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Overwhelmed? Join the Club

July 5th, 2019 by dk

Springfield’s library is changing its lending policy, renewing items automatically unless another patron has requested it. Legislators in Salem have signaled they’re ready for residents to stop changing their clocks twice a year for Daylight Saving Time.

And last week, when renewing my driver’s license, I was given specific instructions by the clerk at the counter. “Your new permanent license will be mailed to you in about a week, but it will arrive in a plain envelope. So be sure to open all your mail until it arrives.”

The DMV uses unmarked envelopes to prevent mail fraud and identity theft. The clerk knew that her advice was important. She slowed down, asked if I understood, and made eye contact. The eye contact was especially disconcerting, inside a DMV office.

We’re facing a silent epidemic. People feel overwhelmed. Details get overlooked. Unnecessary changes should be eliminated. We rely on shortcuts. Corners are being cut.

Sometimes those corners are not worth the trouble, and the corners deserve cutting. But then comes the exception — the unmarked envelope that is thrown away with the junk mail. Children read a borrowed book and return it to the family bookshelf, which is usually the right thing to do. Daylight Saving Time makes people suddenly an hour late or an hour early, creating stress.

Everything moves faster. Nothing is as simple as it used to be. Which credit card offers double miles this month for restaurant purchases? My insurance company keeps track of how often I use roadside service, even if I don’t. Every quarter in my pocket used to look the same.

I know these details are petty. But they pile up, and the pile produces real consequences. Families stop borrowing books. Roadside service is terminated. Drivers miss their licenses. As the pressure mounts, more details get lost, more corners get cut.

I had a dream last night that I’d forgotten to feed my dog — for months. He was emaciated and maybe wouldn’t survive my inadvertent neglect. I had a nagging feeling that I’d overlooked something, but assumed it somehow wouldn’t matter. His sad eyes haunted me after I woke.

Nobody wants to admit that all the conveniences of modern life sometimes seem not worth the trouble. Since no one else is complaining, we assume that we’re the only ones who feel like we’re not keeping up — while those around us feel and assume the same things.

If everyone could admit their plight, we might be able to work collectively to curb some complexities. We can start small. As nice as it sounds, every state doesn’t need its own design on the back of a quarter.

My dog dream reminded me of my college days. It’s second semester, junior year, just before finals. I don’t have a summer job lined up, and I know I should have prepped more for the GREs or LSAT or whatever test I’m taking next.

It all seemed so important at the time, and it was. The difference now is that it’s every day, with no end in sight. And nobody around me seems to be feeling the same pressure, even though they are.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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