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Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

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Enjoy Yourself, But Mostly Enjoy Each Other

July 20th, 2019 by dk
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The Oregon County Fair did something unusual last month. They offered what amounted to a preview of their annual event, which kicks off today for the 50th time. It’s the golden anniversary for the silver-haired group who saw its beginnings.

The Fair has been designated an official Oregon Heritage Tradition, which struck some as odd. Who thinks of the Oregon Country Fair as traditional in any way? Stalwart volunteer Mary Doyon put it best, “First, they wanted us to go away. Now they won’t let us leave.”

Former Eugene City Councilor Cynthia Wooten was 23 when she and others pulled together the first Oregon Renaissance Faire, as the Oregon Country Fair was originally called, in 1969. She served as the master of ceremonies on a sunny Saturday afternoon in June.

As photos were being collected to celebrate this anniversary, Wooten saw many images of herself when her life was less than a third of what it is today. She made the mistake, as she often does, of thinking out loud.

“Well, I haven’t changed that much,” she said as she viewed her much-younger self. Every eye in the room rolled. They all laughed together. Wooten summed her lesson this way: “We see ourselves best through one another — not only best, but truest.” Her final words from the ceremony were similarly wise, but there was more history to be retraced first.

Ron Chase, formerly the executive director of Sponsors, Inc., recounted the circuitous route the group took to buy its acreage beside the Long Tom River in Veneta. He described it as a time when the organization progressed from infancy to adolescence to adulthood.

There was no mention of old age, even though it has descended on the luckiest of those who were there when it all started.

Sue Kesey recalled how Springfield Creamery rose from the ashes of a devastating fire during one of those early years by renting the Veneta land for a fundraising concert by the Grateful Dead. That rent payment of $25,000 was essential. The Fair was learning to balance its checkbook for the first time.

Leslie Scott, who balanced that checkbook for the Fair for 17 years, shared a lesson she offers her event planning students. “If building community is your goal, throw a party. The shared effort and the common goal will bring people together — even if it’s for nothing but fun.”

Former Mayor Kitty Piercy brought things up to date by calling for Eugene to build a hippy museum, so that this peculiar strain of the city’s heritage can be preserved. Many hope the Fair’s influence will someday be better expressed across the community and across the calendar. Others prize the Fair’s ethereal nature most of all.

Should the Fair’s presence be permanent? Or should it pop into existence each summer and then disappear, leaving only memories? The consensus answer was both.

Wooten’s closing comment in June sums up the Fair and its ethos better than any I’ve ever heard. I want her words to ring in your ears if you plan to attend. “Enjoy yourself, but mostly enjoy each other.”

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Skybridge’s Limits Will be Most Public

July 19th, 2019 by dk
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If you plan to drive from downtown Eugene to downtown Springfield after dark this summer, here’s a word of advice. “Don’t.” A contraction is technically two words, but corners must be cut. That’s the real topic I’d like to explore.

University of Oregon is building an enclosed footbridge over Franklin Boulevard that will connect the Knight Campus north of Eugene’s most traveled roadway with its main campus on the south side. All vehicular lanes will be closed and detoured in both directions between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Everything should be back to normal by Labor Day.

Constructing a 500-ton suspension cable bridge in less than two months with only these nighttime disruptions is an engineering marvel that shouldn’t be overlooked. A few inconvenienced drivers for a few weeks is a small price to pay for what will emerge.

The skybridge could become a signature structure for Eugene. It will be prominent. It will be graceful. And it will be private. The public will not be allowed to do anything but pass beneath it and appreciate its beauty from below. That’s the corner that shouldn’t have been cut.

Portland offers a telling contrast. OHSU had land on the city’s South Waterfront district, far removed from its campus in the Marquam Hill neighborhood. The university and the city shared a vision that started with a need to move a few people from one place to another. Together, they built the nation’s only commuter aerial tramway outside of New York City. The public is not only invited to use the Portland Aerial Tram. It has become a tourist destination and a point of civic pride.

