I was at the shopping mall last Saturday when I ran into my old friend Nancy coming out of the Home Décor Barn. It was great to see her again.
"How are you?" she asked me right away. "I haven't seen you in ages. Not since Ted's party last year!"
"I think you're right," I answered. "It's certainly been awhile, that's for sure. How's old Ted doing anyway? Is he still working hard in the vegetarian movement?"
A troubled look came over her face. "Not anymore."
"But he seemed so committed," I said. "What happened?"
"I think that vegetarian group he was working with finally broke up. You know, for years they had to deal with the friction between the snobby ethical vegans and the health-conscious crowd promoting Omega-3 supplements. That took its toll on everyone, but I think the final straw was when they couldn't agree on the background colors for their web site."
"Gee, that's too bad," I said. "But I suppose those things are important. Is Ted's wife still in the environmental movement?"
"No, her environmental group had a big falling out with his former vegetarian group over the animal testing issue. It was really ugly. I think both she and Ted are devoting all their time to their Amway franchise now. That's something they can both agree on."
"I see. Well, what about all those animal rights people you and Ted used to work with?"
"You mean the P.E.T.A.X group?
"Yes, that's it."
"Oh, they had troubles of their own. Nobody ever got along in that group. First the people advocating full legal rights for animals broke off to form B.A.R.K., then the animal welfare people left to form M.E.O.W. Finally the cat-and-dog crowd started their own group called P.E.T.S. …And I just heard that there was another rift in B.A.R.K. between the folks who believe in civil disobedience and those who don't, so that group split into Y.I.P. and Y.O.W.L." Nancy shook her head, as if it was all too much to keep track of.
"Well," I said, trying to look on the bright side, "at least there will be lots of local groups that can be represented at the big annual rally next month."
"Don't count on it," Nancy cautioned. "First there was a big fight over which group was going to sponsor the rally and get to put up its signs, then Y.O.W.L. accused Y.I.P. of being infiltrators from the Department of Homeland Security, and finally P.E.T.S. insisted on bringing food for their dogs from the company M.E.O.W. was boycotting. In the end they all decided it was too much trouble and canceled the rally."
"Gosh, that's too bad," I said. "It sounds like a lot of people are leaving the movement."
Nancy sighed. "It's hard working for causes that are ignored by most of society. It gets you down after awhile. Sometimes I feel we're just like those poor birds in the battery cages—we have no power against our real enemies, so we start pecking at each other."
I nodded sadly. "Well, at least you're still pushing ahead, Nancy."
She gave me a sheepish grin. "You know, I've kind of moved away from vegetarianism myself," she said. "The high-protein movement is where the action is now. The Atkins people are spending $10 million, and bringing 70,000 people to town for a convention next week. It should be very exciting. Heck, the vegetarians could never do anything like that. …And how about you? Are you still writing that silly column?"
"Yes," I answered, a little embarrassed. "I haven't had time for much else though. You know how busy life is, what with following the bombings in the Middle East and the last episode of Friends and all."
"Sure," she said. "Well, we should get together sometime. …Plan a march or something."
I told her that would be great, and we said our goodbyes. As I walked away I thought for a moment how much fun it might be to get the old gang together and do something to change the world. Then I remembered that I had a lot on my calendar the next few days—a dentist appointment, dinner plans, some yard work that I'd been putting off. Maybe in the fall, I thought. Yes, that was it. In the fall when everyone had more time we could pull it all back together. We'd save the world then.