Before the Election, Feeling a Little Hanxious

Hanxious: A couple of weeks ago, Buzz traveled with family to Reno, Nevada, for a vacation that involved lots and lots of drinking. It was Reno, after all, a city that can best be described as being a lot like Las Vegas, only not quite as tasteful.

We've never really enjoyed casinos—we're cheap and not stupid—but this trip was instructive, because it brought to light something we've seen but never really noticed before: Casino gamblers don't smile much. Not much laughter. Lots of grim determination. Guess it's hard to slap a goofy grin on your face when you're busy counting your money.

OK, so that's a pretty stinking, heavy-handed, Ward Cleaverish life lesson we're tossing out. Give Buzz a break. We just got back from Reno, not Tibet.

So, what's our point? Not much really, just sitting here at the computer, watching a nytimes.com Election Day Web page that invites readers to type one word that best describes their current mood, then scrolls the words across the screen, red words for John McCain's supporters, blue for Barack Obama. More popular words scroll across in bigger type. "Anxious" and "hopeful" are rolling next to each other at the top of the list, in both colors. Buzz's office mates, a bunch of Obama supporters, share the mood. The polls look good, but nobody believes them. Seven come 11, baby needs a new president, a new something. Forget that the house always wins in the end.

Anxious or hopeful? One of the people we traveled to Reno with is a plant manager at a local factory. "Everybody's sitting on their wallets," he told us. With orders for his company's building ventilation systems dwindling, the plant's laying off workers and moving others to "shared work," a Texas Workforce Commission program that allows participating companies to shift workers to less than full-time. The employees get to keep their jobs and benefits, and the state provides pro-rated unemployment benefits based on how much their work hours were cut. Hopeful: It's a sound, helpful program that keeps people at least partially employed. Anxious: The workforce commission says unemployment claims paid under the program have grown from 2,629 in September 2007 to 6,818 this September. Good government. Bad situation.

It's time to file this column, so Buzz types "tired" into the Times' Web page and clicks a button. Tonight, we'll pour a large Bushmill's and watch the returns with the sound turned off, a little classic Who blasting on the iPod. You know the song.

 
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