Eugene is settling for so much less, and it’s not the first time.

One of the last crusades mounted by legendary Register-Guard columnist Don Bishoff concerned a Lane Transit District’s transfer station. Construction included a bathroom, but its use was reserved for drivers and LTD staff. Bish railed at a bathroom built with public funds that the public cannot use.

I asked Bish what he’d like named in his memory someday, and he suggested a public bathroom that’s open for public use. When a need is clear, and a solution is there, it’s a terrible tease to offer it only to a few.

If you’ve ever crossed Franklin Boulevard when it’s hot or cold or wet or windy, imagine how it will feel, staring up at others crossing in safety and comfort. I know that city and campus leaders are working together toward the IAAF World Championships in 2021. This project is not a good look, and that’s a shame.

The 14-foot-wide walkway was not designed to accommodate all the variables that come with public access. I understand that. But did anyone from the city ask, “What would it take?” If so, how did the university respond?

It surely would have required more width, more money, constant upkeep and security. Maybe all that wouldn’t have been worth it. Without knowing whether those possibilities were explored, I’m afraid the skybridge may come to represent a missed opportunity — a prominent, graceful, public, missed opportunity.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Some Workers Deserve Their Robot Replacements

July 12th, 2019 by dk
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Americans are becoming increasingly concerned that their jobs are at risk. Immigrants are less to be feared in this regard than robots. Automation and artificial intelligence are poised to disrupt our way of life in ways we haven’t anticipated. It sounds like doom and gloom.

But then comes a story that can’t help but make a reader angry. Rampant and serial incompetence can cost human lives. I read one of these tragic stories last month. I didn’t know whether to shake my head or my fist. Some jobs deserve to be eliminated by automation.

On Dec. 18, 2017, an Amtrak Cascades train toppled over a bridge onto Interstate 5 in neighboring Washington. Three passengers were killed. Sixty-five others were injured, including eight people in their vehicles on the highway.

It was the inaugural run of a realigned Amtrak route between Washington and Oregon. Neither the engineer nor the conductor were familiar with the new route. They were given too few visual aids to help them know the train’s location.

The situation was set up for failure, concluded National Transportation Safety Board investigators. “Remember that curve,” a road foreman warned the train’s engineer. The warning didn’t help.

As the train topped 80 mph near Dupont, Wash., alarms sounded inside. The overspeed alarm was telling the engineer he was going a few miles-per-hour faster than recommended for the straight stretch.

The bells distracted the engineer. The train’s conductor was no help. Both missed two signs posted within two miles of the curve, warning them to slow down. “During this period, they rarely looked outside the train,” according to the NTSB investigation.

The train hit the curve at the Point Defiance Bypass going 78 mph. The train should have been slowed to 30 mph at Milepost 19.86. By the time they understood the situation, any hope of reducing the train’s speed to prevent derailment was lost.

Three people died and 65 others were injured. How many others saw the crash and wondered whether they could ever feel safe on a train again? Faced with such dramatic consequences, the NTSB took an unconscionable 18 months to complete its investigation.

There’s only one hero in this story and that’s the road foreman who tried to warn the engineer. The conductor and the engineer, the trainers and everyone responsible for ensuring the safety of the public failed miserably. Did any of those people lose their jobs? We don’t know.

We have the automation tools to prevent mishaps of this sort, but the U.S. Congress has been slow to require it. Positive Train Control is designed to automatically override an engineer’s poor judgment. Rep. Peter DeFazio has consistently pushed for its implementation.

The engineer and conductor allowed Train 501 over the Point Defiance Bypass going too fast. Everyone else connected to the tragedy has been too slow — NTSB investigators, personnel and union managers, Congressional regulators. I see a lot of jobs just begging to be eliminated.

