THE IDLE AMERICAN: In circles will we go

Published 6:15 am Saturday, February 17, 2018

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

 Columns often “just happen”–devoid of both rhyme and reason. Such is the case as this 16th year of weekly “whims” begins.

For several days, I’ve thought frequently of circles, some from 1944, when a beloved first-grade teacher meticulously drew circles on the chalk board. She called them “dishes,” explaining that unexpected company had shown up, departing well before clean-up. “Who’d like to help me with the dishes?” she’d ask, smiling.

Hands flew up all over the room. Then, she’d ask each “helper” to “remove” one or two “dishes” with the sweep of an eraser. We were thus introduced to subtraction, perhaps the first (and maybe the last) mathematical concept I’ve truly understood.

As a rule, circles are precursors to something worse. For me, what begins as a twitch becomes a tremor when they morph into zeroes. Twitching sets in with nervous recall of high school and college algebra classes. Later, I barely made it through statistics during doctoral studies. There were simply too many numbers used in too many ways for this country boy. Stars properly aligned for degree completion, but not without major tremors.

We are in a high season for circles. A sports car is in orbit, and social media crawl with guffaws about it. If it is asked to “pull over,” how far over is over? What if there are recalls? Will there be a need for tire alignment? Should the oil be changed regularly, maybe every million light years?

Our national debt–with big numbers in front of the zeroes–explodes. Youngsters drive their “wheels,” and many prominent people–way too many, really–foul-up so badly, their “wheels fall off.” Wheels are all around.

In Dallas, bicycles may be rented for a buck from four competing companies. They have 10,000 bikes to rent–more than any other city. Trouble is, riders may abandon them wherever they choose–on lawns, in traffic lanes, hanging from trees–you name it.

Non-riders are peeved; the city council is flustered. Until now, folks fishing in White Rock Lake have not been surprised to hook boots. Now, they may reel in bicycles.

Groans abound. At least one rental company owner is groaning. It began operations just months ago with 2,400 bikes. Its inventory now stands at 1,800.

At church recently, two comments prompted more circular thinking. In the sermon was a reference to “concentric circles,” illustrative of relationships.

Then, in an announcement “round-up,” reference was made to strong attendance, despite “frizzled” weather. Hmmm. Is “frizzle” a shortcut to “freezing drizzle?”

Circles–not dots–swirled in front of my eyes.

Nailing down reasons to write a “circular” column was Andy Howington, a fellow churchman and the object of guffaws since his recent purchase of a cherry-red Honda Gold Wing motorcycle. He found it on the Internet and soon was off to DeLeon for a “look-see.” Sure enough, it was in mint condition.

Andy has owned a half-dozen cycles–maybe more–but this one is different.

It has two rear wheels.

Sunday school buddies are kidding him with little mercy. “Old Andy has reached his second childhood,” one cackled. “He’s back on a tricycle.” Another claimed that when Andy rides, “he has to kick twice–once to start his motorcycle and another to start his pacemaker.”

Still another said he saw “figure eights” on the icy church parking lot, tracks that were “clearly made by a three-wheeled motorcycle.”

Andy chuckles, explaining he’ll ride only when the temperature is near his age. He will be 90 on April 7.

The affable widower had wife Lois alongside until her death 15 months ago.

She remains fresh on his mind. Early in their marriage, she, too, had a motorcycle.

Andy rattles off the marital years of this revered Christian couple: 68 years, 3 months and 4 days–nary a zero in the bunch.


Dr. Newbury is a former educator who speaks throughout Texas and the Southwest. Comments/inquiries to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: Twitter: @donnewbury; Facebook, don newbury.