Everything you need to know about the average American’s state of mind can be found at the local beauty parlor.
I don’t mean Supercuts. I mean an old-school beauty parlor, where little old ladies get those nasty little-old-lady haircuts in that perfect shade of lavender to complement their garish jogging suits, in which no jogging has ever actually occurred.
Here in Winters, we still have such a place — Camile’s Hair Salon, a true staple of the community. To be fair, Camile and her crew do far more than Purple Old Lady ‘Dos. Gorgeous work, octogenarian lavender to hipster fuchsia with lime green tips, and everything in between, including hair colors that actually occur in nature.
Me, I go to Camile’s for the pedicures, because Julie is an old-school pedicurist. Not only does she do fabulous work, but she also doesn’t trigger pangs of guilt, as do those mani-pedi stables that I suspect are actually human trafficking rings … where women are forced to do pedicures for a dollar an hour and forfeit the rest to the “shop owner” rather than being shipped back to whatever place is worse than sanding down the thick, cracked heels of fat old white women.
In old-school beauty parlors, loyal customers have been coming in for years to see their favorite hairstylists, and in a small town such as this, most folks know each other. If they don’t, it isn’t long before they discover that they’re only two degrees of separation from that “stranger” in the next chair.
Banter flies about freely, and all matters of great concern are thoroughly dissected, discussed and decided upon. I mean, what else are you going to do while you’re sitting there waiting for your natural Dark Golden Blond Number 73 to saturate your hair? Nothing better to do than tackle the important stuff, like world peace and international economics and whatnot. And also, who’ll most likely win on “The Voice” this season.
Shut up. I’m Team Blake. Don’t judge me.
So, there I was last week, having my feet and toenails shaped and sanded into something that won’t trigger other people’s gag reflex, leaning back quietly as snippets of conversation flowed in and out of my consciousness like ambient music, and the picture of “What’s On Our Minds” began to form. Following the San Bernardino terrorist attack, what’s on our minds is this: “We’re scared to death.”
Besides the consensus that America has become a terrifying place, most declared that they were considering buying guns to protect themselves — even if they’d never even held a gun in their lives.
Hmmm. Gaggles of untrained, inexperienced, panicked middle-aged women carrying guns in public. What could possibly go wrong.
And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with owning a gun. But I think people should be required to demonstrate both written knowledge and actual proficiency with a weapon before being allowed to own or purchase one. We require this much to drive cars — it’s reasonable to require the same to purchase a gun. Passing out guns like candy to people terrified of anyone wearing a swath of material wrapped in some fashion around their heads, whether Muslim or Sikh and don’t ask them to bother to learn the difference, is a cocktail for human misery and carnage.
And besides — if a terrorist burst into a room and started spraying bullets from an assault weapon, would you really have time to dig that pistol out from the bottom of your bulging purse before being struck down by a bullet? Let me answer that question for you: No.
One lady waiting for her nails to dry was expressing her fear about terrorists, and given my own close, personal relationship with fear and anxiety, I’m not about to challenge or belittle everyone else’s fear, because I can be shut down with one word: moths.
Drop the mic. You just won that argument. Moths freak me the hell out.
Fear and phobias, you see, aren’t rational. They’re self-fueling. Very little of our terrorism fears are self-fueled, however. They’re fueled by the televised media, which provides a 24-7 IV drip of fear and panic, which we soak in with our wide, innocent, terrified eyes, abandoning all perspective on what we should fear most.
And so, I gently said to this woman, “You know … you’re twice as likely to be killed by a deer as a terrorist in the U.S.”
“Yes, deer. The kind that run around on little hooves. Twice as deadly as terrorists. And you don’t worry about deer all the time, do you?”
“Well, no,” she begrudgingly agreed.
“In fact,” I continued kindly, “You’re hundreds of times more likely to die of cancer than a terrorist attack. And yes, we worry about cancer, try to prevent it, but the fear of cancer doesn’t rule our lives, does it?”
“No, I guess not.”
Her nails dried, she then got up and left, and probably went straight to Walmart anyway. I won’t criticize or judge. We have the right to our own fears. That said, a little reality check could alleviate some of them. You know what you should fear most? Your own body. Heart disease, cancer and stroke are thousands of times more likely to kill you than a terrorist’s bullet. That pile of chili cheese fries you’re scarfing down is downright deadly by comparison.
Does that mean we shouldn’t be concerned about terrorism? Oh, hell no. But “concerned.” Not “panicked.” The televised media wants you to be panicked so you’ll stay tuned and make them piles of money from all the commercials they’ll shove into your brain during the show — which, ironically, are usually about medications to prevent the things that you should rightly fear most: heart disease, cancer and stroke.
So, let’s all take a breathe, folks, and should you find yourself racing off to Walmart, maybe pass up the gun counter for the exercise equipment. It’ll keep you safer.
— Email Debra DeAngelo at firstname.lastname@example.org; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com