Automation has been portrayed as the bogeyman, but intelligence that is not artificial has failed us. We can’t count on that road foreman to be everywhere.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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How Will Democrats Respond When Republicans Don’t Fight Fair?

July 11th, 2019 by dk
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Maybe this will be the year that Democrats recognize that Republicans won’t hesitate to bring a gun to a knife fight. Ideological battles between the parties have become alarmingly asymmetrical, and “false equivalency” doesn’t begin to describe it.

Oregon’s Republican state senators left town last week, because that was their only way to stop a cap-and-trade system designed to combat climate change. Voters gave Democrats a supermajority in both state houses, but Democrats in the Senate are two votes shy of a quorum.

This is not the first time politicians have bolted to subvert the system. Democratic lawmakers fled Texas in 2003 to block a redistricting bill, but the similarity — false equivalency — ends there.

Oregon Republicans used this same tactic two months ago, returning only after exchanging pledges with Democratic leaders. Democrats promised to rescind scheduled floor votes for gun control and stricter vaccination requirements. Republicans promised not to walk out again. Only one side met the obligations that were described publicly in mid-May.

When Gov. Kate Brown tried to enforce the deal by sending state police to bring Republicans back to Salem, Sen. Brian Boquist (R-Dallas) didn’t mince words. “Send bachelors and come heavily armed,” he said.

Right-wing militia followed Boquist’s rhetorical lead, when they planned to descend onto the state capitol in protests that could have turned violent. Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) canceled a Saturday session because of credible threats of violence.

Republicans refused to renounce violence. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The Republican Party suggested that Democratic leaders canceled the session out of “a fear that Republican voters might show up.” Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. defiantly claimed his party was “fighting for democracy” by refusing to participate in democracy — dressed as firefighters, acting as arsonists.

This narrative is a familiar one on the national level, suddenly coming home to Oregon. Again, the equivalency is worse than false. It’s become dangerous, imperiling the systems both parties take an oath to uphold.

Both parties take advantage of rules that allow gerrymandering, but only Democrats support initiatives to end the practice. Only Republicans raise billions to control the next census tallies, or commission white papers on how to disenfranchise citizens who might vote against them.

All presidential press secretaries dissemble on occasion, putting their boss in the best possible light. But only Republicans have virtually eliminated formal press briefings, yanked press credentials from unsympathetic networks, and put reporters in pens where they can be derided at public events for peddling “fake news.”

Both parties work to confirm federal judges who share their political leanings, but only Republicans refuse to hold hearings for 11 months to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. Only Republicans prefer judges who are more young than qualified to fill a lifetime appointment.

Every politician explores his or her opponent’s vulnerabilities, but only a Republican could ask Russia for assistance and not lose his party’s support.

On the biggest issues — climate change, economic solvency, election integrity — total collapse will end both political parties equally. But only one side seems determined to hasten that end.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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What Kate Brown Could Learn From Roger Sherman

July 10th, 2019 by dk
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How will Gov. Kate Brown and her Democratic allies in the Oregon legislature react to the hard line taken by Republicans against a statewide response to climate change? The visceral response would be to teach them a lesson. “Let me be clear, I am not backing down,” Brown announced after the legislative session ended.

Brown is weighing her options. She could enact some of the legislation by executive order. She could offer Republicans unrelated concessions, as she did to win passage of the education funding bill in May. She could call a special session, after ringing the capitol building with security fencing to keep legislators inside.

Or Democrats could find a way to make the climate response legislation more palatable to Republican lawmakers, or at least more attractive to their voters. Roger Sherman died 226 years ago, but he could show Democrats the way. I’ll come back to Sherman in a moment.

Proposed climate change responses tend to fall into two camps. Some favor a cap-and-trade program similar to what California started in 2013. Others prefer a carbon tax, like the one Washington voters rejected last November.

