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Longing for the Days of Smaller Worries
An Essay by Patt Morrison

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Patt Morrison

Patt Morrison
Photo: Los Angeles Times

Nov. 12, 2001 -- I really miss the ozone hole. Oh, not that it's gone. It hasn't miraculously healed itself and sealed up or anything. For all I know, it's getting bigger by the day. But I miss reading about it on the front page, hearing about it on the radio. I miss worrying over it.

The frets and the fears of life before the attacks have been eclipsed by life afterwards. All the things that obsessed us and occupied us until that Tuesday morning have been suddenly tossed, if not onto the ash heap of history, then certainly into its curbside recycling bin. So I long for those carefree days when all we had to worry about was whether an asteroid would collide with the Earth and what kind of oil our movie popcorn was being popped in.

I miss wondering whether killer bees would be taking up residence in my walnut trees and whether I should be putting plastic in the microwave. I long for the days of hand-wringing over Alar on apples, carcinogens at the dry cleaners and trans-fatty acids on my plate.

"It's like Gresham's law of news: Bad news is crowded out by worse news."

Patt Morrison

In California, we've almost forgotten there ever was an electricity deregulation crisis. And that latest little earthquake here a few weeks ago? I wasn't the only one who thought for an instant that this was not just one more run-of-the-mill earthquake but a terrorist attack on Los Angeles.

I even miss the days when we Southern Californians could buy a beeper service to alert us to turn on our TVs so as not to miss an exciting televised freeway car chase. Now the news helicopters have been grounded for security's sake, and there's an e-mail service that, for $10 a month, will alert Americans to ongoing threats of terrorism.

It's like Gresham's law of news: Bad news is crowded out by worse news. As a friend heard someone say at dinner the other night, “Anthrax has done to mad cow disease what AIDS did to herpes.”

So goodbye for now, radon terrorists. Farewell, angst over cell phone brain cancer. Adios to worrying over fluoride in the tap water and benzene in the Perrier. I'm sure we'll all meet again one of these days when I can fret once more over whether my fast-food French fries are really vegetarian and whether the ketchup I'm dipping them into comes from genetically modified tomatoes.

Patt Morrison is a writer for the Los Angeles Times and author of the new book "Rio LA: Tales From the Los Angeles River."