Why do people start writing about one person, but then that person becomes “they” instead of “he” or “she”? Why, that is, does the singular, for unknown reasons, become plural — even though, as Mrs. Johnson always told us in English class (that would be Cordelia Johnson, at Berlin High School, long ago), the antecedent in a sentence must agree with the subject? That is, have we, as a nation, lost sight of the fact that one person does not a “they” or “them” make? Well, yes. But I promise to give up on this one, since even The New York Times now seems to accept it as normal.
Staying at Berlin High but moving now to the West Corridor, I’ve got to admit that even a subject as fascinating as ancient and medieval history wasn’t always enough to keep me wide awake during those sixth-period lectures in September or June, with the sun beating down on Mr. Goodrow’s room. Which makes me wonder (as a Southington reader asked in a recent letter to the editor of this newspaper) why it is that every time a school building is converted to any other use, the first decision that’s made is to add air conditioning? It goes without saying, which may be why it also goes without questioning. And yet, with classes starting in August these days, instead of September, the kids (who have no choice) are somehow expected to learn and thrive in heat so stultifying that most adults (who do have a say) wouldn’t tolerate it for one day. Hmmm.
Now, about the joggers. All winter we’ve been dodging the joggers, who plague the main roads of our communities with their fanatical exercising — even in places where there are no sidewalks and even though the roadway may have been drastically narrowed by inadequate snow plowing and even though there are plenty of side streets available with hardly any traffic on them at all. And then you get the situation where two-way car traffic is trying to make it through while two joggers, both of them with dogs, are going in opposite directions, and both dogs are trying to lunge at each other, but the joggers refuse to give an inch, let alone to control their dogs, apparently believing that it’s more important to not break stride (and to look good in their jogging costumes) than to avoid an accident that might injure the motorists and, for that matter, their precious pooches. Self-centered %^&*@# illegitimate persons!
Where was I? Oh, and then there are doctors’ offices. How come the wide-screen TVs in doctors’ waiting rooms show only two kinds of programming: either a continuous loop of shoot-me-now-it’s-so-boring, health-focused information, backed up with elevator music and lots of still photos (sure, this is stuff that it would probably behoove all of us to pay attention to, but none of us ever do) or it’s a food program with a perky hostess, who pours a great big scoop of sugar into a huge mixing bowl that appears to already contain about a cubic volleyball of lard and a couple of pounds of salt? No idea what this recipe makes, but why are they showing it in a medical office?
And another thing. Why do most doctors’ offices have a window — usually a sliding glass window, and sometimes it’s made of wiggly glass so you can’t see through it — that can be closed to isolate the patients from the staff?
Are they afraid of germs? Are they whispering secret stuff to each other that they don’t want the patients to hear? Inquiring minds want to know.
Reach Glenn Richter at email@example.com.