A nutty proposition 


That the world works backward is a fact we all know but seldom acknowledge. It is not until you light a cigarette that the waiter shows up with your food. It is only when you have stopped looking for an elusive object that it will turn up directly in your path. It is only when you have married your second choice that your first choice will call you.

Giving up is the only way of actually getting anywhere. No one discusses this. It may be just too hard to admit that the architect of the universe was dyslexic. Or it may be that we invested so much in the "winners never quit" policy that we refuse to recognize that sometimes quitting is the only way to win. Instead we pretend it isn't there, like when Dr. Zaius had the cave blown up in "Planet of the Apes"; it was easier to act like Charlton Heston had never showed up talking than to slog through a whole new tableau of truths. People are just like that, even if they're apes.

So it fits that the minute I started to think people were basically OK, I would hear about The Peanut Thing.

Just plane silly

The U.S. Department of Transportation has seen a need to declare that there be "peanut-free zones" on airplanes. If an airline is notified that a passenger has a documented peanut allergy, three rows have to be claimed as "peanut free," lest the peanut particles make straight for the nostrils of the afflicted and bring them down like a set of bowling pins. There have been anecdotal cases of allergic reactions, though nothing documented, and certainly no airborne nut dust has carried anyone off to meet their maker. Nor in the worst case of turbulence is a peanut, having poor aim and little trajectory, likely to leap from its foil pouch straight down the throat of the only allergically reactive person on board. This is just the kind of thing the Transportation Department has the time for. They probably dreamed it up while they were stuck in traffic.

This is not to say that it would be such a hardship to find one's self marooned in the peanut-free section of an aircraft. Peanuts are not the only salty snack food in the world, and could be easily replaced, unless pretzel fumes or cashew fallout are the next set of in-flight dangers the feds plan to attack. Neither is this a contention that people with allergies are big crybabies. Sure it's humorous for the onlooker to watch someone else suddenly become upholstered in hives, or to have their body swell up and turn red just like a Ball Park hot dog. But if you're the one who is blowing up into a wheezy, polka-dotted balloon, it's terrifying. I had an allergic reaction to a bug bite once and remember laying in the hospital thinking, "I hope I don't die; this would be the stupidest way in the world to die." God forbid anyone should be stuck in this situation with only a flight attendant to help, the kind of in-flight beetle that looks at you like you're Oliver Twist if you ask for more water. I wouldn't wish this predicament on anyone, especially those who are physically incapable of enjoying the pleasure of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and so have barely lived.

The peanut mandate is so petty it's irritating, yet it's too petty to really take a stand on. Who is going to rally against legume discrimination? ("Let us celebrate the diversity of a mixed nut society where the cashews, the macadamias and the peanuts can live together in one aisle.") But we are used to petty. We sue over the temperature of coffee, have men who fear they're off to pervert jail if they compliment a woman's outfit and may soon force smokers a to carry a leper bell. The richest society on earth is full of people who have made a hobby of being victims. We're sitting in a prosperous, smooth-running country and there is actually talk about impeaching the man who's running it because he had sex. We know from petty.

Shell game

Having a restraining order against peanuts is petty enough to make the IRS look on with envy. It does not even shield the public from something offensive and/or dangerous; it shields the public from something that, in the extreme, is only potentially offensive and/or dangerous. As a philosophy, that's Hitlerian; aimed at peanuts, it's supremely silly. But as for creating the potential for me to foist my own segregationist views on others, it's a dream come true.

For years I've whined that there should be child-free sections on planes, pleas that have fallen on deaf ears, presumably from sitting near a shrieking infant. All children potentially wail and while it's not documented, it's possible that screaming could elevate the blood pressure of everyone aboard by 35,000 feet, posing a potential health risk.

And I was starting to think the only place to escape the shrill, unpredictable creatures was in a porn store. Hope rises anew with the nut separator decree that any annoyance, even those that aren't real, can be done away with. See how giving up works? I hereby despair of ever being rich, famous or having my own male harem. As long as it's possible to have faith in surrender, I've got it made.


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