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The Idle American
When Life Hands Us Lemons…
Wednesday, September 30, 2009 • Posted September 30, 2009

Folks who have experienced both eras feel that while “Depression” and “recession” rhyme with each other and share many of the same letters, the former lays justifiable claim to describing a tougher time for the masses. And only one is capitalized.

For the better part of two decades, tens of millions of Americans scrounged, stretched, saved and shared, calling on resourcefulness and prayer to make it to the next day.

Indeed, life handed lemons to the masses. The nation was awash in lemonade, often served at room temperature, and with but a touch of sugar. “Stir what you’ve got.” That’s what many children heard when they sought more sugar….

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The well-worn slogan of “more and more on less and less” fit much of life back then. Folks joked that the Depression ended the day a rabbit hopped down the trail with no one chasing it. Others say it ended when Vacation Bible School leaders started reading directions on the Kool-Aid packages—the part about “one package makes a quart.” During the Depression, one package also made a gallon.

Today, there are numerous parallels in the economic world, including ordinary families as well as the giant corporations of our land.

There are recessionary “nips here” and “tucks there” in virtually all manufacturing and service industries….

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We are an accepting lot, pretty much adapting to whatever changes come next. In air travel, perhaps we do what we are told. We understand the need for reduced meal service, disappearance of pillows and other amenities. We’ve tightened our belts, going along with fewer flights, crowded planes and ever-changing rules.

Then, one day, our “ox gets gored,” and we pound our chests until we wheeze.

For some of us, albeit few, sparkle is added to the day by a cup of piping-hot tea—WITH LEMON!...

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Now, in the spirit of economizing, Southwest Airlines has announced the elimination of lemons on all flights. Those who are ambivalent about lemons may applaud politely at the news that this decision will save SWA $100,000 per year.

What we are NOT being told is how much it may additionally save the airlines whose flight attendants have experienced some nasty nicks as they cut the lemon slices ever smaller.

Do the math, Americans! The company has 544 planes with 3,300 flights per day. If SWA will save $100,000, and if the wholesale cost of one lemon is 15 cents, the airline has been buying about 700,000 lemons annually. This means that on average, the total fleet needs 2,000 per day, or about four lemons per plane. Since the average plane makes 6.2 flights daily, this calls for 2/3 of a lemon per flight. So, the new policy will reduce flight costs by a dime each….

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Am I the only passenger asking for hot tea WITH LEMON? And what if the pilot needs one for a sore throat? (As a small protest, I may carry on a 3.4 oz. container of lemon juice, offering it as a courtesy to the other two people who prefer lemon.)

Oh, I know, they’ll offer lime. And maybe I can get used to it, particularly if I start using them at home.

Next thing we know, though, they’ll threaten to eliminate limes as well. Again, the media will trumpet the news, pointing out that the elimination of limes will save the airlines millions of dollars annually. (I know; I know. Limes have “horned in” to decorate the glasses of stouter drinks chosen by some passengers.)….

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Then, as advertising budgets shrink, creative PR personnel will figure out additional ways to keep SWA “in the news, and off the front page.”

Soon after the proposed elimination of limes is announced—before it is actually implemented—the SWA gurus will have a change of heart. They’ll not mention the cacophony of complaints from lime-loving patrons. Instead, they’ll brag about their on-going battle against scurvy. Mark my words. The whole scenario may already calendared. Bags are on, lemons are off; limes are off, almost, and then back on.

“The music goes round and around, whoa-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho, and it comes out here.” (Ah, the song brings back memories of Tommy Dorsey, Louie Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and the “Tin Pan Alley” of the 1930’s.The lyrics are credited to a world-renowned musician who played with London’s finest orchestras. This Englishman, Basil Tschaikov, made musical headlines for more than 60 years. He loved hot tea—WITH LEMON.)…

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Dr. Newbury is a speaker and author in the Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site:

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