Economists often prefer the carbon tax. It simply charges polluters for polluting. Competitors who don’t pollute or pollute less would gain economic advantages. If market forces spur the innovation we need, the government wouldn’t need to keep any of the carbon tax it collects. The funds could be redistributed to customers, offsetting any price increases the innovating industries pass along.

Politicians and pollsters claim they are wary of anything called a tax, even if the revenue collected is passed back to the voters. The cap-and-trade model — rebranded as “cap-and-invest” — allows government to invest in programs that reduce emissions.

What I haven’t found tried elsewhere is a combination of these two models. Oregon could put itself on the leading edge of this debate, by following the lines of compromise set down by Sherman.

Our newborn nation was deeply divided in 1787. Population centers were gaining too much influence over citizens living in rural areas. Does this sound familiar? Sherman proposed a compromise. All citizens would be equally represented in the House of Representatives. But each state would have an equal voice in the Senate.

Here’s how a Sherman Compromise could break the political logjam that Oregon faces over climate response legislation.

Implement the proposed cap-and-invest program. Add a revenue-neutral carbon tax to it. Divide the carbon tax funds into two halves. Send Oregonians two checks. The first check would be equal for all voting-age citizens across the state.

The second would be apportioned equally between Oregon’s 36 counties, and then divided equally between that county’s residents. Multnomah County (population 811,880) would receive the same second portion as Wheeler County (population 1,366).

Rural county residents could anticipate a relative windfall from that second dividend check, pressing their Republican senators to support it. Democrats who are packed into Oregon’s urban counties would receive smaller second checks, but they’d be first to notice cleaner air.

The Sherman Compromise satisfied rural and urban interests. Its corollary could help here.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Jim Can’t Sleep

July 9th, 2019 by dk
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Jim asked that I not include his last name. Maybe that’s because he volunteers for charitable and political organizations around town and he doesn’t want to attract possibly unpopular attention. Maybe it’s because former combat veterans tend to avoid any appearance of weakness. So my topic today is Jim — just Jim.

Jim has a problem. It recurs each summer. His condition hasn’t improved during decades of discomfort. Every June and July, he has trouble sleeping.

Fireworks remind him — too vividly — of being an infantry rifleman in the Army in 1971. “I turned 21 in a jungle near Hue, Vietnam,” he told me. “Explosive sounds, bright flashes of light, even the smell, are accurately replicated by fireworks.”

Jim doesn’t understand why people are so fascinated with blowing things up, except possibly because they’ve never been close to the real thing. No video game, movie or fireworks display will ever approximate the terror of an explosion that could cost someone’s life or limb.

“When I’m awake, I can convince myself that the situation is safe, that there is no danger,” Jim continued. “However, if chaotic noise and light awakens me, then there are terrifying moments when I am disoriented, struggling to identify the danger. Those are the worst moments imaginable.”

Jim has tried different strategies to get away from the holiday hubbub. Six weeks is a long time to go without a good night’s sleep. But there’s really nowhere to go, where you can sleep with some assurance that you won’t be woken by a startling boom.

Camping offers no respite. Desolate place attract some who are determined to get even more carried away with their midsummer revelry. People assume that lighting a few illegal firecrackers is a victimless crime. But they haven’t met Jim. Or they have, but they haven’t met Jim’s pain.

Efforts are underway to curb our sudden sonic celebrations, because they might upset nearby dogs and cats. That’s a fine first step, but let’s take that lesson a bit further.

Mid-June has become a time when Americans toast the successes of grads and dads. We should follow that rhyming rhythm with a new couplet for early July: consider the concerns of pets and vets. Loud noises and bright flashes may be unsettling beyond what any “thunder shirt” can calm.

Most of us want to find appropriate ways to “support the troops.” Maybe it’s time we stop doing something that re-traumatizes them. In our age of excessive political correctness, how is it that we don’t consider “trigger warnings” for memories and feelings that involved actual triggers? Jim doesn’t know how many other veterans suffer similarly, but it’s probably more common than we think.

