Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What's Your Problem?

I love The Atlantic magazine. I've subscribed for years and I have always highly anticipated its delivery each month. Unfortunately, about two years ago or so they revamped the entire thing--getting rid of standard columns, changing the article structure, etc. It's not nearly as good, but I understand why they did it. (Stoopid internets!) The quality of the articles is just as good and it's still a brilliant magazine (and not only for its awesome business and economics editor, Megan McArdle).

One thing they added was a quasi-fake advice column as the back column, written by Jeffrey Goldberg, that answers questions with ridiculous and amusing answers. I've not exactly been impressed; I think it's somewhat juvenile and seemed like kind of a lame attempt at humor. It wasn't the worst thing in the world, but I thought the real estate on the last page of a magazine is too valuable for a warmed-over Mad magazine-style attempt at silliness.

Of course, that's not to say it's not getting better. For some reason this past month's column had this gem:

For 20 years, I’ve been traveling up and down the East Coast because of school, work, and family. Each time I drive, I get depressed about the state of I-95’s rest stops. They are shabby, the bathrooms rarely get cleaned, and the food is always unhealthy and unappealing. Why don’t these rest stops ever get better? Should I give up hope?
J. P., Hamden, Conn.
Dear J. P.,

I tend to take the long view on this subject. The story of America is one of almost constant self-correction and self-improvement. We began our history as a country in which Africans were held as slaves. Today, we have an African American president. A mere 90 years ago, women did not possess the right to vote; now a woman is the speaker of the House. Four decades ago, gays and lesbians were alternately harassed and ignored. Now we are on the cusp of universally recognized gay marriage. We as a nation have defeated Fascism and Communism, and we have invented almost everything useful and worthwhile in the modern age. But it is helpful to be reminded every so often that only God is perfect and that to be human, and even to be American, is to live with limitations and inadequacies. And the dreadful, soul-crushing condition of rest stops along I-95 (especially the one in Delaware) is a reminder that our work as a people is never finished. This, at least, is what comes to mind when I catch my first whiff of Cinnabon at the Molly Pitcher Service Area, conveniently located between Exits 8 and 8A on the New Jersey Turnpike. 

OK, so maybe he's getting better. I enjoyed it this month, so perhaps I'll be a late convert. We shall see. 

1 comment:

  1. At least the column is not written by Dan Savage, then I think you would hate it.