David Bouchier: A Few Well Chosen Words

David Bouchier’s weekly essays are full of unexpected observations and whimsical opinions. Listeners will relish his entertaining, enlightening, and sometimes exasperated commentaries on the routines that carry us through the year, the surreal rituals of politics, the unsettling experience of foreign travel, and the confusions and comedies of everyday suburban life.

You can hear David Bouchier on-air Monday mornings or by subscribing to his podcast, A Few Well Chosen Words.

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When the words “Autumnal Equinox” appear on the calendar, as they did on Saturday, they send a little chill through the heart as well as the body. Labor Day is one thing, but this is official. Summer is over. This is the moment when our Earth, or at least our hemisphere, begins to tilt away from the sun. A cosmic event like this should be more dramatic. But nothing much changes, not yet.

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It has been reported, but not much discussed, that Norwegian researchers have discovered that intelligence, as measured by standard IQ tests, has been declining since 1975. I had been wondering about this myself, especially for the last couple of years. In the national league table of IQ tests, America comes in ninth, slightly behind Norway. In case you hadn’t guessed, Hong Kong and Singapore come in first. America’s average IQ score has gone down at about the same rate as in many European countries, which seems to suggest that intelligence is on the decline across the Western world.

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I must admit to having a mild phobia about shoes. It dates back to childhood, when every school year began with a new pair of regulation leather shoes, choice of black or black. After a summer of bare feet and sandals, our feet had to be "broken in" to these new shoes, and we hobbled about in agony for the first two weeks of school, taking small, careful steps and sliding like ice skaters on the smooth leather soles.

Diane Bondareff / AP Images for Homewood Suites by Hilton

So here we are at the symbolic end of summer, and the symbolic end of the vacation season. Personally, I love vacations, being lazy by nature. But I know that not everyone shares my enthusiasm. This summer I’ve had plenty of opportunity to study other people (and myself) in a state of leisure. While I am usually relaxed to the point of inertia, my fellow vacationers often seem nervous, anxious, and restless. In France I watched one busy professional, down from Paris for a couple of weeks, wash his immaculately clean car three times in three days, and vacuum the interior too.

Rick Bowmer / AP

This past weekend thousands of teenagers left home for the first time to live in college and university dorms. It must be a moment of high drama, for them, and for their parents.