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Jan to Jan talk: We've come a long way, baby

Published August 15, 2004

You know you've been camping too long when you find yourself standing in front of newspaper racks making your selection based not on quality of coverage or editorial content, but by how useful it will be in starting a fire.

At this writing, I had not seen a television - with one exception - for 20 days. The exception came a couple of weeks ago when I was in a nearby town searching for a cell phone battery and I caught a glimpse of a set tuned to CNN (although I eased back into the news Friday by sitting glued to the television as Hurricane Charley narrowly missed slamming into the Tampa Bay area.)

"Okay," I thought, "I'll just get a quick update on the world situation."

The hot story of the moment during my news blackout was that Clay Aiken, of American Idol fame, was on tour.

It eased my withdrawal pains considerably.

I'm not really a news freak, but put me in a hotel room or at home with a remote, and I have to check with the news channels just to make sure the world isn't in serious trouble. It's some sort of post 9/11 syndrome.

Once I see Bill O'Reilly blowing off about nothing of import, or CNN with a split screen and two or three talking heads doing what passes for analysis these days, I can usually walk away . . . unless I get sucked into a sitcom or Jeopardy!, then I'm dead meat.

I do have a cell phone, so family and friends keep me updated on really important and worthwhile things (like the Senate refusing to pass the anti-gay marriage amendment). But it did take me almost a week to learn that a missing Marine was not beheaded as had been earlier reported.

And, on the days that I am able to drive 30 miles to borrow a computer, I get e-mail, like the one from a Times editor telling me about a judicial candidate named Jan Govan being accused of trying to fool voters into believing he is a woman by not running his picture or any gender - identifying information in his political advertising.

It brought me back immediately to the day I arrived at Parris Island for Marine boot camp with the name Jan (which, drill instructors rapidly learned, was short for Janis) and, because of a laundry accident the night before, pink underwear.

(Who knew Ban-Lon would run?)

Never once during the 12 weeks that followed did I come anywhere close to envisioning a scenario where being named Jan would be determined an advantage and that a male candidate would someday profit from (or be accused of profiting from) being mistakenly thought a woman.

Maybe we have come further than I thought.

[Last modified August 15, 2004, 00:06:16]

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