In one of my late father’s colourful essays, he contrasts train travel in Central Europe early during the last century with crossing the Atlantic Ocean aboard a silver jetliner. He writes vividly about the slow trains’ uncomfortable wooden seats, the conductor’s worn, shiny uniform and the oil lamp dangling on his chest.
He describes the wise-cracking horse traders on their way to central European markets and orchards filled with ripening Bing cherries. A meal aboard such a train consisted of a cup of warm beer and a sausage purchased through the train’s window. It was served on a paper tray with a trace of mustard smeared on its edge. A slice of rye bread came with it.
Father then switches rather effortlessly to the late twentieth century – to nicely coiffured airplane hostesses, adjustable airline seats and saran-wrapped shrimp cocktails. He leads you to believe he is talking about the great progress made in transportation but then suddenly yanks the stool from under you: he moves into the area of stress.
Without saying so much, he makes you understand that the old advertising slogan which claimed that “getting there is half the fun” has gone out of fashion; that with speed and cushioned seats come impatience, irritability and insecurity. These are now our constant travel companions. We may get there in hours instead of days, but no one seems to pay much heed to what shape you’re in when we get there.
And perhaps most important of all, we keep missing all the rambunctious horse traders and luscious Bing cherries along the way.
Introduction to Drabek’s Glossas
According to one wag the two signs of old age are:
a. the inability to stay with a thought.
b. the inability to leave that thought.
As a well-established octogenarian, I have been warned of the dangers. In this collection, I have tried to avoid them by limiting myself to one-page essays, which I call glossas. I feel that brevity has become a lost art in this age when so many people live in constant fear of being misunderstood. We tend to explain and explain — God, how we explain! And since our emails often abbreviate only words, not thoughts, I consider this to be a pioneering effort.
My glossas deal with some of the things I feel qualified to comment upon and quite a few I don’t. That too is downright revolutionary, because until now it has been largely assumed that such things as conflict avoidance and pathology should be left to the experts. But let’s be honest about it: that kind of approach has left us with two world wars and something called 9/11. And we’re still without a cure for the common cold.
This volume then breaks entirely new ground in that it explores home remedies. And since the paper’s getting short, let’s begin.