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Of Woods and Words: A Malady Called "August"

"By the time the state fair fires up, most people up north have developed a dull, harried look in the back of their eyes"

FinalCut_OWW_08312011.mp37.78 MB

When I called a vendor last week to reorder some merchandise, he asked how I was doing.

“Oh, I’m okay,” I said with a sigh. “I’m just suffering a little case of ‘August.’”

He laughed. “I’ve never heard of that,” he said. “But I bet there are a lot of people out there who suffer from that.”

Call it what you will – a case of ‘August’, August-itis, or maybe just the blahs -- the truth is, by the time the state fair fires up down south, most people up north have developed a dull, harried look in the back of their eyes. Just as answering various nature questions and giving directions are inevitable side effects of living and working in a tourist town, so is the blahness that settles in around mid-August with an oppressive heaviness that doesn’t let up until we’re well into the new school year.

Even if you never heard of this horrible malady before, chances are either you or someone close to you has suffered its effects. Symptoms include, but are not limited to, short temper, bad jokes, liberal to excessive doses of sarcasm and a general sense that everything is too much work. In fact the perpetual sigh hovering overhead in all public buildings right about now is perhaps the biggest indicator that the end of August is nigh.

Granted, August-itis is just something that happens if you choose to set up shop in this county. I’ve yet to find a way to avoid it. As summer winds to an end, I’ve never met anyone not feeling a bit of exasperated burnout.

We’ve spent days on end answering the exact same questions over and over again. For the most part, they’re not bad questions; they’re good, sensible questions that deserve good, sensible answers. But anything done over and over again grows a little tedious. And by this point in the summer, we assume the worst when we see a visitor approaching with an open mouth and a raised hand. Oh geez, they’re going to ask about where to find moose, we gulp. A little muscle behind my eyeball now spasms whenever someone asks about the bears.

But the least we can do is suffer through this annual bout of August-itis. If we don’t smile upon area visitors and give their questions our best shot, why would the visitors ever want to return? And when so many livelihoods in this county are tied up in the tourist industry, making a favorable impression is the least we can do. As much as we may roll our eyes when in the company of friends over some of the most ‘out of left field’ questions we answer on a daily basis, it’s the presence of questions, both bizarre and rational, that keeps us all gainfully employed. Besides, I’ve never found a cure for August-itis other than change.

And thankfully, that change comes right when we need it: in the form of September and back to school. When the calendar flips to September, the perpetual sigh in the air changes to a sigh of relief. Weekend leaf lookers: Now there’s a demographic we do have the energy to interact with.

Of course, human nature is fickle. By the time April rolls around, we’ll be begging for some social interaction. But for now, we’ll savor back to school and the reprieve it offers us from identifying common roadside plants, stating how much acreage burned in the Ham Lake wildfire, or relating the current woes of northeastern Minnesota’s moose herd.

Airdate: September 7, 2011

Photo courtesy of myprontopup via Flickr.