Jim didn’t want me to use his whole name, but he is more than willing to share his whole experience. His question to his neighbors is direct, drawing on his infantryman training from 50 years ago: “Is blowing stuff up that important? Is it more important than I am?”

Jim won’t sleep well this week, but maybe we shouldn’t either. With a little more empathy, we could all sleep better — including Jim.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Californians Can’t Turn Left Like We Can

July 8th, 2019 by dk
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A good friend of mine drove up from the San Francisco area this week. Ehab’s perceptions of Eugene surprised and refreshed me. I hope my retelling gives you some of the same feelings.

He drove overnight to get here because he wanted to avoid any traffic stress. Although he spent a year as an Uber driver, he’s now finding it harder to tolerate the perpetual gridlock he endures in California.

We ran to the grocery store shortly after he arrived, which is something I do probably every other day. But Ehab looked surprised as we turned into the parking lot. “Do you know how long it’s been since I turned left across multiple traffic lanes during the day without a traffic light with a left-turn arrow?”

For just a moment, I felt like I had super powers. I had done with no difficulty what many Californians can barely remember doing. We complain that those left turns are harder than they used to be, but we often overlook that they are still usually possible here. And that others who live only a few hundred miles away can’t drive with the same ease.

Ehab was amazed that I never used a GPS device to get around town. He has grown accustomed to using mapping software constantly, even when he doesn’t need directions. He relies on an app to reroute him away from heavy traffic.

Ehab may be paying a larger price than he realizes for that computer convenience. Brain scientists are just beginning to express concern. We use spatial reasoning to make decisions all the time, but we’re just beginning to understand how important those natural skills are.

Neuroscientists believe spatial-memory strategies for navigation also give us the ability to imagine our future selves.

Our brain’s hippocampus area makes a mental map of an area, to keep us from getting lost. But now we’re learning that the same part of the brain also helps us make choices that reach our aspirations. Those choices literally move us from who we are today to who we want to become tomorrow. We outsource those reasoning muscles at our peril.

One of our errands took him to the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles. In and out in 20 minutes. Ehab was astonished. “The same task in California would require getting an appointment, probably a month in advance. And then it would still take half the day. Your DMV is so easy! Shopping for groceries in California isn’t as easy as registering a vehicle in Oregon.”

Before his quick visit ended, Ehab wanted to get to Costco, which is the most crowded place I know in Eugene. Maybe he was homesick. The parking lot was full, as it always is, but the drivers were not surly or overly stressed. I never think about shopping when I’m traveling, but loading his truck with postponed purchases made good sense.

Ehab loved not paying a sales tax. His reasoning was sound. “Everything here is 10 percent off!” If we wanted more visitors from California and Washington, we might consider putting that phrase on our license plates.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Olympic Dreaming is Coming True

July 7th, 2019 by dk
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I try hard never to repeat myself. There are too many stories to be told all around us every day. It has never made sense for me to cover the same ground a second time. But rules are made to be broken. I’d like to go back to something I wrote almost exactly 11 years ago. It came up in multiple conversations this week, and it will soon become relevant in ways that none of us imagined.

On July 4, 2008, I suggested in this space that Eugene should offer to be the host city for the 2020 Olympics. Hayward Field had just completed hosting the Olympic Trials for the first time in a generation. I reasoned that we should set our sights higher, just as the world-class athletes we had just hosted had done.

My suggestion was fanciful. The only city near our size to host the Olympics in the last century was Antwerp, Belgium in 1920. Still, I had my reasons. Phil Knight has been a benefactor for his sport and his alma mater, so it didn’t seem too much of a stretch to imagine he might show some interest in helping Eugene run with the big dogs.

Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz, who was still new to our community, latched onto my idea and began using it when he spoke to groups around town. He used my proposal as a way to urge civic leaders to amp up their ambitions for what we could do here and what sort of city we could become.

