If It Can Be Screwed Up, We’ll Find a Way to Do It—But Maybe Not

by | May 9, 2024 | The Truscott Commentaries

The Village Diner, Milford, PA. Image: Village Diner website

If It Can Be Screwed Up, We’ll Find a Way to Do It—But Maybe Not

by | May 9, 2024 | The Truscott Commentaries

The Village Diner, Milford, PA. Image: Village Diner website

We are surrounded by good people going about their lives and doing their jobs and helping keep our cars on the road and our bodies vertical and our hearts beating, and when you come right down to it, smiles on our faces.

Republished with permission from Lucian K. Truscott IV

I was out walking the dog this morning, having just woken up and listened to the news on NPR and checked my phone. Yesterday, Trump’s judge in Florida handed down an order delaying his trial on 40 charges that he stole and mishandled national security information and engaged in obstruction of justice to cover it up. This morning, the Georgia Court of Appeals agreed to hear Donald Trump’s appeal of Judge Scott McAfee’s decision not to disqualify Fulton County DA Fani Willis from the prosecution of Trump on RICO charges that he had engaged in a conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

Doors that had been open were closing on the possibility that Donald Trump might face trial in both cases before the election in November. A poll was released that Trump is ahead of Biden in Wisconsin. Another poll came out showing Biden ahead of Trump in some other battleground state.

I saw a headline in my newsfeed that said “May is not November,” with a story that tried very, very hard to reassure readers that there’s a long time to go before election day, and we shouldn’t pay too much attention to the polls and the grim news out of this state or that one about Republican efforts to suppress the votes of Black people or college students or Latinos. But as I walked Ruby down the street, I was overwhelmed by the idea in the headline above, that if there’s a way to fuck things up in this country, we’ll find it.

And then my wife Tracy and I got in the car and drove down to Newton, New Jersey, for an appointment I had with my cardiologist. When you get to be my age, and if you have a history that includes a heart attack, as I do, you spend an increasing amount of time in the offices of cardiologists. You get your heart listened to. You get your medications adjusted that thin your blood and manage your heartbeat and protect against stuff like atrial fibrillation. They perform echocardiograms on you, watching the blood flow through your heart. You show up at 7:00 a.m. having not eaten or had any coffee and they perform what’s known as a nuclear stress test on you, measuring how well your heart arteries are supplying blood to the heart muscle and whether it has suffered any more damage than was done when you had a heart attack 14 years ago.

As Tracy and I drove to Newton to the doctor’s office, we talked about how badly damaged is the heart of our nation, its democracy, by a presidential candidate and political party that has ceased to believe in electoral politics to the extent that the news of the day tells us that Donald Trump’s one requirement for a vice presidential running mate is that he or she joins him in not pledging to accept the results of the election if they lose. This is deadly to our democracy because it negates the very purpose of holding elections. For Trump, it’s not an election, it’s performative authoritarian theater.

And then we got to the cardiologist’s office, and I went to check in, and I saw three women seated at computers, taking patient’s names and information and confirming ages and asking whether anyone had been exposed to COVID recently and inviting patients to sit in the waiting room for a nurse to call their name.

It was, in other words, another day in a doctor’s office in America. Good people, no matter their political party affiliation, were engaged in the business of helping people like me to keep ourselves alive as long as possible. Their jobs entailed repetitive acts, asking the same questions over and over, inputting similar information into computer programs, pointing their fingers at the same chairs in the same waiting room they pointed at yesterday, and Monday, and last Friday, and every other day that they showed up for work in Newton, New Jersey, to help people who suffer from one kind of heart disease or another to stay healthy and alive.

This morning, while walking Ruby, we passed M & E Auto, a repair shop about a block away down our street. Inside the office, I could see the wife of the couple who own the place questioning a customer about what was wrong with his car, and through the open garage doors, I could see mechanics performing brake jobs and tune-ups and Pennsylvania state auto inspections that are required to ensure that cars licensed in this state are safe to drive. I pass the auto shop at least twice a day walking Ruby. The people there go to work every day, and they do repetitive jobs, changing tires and fixing flats and doing alignments and checking brake rotor wear and replacing brake pads and welding new exhaust pipes where old ones have rotted away from rust and age.

I went in to see my cardiologist—he’s the third one I’ve had since I had a heart attack in 2010—and he discussed the results of my nuclear stress test and made a change in my medication, and he recommended a visit with one of his partners who is a specialist in a different section of the heart doctoring business.

When I went back to the waiting room to check out, I saw a different receptionist, who made the new appointment and printed out a report on my visit and made sure that the new prescription was going to the right pharmacy back in Milford, and she handed me a card with the time and date of my new appointment.

Tracy and I walked out of the doctor’s office and talked about how lucky we both are to have such good doctors available to us. Both of us see general practitioners who have an office less than a block from our front door. Our specialists are 25 minutes away. The receptionists and nurses who work in both places are cheerful and efficient doing jobs that have the sole purpose of keeping us and others healthy and enabling us to live good lives for a longer time than we probably would if we didn’t have them.

We’re both on Medicare. The bills are handled by a payment and administrative system that has overhead of less than five percent of its total cost. We are both on Social Security. Once a month, we receive electronic transfers into our bank accounts that help us to afford the house we rent and the car we make payments on and the cost of the food we buy at the Key Food store about a half mile from where we live. Our second car, a 1999 Suzuki, has been inspected and repaired at M & E Auto down the street. We receive reports on the dates and mileage for our next oil change, and recommendations for service the car will need for a suspension component that is old and will soon need new bushings.

Today, after coming back from Newton and the cardiologist, we went to the Village Diner, where everyone knows our names, and we know the menu by heart. We stopped and picked up some food we needed, and when we got home, we unloaded the car and were greeted inside by our dog Ruby and our—count ’em—four cats: Graycie, Tazzie, Uno, and Tuli.

We stood in the kitchen putting the groceries away, and I thought to myself, we live in a great little town, and we are surrounded by good people going about their lives and doing their jobs and helping keep our cars on the road and our bodies vertical and our hearts beating, and when you come right down to it, smiles on our faces.

As for the headline on this story: Gilda Radner, playing Emily Litella back in the day on Saturday Night Live, knew how to deal with stuff you say and then come to see that there are reasons you should reconsider:

Never mind.

Lucian K. Truscott IV

Lucian K. Truscott IV

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He has covered stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels and several unsuccessful motion pictures. He has three children, lives in rural Pennsylvania and spends his time Worrying About the State of Our Nation and madly scribbling in a so-far fruitless attempt to Make Things Better.

You can read Lucian Truscott's daily articles at luciantruscott.substack.com. We encourage our readers to get a subscription.

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