Joseph Bauers/Voices | Our life inside a parallel universe

Joseph Bauers/Voices | Our life inside a parallel universe


Living as we do in the Champaign That Time Forgot, we often find the world outside our friendly domain at the least puzzling, and oftentimes stark raving mad. Sometimes, I think we live in a parallel universe.

I should tell you that our house was built in 1914, back in the days when 2-by-4s actually measured 2 inches by 4 inches. Houses here often have front porches that actual people sit on. It is not unusual for one neighbor to engage another in conversation from one of these porches.

This is not the scene I imagine that the Powers That Should Not Be, local development division, would want. If building patterns in our fair city are any indication, such powers would prefer to raze our old manses and replace them with the atrocities du jour — gigantic, and gigantically ugly, apartment buildings.

I am told that there is such a thing as a Plan Commission, which in theory might pull in the reins on such development when things get out of hand. But so far, all I see being planned are more stack-and-pack apartments, built on a rubric of tiresome architecture.

Be that as it may, we in the Champaign That Time Forgot must venture out into that parallel universe from time to time. Today's mission is a visit to the doctor, now called our "health care provider." How the perfectly fine term "doctor" morphed into "health care provider" is beyond me, though my suspicion lies with the insurance industry. Insurance functionaries are the likely sources of such banal phraseology, just as education bubble brains once decided that the term "school" was not sufficiently arcane, so they pushed "attendance centers" as a preferable alternative.

At any rate, the drive to our "provider" is now quite a trek. It seems that the Powers That Should Not Be, medical division, are just not that into the Champaign That Time Forgot. They seem intent on creating satellite facilities that push their territory ever southward, ever westward.

On this day, I am to see a provider "at the fields," a huge complex that includes many medical components, nestled among (soon to come!) hotels and eateries. They have scraped off some of the richest top soil on the planet to build this.

The space in which we sit is gigantic — sort of like waiting in an airline terminal or a shopping mall. My fellow sufferers are busy on their Electronic Distraction Devices. They are mesmerized.

We don't have one, and thus we are cut off from their many marvels. I am aware that one might find the temperature in Moscow, or the square root of anything, or how to make the perfect martini via one of these devices. The only thing they seem incapable of doing reliably, as Jon Stewart pointed out, is to make consistently clear telephone calls.

Some apps, apparently, even offer an artificial intelligence voice who happily answers all your questions, which brings to mind a movie of a few years ago called "Her." In it, Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with the voice on his device, the voice provided by Scarlett Johansson. Dubbed science fiction by critics when it was released in 2013, "Her" today seems much less fictitious.

As we leave the world of "at the fields," I take note of my wife's suggestion that I have become a curmudgeon. She is absolutely right.

She is also right that there are far greater issues that separate our universe from the prevailing one: foreign policy, of which there is way too much; environmental protection, of which there is way too little; and the distraction of the masses, of which there is way, way too much.

And so the parallel universes are not just territorial. As I ponder all this back in the Champaign That Time Forgot, I scan the statement we receive each month from our financial holdings. The great minds behind these are clearly of that other universe. Without fail, they include a lone empty page among many that are dotted with data. On this page is written the curious notation: "This page left deliberately blank." I cannot fathom why any sentient entity so ruled by the precision of numbers could waste a page to declare its own irrelevance. About them I think, "These brains left deliberately blank."

My wife, no doubt, would find such a declaration on my part to be totally arrogant, and in that she would, again, be absolutely right. But within the reassuring sanity of the Champaign That Time Forgot, it's hard to see it any other way.

Joseph Bauers lives in Champaign. Email him at