Unbeknownst to Ruiz or to me, Knight did have some ideas similar to what we were shopping in 2008. I’m not suggesting any of Knight’s ideas came from either of us. The person who most likely deserves some credit is Associate Athletic Director and Knight-whisperer Vin Lananna, who came to town in 2005 determined to cement Eugene’s legacy as Track Town, USA.

After hosting the Olympic trials in 2008 and again in 2012, Knight and Lananna were convinced Eugene could do something bigger. Plans were made, proposals were crafted, the pitch was perfected — and Eugene is now poised to host the International Association of Athletics Federation’s 2021 World Championships.

It’s not the Olympics, but it will be the largest sporting event in the world in 2021. It will draw over 2,000 athletes from 190 nations, thousands of coaches and journalists, and more worldwide attention than this state has ever received. Take that, Antwerp!

Planners are determined to make Oregon21 a statewide event, but make no mistake. The epicenter will be Eugene and the reimagined Hayward Field. For ten days, Eugene will have the world’s attention. Work has begun to get us ready.

Ruiz this week convened civic and business leaders from across every spectrum to become public innovators. We compared notes about what must be done and how we can work together to prepare the community for those ten days.

Those efforts will multiply many times over the next 24 months. The time has come for us to amp up our ambitions and articulate what sort of city we will become.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com. To read Kahle’s first column on this topic, go to http://www.dksez.com/olympians-call-us-to-dream-big/

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Eugene Has the Best Yard Sales

July 6th, 2019 by dk
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Everyone keeps a private list of features that keep them in love with this place. It might be the view out of one particular window, or the smell of pine needles after a rain, or the four-way stop that marks the middle of our downtown. It could be how a 10-minute commuting delay becomes a front-page story, or that people can get so lost in the woods that they can disappear completely.

My list may be longer than some, because it includes all those, and more.

I marvel at our thrift stores.Does any town in America sell more second-hand stuff? And then there are times when $1.50 seems too much to pay for a pillow case. Thank goodness — especially this time of year — for the thrift stores’ little cousin, the yard sale.

We’re a town that loves recycling, and so there are hoards who set out every Saturday morning to find stuff that others no longer want. It brings out the hunter and gatherer among and inside us. Primal urges prevail.

Almost every town has yard sales — there are a few towns that forbid such things — but ours are better. We have graduating seniors who won’t need any of their stuff where they’re going — whether it’s to a new job in a big city, or a gap year of backpacking, or returning to their parents’ house. “Everything Must Go” is a special type of yard sale, and we have plenty of them.

There are a few ways to identify the EMG of yard sales. They often have no price stickers. Every item needs a new home. Price barely matters — in fact, the bigger the item, the lower the price. There’s almost always a bed for sale. Or, if you arrive later, a free mattress for the taking.

College towns have plenty of graduating seniors, but our EMG sales cover every age group. There’s the adjunct professor who can no longer survive on the stipends being offered. There is the divorcing couple who have decided they need a gap year to find themselves. There is the Peace Corps volunteer who will be living without electricity or running water. And there’s the couple who is hurriedly downsizing, so their graduating senior can’t move back in.

There are even some yard sales that become EMG sales after they’ve begun. As item after item leaves the yard in the loving arms of its new owner, that spark of joy motivates the seller to shed more stuff. Soon the calculator used for sales tallies finds a new home, then the table beneath the calculator, and eventually the lawn chair.

The “FREE” box at the curb gets bigger and bigger. Conversations with shoppers shift over the span of a weekend. “Thanks for stopping” gives way to “Make an offer” which then becomes “What are you looking for?” Our thrift stores will gladly accept most of what doesn’t sell.

If John Bunyan’s pilgrim had wanted to make real progress, he would have started his journey by having an EMG yard sale in Eugene. I picked up a paperback copy of his story here for a dime.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Overwhelmed? Join the Club

July 5th, 2019 by dk
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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.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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