Recently, I met a modern Rip Van Winkle — named Slats Grobnik.
“Are you the drinking buddy Mike Royko used to quote in his Chicago column?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said, “but don’t believe everything Mike said about me. Newspaper guys make up a lotta stuff.”
Slats fell sleep after Royko’s funeral in 1997 and had just awakened to find himself at UNR. He asked for a cigarette.
“I don’t smoke,” I said, “and, uhm, neither can you here on campus.”
“Not unless it’s medical marijuana.”
He looked confused.
“Yeah,” I explained, “the baby boomers got older, became college administrators and government nannies and want to outlaw smoking. However, even Reno’s mayor wants to license evil-weed shops — but only for medical use, of course. The U.S. attorney general agrees, even though there are still federal laws against it. And Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational pot.”
“I don’t believe you. Let’s go over to that CVS store so I can buy some Luckys.”
“Actually, they quit selling any tobacco,” I replied.
“You’re serious? What else weird has happened in 17 years?”
“You won’t believe it.” I took a breath. “Well, the last mayor of New York wanted to outlaw extra-large Cokes and force restaurants to cut down on fats and sugars in their food. Others want to extend those limits to groceries, too.”
“You mean, someone can get high if he says it’s only for medical reasons, but if he gets the munchies, he’s SOL?”
“Yeah, simply out of luck. And, locally, we’ve got a fight over serving foie gras, which California outlawed in 2012.”
“I tried that stuff when I was ten,” he said. “It took so much beer to purge the taste, I was drunk for two days.”
“Nowadays you probably shouldn’t say that in public, Slats, because getting drunk is politically incorrect, especially for kids.”
“Any good news?” he asked.
“Well, Friday 550 people in Las Vegas set a record for speed-dating, each one spending three minutes with a member of the opposite sex 24 times, hoping to find a match.”
“Sounds like my 25 years of dating crammed into one evening,” he said. “What else?”
“A college dean in Carson City said high school seniors are putting their feet up on their desks and hibernating the whole year, so they forget all they’ve learned and have to take remedial classes in college. His solution is to enroll them in his college for that year.”
“Nice of him to try, but by that logic, I would’ve started college in third grade,” Slats laughed.
“Also, the government is involved more in health care and insurance.”
“How’s that going?” he asked.
“Not well. The president said we could keep our health insurance and doctors if we liked them, but that wasn’t true. Also, premiums, co-pays and deductibles skyrocketed under the, uhm, Affordable Care Act, and you get less choice of providers. But if you get pregnant, Slats, your maternity costs will be covered.”
“So, folks got HillaryCare after all,” he mused.
“Not exactly, but she’s running for president in 2016.”
“Now I get it,” he said. “This is actually a nightmare about the next 17 years. I’m gonna close my eyes and wake up soon back in 1997 the day after Mike’s funeral.”
Ron Knecht is an economist, law school graduate and Nevada higher education regent.