MAD DOG: Minding Everyone Else's Business

I keep expecting to open up the newspaper and read that scientists have discovered the meddling gene. I'm sure if they look hard enough and finally get that genetic roadmap finished they'll find it sitting next to the gossip gene, across the hall from the matchmaking gene, and down the genetic block from the mind-your-own-business gene (which, by the way is turned off in most people). Then they can sit back, consider it a Human Genome Project well done, and spend the rest of their cushy government grant doing the hard part: trying to re-fold the map so it will fit in the glovebox of their car.We all have the meddling gene. But like the baldness, snoring, and chocolate craving genes it's more dominant in some of us than others. We all meddle in other peoples' lives from time to time, usually simple things like telling a loved one that they might want to change into an outfit that makes them look, uh, a little thinner. Or we overhear two strangers on an elevator talking about the toothpaste they use and we just have to tell them that the new Colgate Total Plus Ultra not only whitens, brightens, cleans, freshens, eliminates tartar, and fights cavities but also closes the hole in the ozone layer and causes trees in the rain forest to grow faster. Or so we heard on NPR this morning. Or was it the Fox Network's "The World's Stupidest Ideas Caught on Videotape"?But some people aren't content to meddle in this small, normal way. Chances are they received two dominant meddling genes and -- dammit! -- they're going to use them. Politicians fall into this category. Activists fall into this category. And a group in Ellicott City, Maryland called the Halloween Association falls into this category.These people are trying their damnedest to start the holiday season by putting us all in a bad mood. Their idea is to switch Halloween to the last Saturday in October. They actually have a perfectly good reason for wanting to do this: they're bored busybodies who haven't had sex in years and are taking it out on the rest of us. Of course, that's not what they say. They claim it's so kids won't have that silly old school thing to contend with, letting them trick-or-treat during daylight which will be safer.This is a dumb idea. Not because Halloween has to be on October 31st -- after all, the important thing is that there be a Halloween so guys can get their cross-dressing ya-ya's out for another year -- but because if we're going to move it we should at least make it a Monday so we can have another three-day weekend. After all, the last time I checked there were still a couple of Mondays open that the government hasn't filled by switching holidays like Washington's Birthday, Columbus Day, and Memorial Day from their real date.The meddling gene is universal. In Canada (official motto: "The Other United States") they're now meddling in what people can name their farm animals. It's true. Those fine folks who run the government's Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa mandated that their cows, sheep, pigs, and horses can no longer be given female human names. It seems a woman named Stephani objected that there was a cow at the farm which was also named Stephani, and I think we can all agree on just how traumatic that could be. So the Canadians accommodated her, which isn't surprising since they are known for their manners. Or at least that's what the people in Greenland (motto: "The Other Iceland") seem to think. Greenlanders, it turns out, don't smile much. Neither do they say hello or goodbye. This can be attributed to the fact that the winter temperature there sink to 40 below zero, they have a gross national product that's so small Bill Gates wouldn't stop to pick it up if it fell out of his pocket, and face it, since there are only 55,379 people in the whole country (True Fact!) how often do they even get to see other people, better yet use the few manners they may have accidentally picked up from watching "Baywatch"?When a supermarket chain three decided it would be a pleasant change of pace for their employees to be friendly to the customers, they sent some of them to Canada to learn how to smile and say "Have a nice day". Unfortunately not all of the employees have taken to the new program, prompting the president of the stores to say its okay for each employee to smile in his or her own way. Which is double good news for those named Stephani.Scientists are another group that's constantly meddling. They like nothing better than to tell us that something we've believed in all our lives is wrong. For example, some biologists at Princeton University (motto: "The Other Yale") recently reported that we make new brain cells all the time when we were taught for years that we don't do that after our formative years. This is going to radically change our lives since we've always had a built-in excuse when we lost our keys, forgot anniversaries and birthdays, and blanked out on our multiplication tables above seven times eight. Now what are we going to blame it on?Lest you think I'm just a traditionalist at heart and want the status to always remain quo, I have to say I'm all for change. I think we should shorten the presidential campaign to a month and confine it a website. I think we should hire the Jehovah's Witnesses to take the census since they already stop by every house and apartment in the country on any given Saturday morning. And I think we should spend some of our hard earned tax dollars on figuring out a better way to fold maps. But we're probably better off if we don't do any of these things. After all, I wouldn't want to be accused of meddling.

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