Thanks a Lot, Mercury

I'm really not big on astrology, though I will admit to taking a look at my horoscope on days when I particularly need a morale boost. And ignoring every word of it if I don't like what it says. I figure if I've ignored every other piece of advice I've been given in my life, why should I suddenly put my trust in the planets? Though I have to say, lately I'm beginning to think there might be something to this Mercury retrograde business.

Mercury retrograde, for those of you who don't make it past the daily Ben and J-Lo report in the newspaper to get to the really good stuff, is when Mercury moves backwards in the sky. Don't ask me how this happens, I have no idea. Hell, I'm still trying to figure out where reverse is on a Volkswagen, how am I supposed to know how it works when you're steering a planet? But apparently it does this four times a year, for three weeks at a clip. Or so the astrologers tell us. When Mercury goes retrograde they say life becomes problematic, which is a polite astrological way of saying everything is a pain in the ass. Things get lost, the simplest tasks become ridiculously inconvenient, and you can put the adjective "broken" in front of anything mechanical.

Yesterday was a good example. I needed to replace a pair of shorts that became hyperventilated. Up until then I thought I was the only one that hyperventilated when I was worn out. I wanted simple, basic cargo shorts. After going to five stores which all carry them, I had a choice of buying shorts which were either four sizes too large or too small, getting a pair of long pants and hacking the legs off, or continuing to enjoy the cool breeze that wafts through my current pair. Final score? Mad Dog 0, Retail Merchants 0.

Then my reading glasses broke. Next it took seven email exchanges with tech support so they could tell me what I knew in the first place -- in spite of the wrong information one of their own gave me midway through the exchanges -- yet they still neglected to answer my question and tell me how to cure it. Then a car ran a stop sign, almost plowed into me, and the driver followed me around for a while screaming through his windshield. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Yes, it could have been just "one of those days." But aren't you tired of blaming things on a vague "one of those days"? I am. Besides, we could use a new scapegoat. We don't have a good one right now and they're very handy things to have. I long for the days when we could blame everything on Russia, Osama bin Laden, or El Niño. Wasn't it a pleasure when we could shift responsibility for anything that went wrong to Khadafy, the Ayatollah Khomeini, or the astronauts landing on the moon? Even Idi Amin, a great scapegoat in his day, is dead and gone, so we can't even consider recycling him as an excuse. It's true the Republicans still have the Democrats to blame for everything, and the Democrats have the Republicans, but that's so Hatfield and McCoy. It's not even scapegoating, it's just a bad habit at this point. So why not pin the blame on Mercury?

Since Mercury is going to go retrograde whether we like it or not, and we can't stop it unless we send Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and Owen Wilson up in a rocket ship to blast it into another orbit, we might as well use it to our advantage. You can't find weapons of mass destruction or the guy you say had them built? Blame it on Mercury. Power goes out in seven states for 24 hours? Mercury again. You say you're a resident of California and you're the only one on your block who missed the deadline to run for governor in the recall election? It's Mercury, of course! How better to explain why two companies which have developed an impotence drug they hope to have on the market soon, Bayer Pharmaceuticals and GlaxoSmithKline, have signed on to be "Proud Sponsors of the National Football League"? Okay, that's greed. I guess we can't blame everything on Mercury. But you have to admit you're going to giggle every time you see a commercial that tells you to, "Score with Levitra!"

Try using Mercury in your personal life. The next time you're late for work just look the boss in the eye and say, "Mercury retrograde." When you forget your wedding anniversary for the third year in a row you can shrug your shoulders and say, "Hey, Mercury's retrograde." And if you climb to the top of the tallest building in town and snipe 24 innocent people -- hey, it's Mercury! You'll probably never find a more useful planetary scapegoat.

More Mad Dog can be found online at: www.maddogproductions.com. His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation. Email: md@maddogproductions.com

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