Election addiction has become a global pandemic. Everybody I know seems to be hooked. No surprise since it’s not just Americans that want change. But unlike other addictions, there’s no shame. People are thankful to have something that distracts them from the economic ice age that is descending upon us. Some are hooked on the internet, some on television, while others still get their fix the old fashioned way: through a newspaper.
But what happens after November 4? Millions will be left going through cold turkey. I asked my friend Maggie what she’ll do after the election.
“I’d like to say I’ll spend those hours going to the gym or volunteering but I can’t commit,” she said. “But if McCain wins I will spend my time packing and exploring real estate in Canada.”
People will have to replace the information addiction with something else. Hard core addicts will get into Obama's cabinet selection. Other options are Britney's comeback or Angelina's next baby. But unless there is footage of them going to prison or kissing each other, or even better: kissing each other while in prison, it won’t be round the clock coverage.
I’m a little worried about my father. He is unable to function without his fix. If he doesn’t have his newspaper, it’s like someone’s pulled the plug on the respirator.
I first became concerned about him overdosing when he set his alarm clock for 3am so he could wake up while on holiday in Italy to watch the debates. But I knew others in Europe and around the world were doing this. I let it go. Then, he switched his flight out of Singapore so that he didn’t have to miss the vice presidential debate.
“You can’t read about it when you land?” I suggested.
He looked at me the way Amy Winehouse would look at someone suggesting she have a shot of wheatgrass juice instead of whiskey.
The other day I asked him how many hours he spends reading the newspaper. “Three to four,” He said, peering over the top of one, “At least.”
His emphasized those last two words as though he’s in training for an endurance test and wants his discipline known.
But the newspapers are just the warm up before going online. Then it’s the blogs, (a word he couldn’t understand before this year), election stories and e-mails. He swaps notes and hotlinks with his friends before breaking for lunch.
His afternoon is spent responding to the e-mails he received earlier. It’s a good thing he’s retired or he’d have to quit his job. As it is, he’s given up his afternoon nap because he doesn’t have time. And also, he might miss something.
The latest headline, that the Republican National Committee has spent $150,000 on Palin’s clothes is like heroin. He hates himself for wanting to know more but can’t stop. He sent me an e-mail with a link to a story about how shopping at Neiman Marcus is not where “hockey moms” shop. I couldn’t figure out which was more disturbing – that he sent me this link, or that he sent it to me when we were in the same room.
On November 5th millions of people will be going through withdrawal. Finding themselves in the void that is now their life they will return to the emptiness they left behind. Maybe they'll obsess about the economy falling apart and the stock market but for the most part there will be a lot of aimless people out there, confused and lost, having nothing exciting or worthwhile to emotionally invest in.
My father will be feeling let down and disappointed.
Finally, we’ll have something in common.