It’s the time of year again when thousands of black birds descend on the trees behind my house. Although the days are still long and warm, the birds are gathered together to go south. I tell my young daughter that they chatter to each other about this collective decision using a language we can’t (yet) comprehend. She laughs, charmed by my innocence.
I have lost how to think for myself. I trust the opinions of strangers more than friends. Like millions of others, I bought a book called The Wisdom of Crowds. I rely on top-ten lists and Google rankings. I check Consumer Reports before buying any major appliance. (I always go with brand names.)
I feel my decisions have been vindicated if I must wait in long lines for theater seats or for store doors to open. I miss the maze of velvet ropes in my bank lobby and hearing the teller call out twenty times, “Next!”
I drift towards bookstore shelves posted with ‘staff picks.’ It's okay that Amazon.com won’t let me check out without chiding me with what others have bought instead.
I ask the computer at the Chinese buffet to pick my lottery number. I pay a coach to help me prioritize my goals and a therapist to tell me its okay to mourn my brother. I hope I never have to decide on my own to see a doctor if an erection were to last more than four hours.
I have become such a dependent idiot… but I am not alone.
Like Blanche Dubois, I have come to depend on the kindness of strangers. Maybe in some way they depend on me. Should I ask the birds out back where I should go this winter?
1920's photo of people in line to view the embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin, Red Square, Moscow.