Anatomy of a Column
eggy Noonan swanned into the Upper East Side Bevmo to purchase a few stocking stuffers and some refreshment for Santa-baby when he slides down her chimney tonight.
In her mind she was already hearing the sleigh bells, or perhaps the merry tinkle of ice in the shaker. Christmas was everywhere!
Noonan marveled at the selection of Jamaican Rum, London Gin, and Russian Vodka (“it’s the United Nations,” she giggled to herself) and said a small prayer of gratitude under her breath about the miracle of the supply chain fixing itself, no thanks to the current president!
Noonan grabbed a shopping cart (“without a wobbly wheel, another miracle!”) and set forth to conquer the world. A couple of lowly minimum-waged, essential workers (as we used to say at the start of the pandemic when we were grateful for their service in a time of danger!) appeared in her blurry vision and they merged into one as she approached to ask them for help locating her favorite brands. “Mental note: get eyes checked.”
“I don’t work here, lady,” said the callous youth. “I don’t know what Navy Strength means.”
Noonan sized up the insolent young buck, gave him a frosty glare and declared:
“I wonder if a lot of people aren’t worrying that there’s been some quiet but fundamental shift in expectations set in place during the pandemic—that you don’t really have to work anymore, or if you don’t like your job you don’t have to stay until you get a better one; you can just leave and one way or another get the support you need through benefits, programs and government assistance.”
The manager showed up and asked if he could help. Noonan pointed at the other shopper and declared:
“People are wondering right now about the implications of the Great Resignation. More freedom, more enjoyment of life, less scrambling in a rat race—maybe that’s the right direction. But is it sustainable in the long term? Will it have some effect on what used to be called the national character? “
“Ma’am, please don’t shout at the other customers, or I’ll ask you to leave.”
“As a people we’ve always known how to grit through and suffer when history takes a turn. What will we be like when we don’t, and history gets more demanding?”
Moments later, out on the sidewalk in the rain, Noonan stared, unfocused, into the near distance. “As God is my witness,” she vowed, “I’ll never be thirsty again!”
She spied a thousand points of light, or maybe a bodega sign down the street. It was Morning in America.
(New Readers: The Further Adventures of Peggy Noonan is a sometimes feature of lo! many, many years where we parody the much-quoted Reagan hagiographer Peggy Noonan to try to understand the genesis of her Declarations column in the WSJ. We do not know if Noonan really leaves out refreshment for Santa, but to paraphrase the Great Writer herself, “Is it irresponsible to speculate? It would be irresponsible not to.” – Bacardi Lifetime Achievement Winner, Peggy Noonan, Wall St. Journal, April 2000.)