that? Are they somehow thinking that by hurling themselves in front of a star's vehicle, they'll gain celebrity status themselves? Should cyclists share the road with celebrities in the first place? Is it all merely attention-seeking or are there darker motives? Doctor Howard's comments will be revealing and we'll discuss them right after this.”
The station went to a commercial. I hit the power button on the remote. Merciful silence.
“Wasn't that great!” Wally bubbled.
She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed walked into the living room and discovered our visitor. She did an immediate U-turn and went back to the bedroom. The door slammed. At least she didn't go to the kitchen. That's where the knives are.
With great difficulty, I refrained from asking if he was out of his mind – again. “Wally, that should be labeled as Faux News for Nitwits. Their target audience is people with the attention span of gnats and it didn't tell us anything useful. It didn't tell us anything we didn't already know.”
“But that's the joy of it,” he replied. “They mentioned cyclists for the first time! We're getting noticed by the nitwits who watch this, people who are indifferent or utterly unaware of cyclist rights to the road.”
“I dunno, Wally, I'm not sure it's a good idea.”
He went right on. “Sure it's a good idea. We're talking about people who never read the driver's manual and think that being able to balance is the acme of bicycling skill. They know absolutely nothing about the three feet passing law or the rationale of lane positioning. We have to reduce it to simpler terms, like 'good dog' or 'bad dog' accompanied by a rolled up newspaper or a cookie.”
He had a point, though I hated to admit it. I switched the set on and settled back into my chair, hoping I wouldn't lose too many brain cells.