Mark Dolliver’s Takes: Mixed Blessings

Does motherhood generate solidarity among women? Ha! Judging by a Parenting magazine poll of mothers, it gives them fresh reason to be wary of one another. “Nearly three out of four aren’t thrilled about the moms of their kids’ friends, and 11 percent say they’re just putting up with them for their kids’ sake.” Thirty-five percent feel that “making small talk with other moms is more painful than getting a bikini wax.” And many fear that other mothers will reciprocate these hostile feelings: 78 percent said they’re “shy about going up to another group of moms in the park.” When they’re snubbed by a bunch of other mothers, 27 percent “admit to feeling like a leper.”

Humans aren’t good at risk assessment, as one can infer from their often-irrational behavior. But that doesn’t stop them from having opinions about the relative likelihood of various disasters. A Harris Poll offered a list of dire developments and asked adults to say how likely it is that each will become “a major threat to the U.S. in the next five years.” With Hurricane Katrina fresh in their memories, 43 percent said it’s “extremely” or “very” likely that “a significant natural disaster destroys large areas of a major city.” Fifty-two percent see a high likelihood of “a significant loss of jobs to foreign countries”; 40 percent think it strongly likely that “energy needs significantly exceed energy supplies.” There was a lower incidence of fear that “terrorists launch a number of attacks against airplanes” (26 percent) or that “the country is attacked with biological weapons” (24 percent) within the next five years. You could probably get a good deal on beachfront property from someone among the 23 percent who think it’s highly likely that there will be “a significant rise in the level of the oceans.” