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Stimulus needed badly

"Ah, back to the friendly Midwest," I thought as I stopped in Fargo for a few provisions before heading home after two months in the Southwest.

But what a bunch of grumps! Nobody at the store smiled. Nobody chattered. The checkers were grumpy. The nice old ladies were crabby. The baggers were sullen.

Still bursting with joy due to weeks of warmth and sunshine, I shrugged off the grumps and headed home. Dad had turned the heat up already, so the house was toasty warm.

Thanks to Dad's frequent trips to the house to run hot water during my absence, the sewer was fully functional. Yee haw! Is there anything more exciting than coming home to a functional sewer?

In just a few minutes, I unloaded and unpacked and stuffed the washer full and put the suitcases in the closet and turned on the computer and put the groceries in the fridge.

Then I headed up to the home place to see how the folks were doing.

I knocked on the door. Nothing.

Finally, I heard some stirring so I opened the door a crack. The first thing I heard was Dad. "No hugs!" he rasped weakly.

Now you know that is exactly what most Scandinavian dads are thinking, but rarely do they say as much out loud.

In fact, modern Scandinavian dads have adopted a more liberal hugging policy, even though deep inside all this touchy-feely stuff makes them want to escape to the shop.

Why the reluctant increase in hugs?

Well, if men don't hug their kids -- even after the brats are in their mid-forties -- and if one of them goes out and robs a bank, the judge will ask the kid, "What were you thinking, son?" and all the son has to say is "Well, my Dad never hugged me!" and the judge will let the kid go and put out a warrant for the old man. That's how crazy things have gotten!

Given the possible consequences, I was a little surprised when Dad announced that there would be no hugs.

As I was about to burst into tears and call my therapist, I found out the reason for the no-hug policy. Both Dad and Mom had the flu, and not just any flu. This bug was the gastro-intestinal equivalent of Hurricane Katrina, a real Category 5.

So, Dad's refusal to hug actually arose out of love and concern for my well being -- although I am not sure that would stand up in court.

In any case, after seeing the grumps at the store in Fargo and my own parents struck down by illness I realized I was returning to a culture that had been knocked to its knees by the cruelties of winter.

My suspicions were confirmed the next day when I ran to town for more provisions. The cheerfulness that prevailed at Christmas was gone. People went about their errands joylessly, like zombies, their heavy clothing draped over their pale limbs, their eyes sunk deep in their sockets.

It became clear that if anybody needs a stimulus package of some sort, it is the poor people who have suffered through this harsh winter without escaping to warmer climes.

Perhaps the quickest remedy would be to put anti-depressants in the water supply. I mean, they put fluoride in the water tower without our permission to help our teeth, why not anti-depressants to lift our spirits?

Secondly, they should figure out this disease thing. There is something about our climate that causes flu, bronchitis, colds, pneumonia, and other communicable diseases to run rampant. Let's spent a trillion dollars and solve it once and for all.

Next, let's put up wind generators that power big sunlamps. The harder the wind blows, the brighter the lamps will glow. Soon everybody here will have the same healthy bronze tint that they do in Florida or Arizona.

The Scandinavian countries, which have even darker winters than we, have long understood people's need for light during the cold months.

As a kid, I saw a picture in the encyclopedia of nearly-naked Finnish kids gathered around a lamp taking a wintertime sunbath and I instinctively knew that is just what I needed.

People need sunshine or they mope around making each other miserable.

Happy people work harder and make the economy purr.

Warmth. Sunshine. Spring.

Now there's a stimulus package we all can believe in!