By Merrill Lynn Hansen
The 2020 election is destroying my brain. I used to be an interesting person, but the relentless stress of the presidential contest and the Senate race in Michigan has changed that.
My brain has always been filled with important useless information that I previously was able to access at any time, to make it easier for me to converse with people about subjects I know nothing about. But, now, all I can think about is how desperately I want Joe Biden to win the presidential election, and for Gary Peters to be reelected to the Senate. Biden's path to re-election will be more difficult if he doesn't carry Michigan and Peters needs to hang onto his seat so the Democrats can possibly regain the majority in the Senate.
In an effort to avoid having a horrible out-of-body experience when talking to men about cars (like I did in high school when I was the only girl assigned to a project of building a crystal radio with four boys), I was able to casually mention the name of the first car that broke the sound barrier. When I told them which car sold more than one million units in 1965, they were impressed. But, now, my brain feels like it is filled with 2020 election information, and I don't recall anything else.
When some of my gal pals brought fancy hors d’oeuvres to a social gathering, and I only brought cheese and crackers, I was able to tell them the name of the man who invented Cheez Whiz. They laughed and said, "Everybody loves Cheez Whiz.” When they were ordering clothing accessories online, I used to be able to tell them which designer had been sued, because she manufactured flammable scarves in Chinese sweatshops. That was helpful information, which is lost somewhere in my brain, and I can't find it. Instead, I can tell you that the Republicans have registered more new voters in Arizona than Democrats have. That could be bad news for Biden and thinking about it causes me great anxiety.
An old boyfriend once told me that much of the information I stored in my brain was fairly useless, but then he'd ask me questions in front of his friends, to show me off. "Hey, Merrill, what's the name of the hotel where John Belushi overdosed? " “Merrill do you remember where the first modern day self-igniting match was invented?" When I would answer, he would smile and say to everyone, "I told you she knows things like that." But, now my brain is so filled with poll numbers, it's difficult to discuss anything else with people.
I have no idea what the RCP Average, IBD/TIPP, USC Domsife and YouGov are, but they're emblazoned like a neon sign in my brain, because I saw them on a poll somewhere. I can't remember what I had for breakfast, but I can recall what Sabato's Crystal Ball, the Cook Political Report and Inside Elections predict each day.
I used to enjoy reading about a variety of subjects, to glean a little bit of information about each one. I used to remember the titles of the books on Joseph Campbell's Sarah Lawrence Mythology Class Reading List (which would take a lifetime to read), and what the fear of books is called. But, now, the only information I can access from my brain is about battleground states, the electoral college, and what RealClearPolitics, FiveThirtyEight and Steve Kornacki forecast about the presidential and senate races.
I don't think my memory loss is age-appropriate. It's not like "losing" a word, or forgetting someone's name. It's stress-related, because each day, I'm not sure if Biden's lead in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin is still within the margin of error. In an attempt to access the other information stored in my brain, I’ve begun taking online quizzes. I used to enjoy the "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader ?" quiz, and even though I wasn't as smart as a 5th grader (nobody is as smart as a 5th grader, except another 5th grader), I was close. Not now! I've seen The Wizard of Oz at least 2,000 times (including when my daughter was three, and had me watch the video with her every day for a year). But, when I recently took The Wizard of Oz quiz, I couldn't remember who Dorothy met first, on her way to Oz. The Scarecrow? The Lion? I know that information is stored in my brain somewhere, but it's smothering under the weight of pollster Nate Silver saying "We need poll averages that take a longer time-horizon and/or adjust for house effects.”
My anxiety level is peaking, and even though the next few days might fill my brain with speculation about key states leaning one way or the other, and races that are too close to call, hope still springs eternal. I look forward to remembering Gary Peters winning his re-election bid, and helping the Democrats take the Senate.
I know that I will forever cherish the memory of Joe Biden's acceptance speech, or the events of November 3rd or November 4th or November 5th, or of December, or of January 20, 2021;, when Donald Trump finally acknowledges that the election is over, and he is no longer the President of the United States. I'll have no trouble remembering his last tweet.
Merrill Hansen is a legal assistant, living in West Bloomfield, Michigan. She describes herself as a frustrated writer, who wishes she could be Nora Ephron (when she was alive), if only for a day. She is a news-, political- and FB-junkie, a combination that requires a constant reminder that she needs to take deep cleansing breaths when responding to people who don't agree with her.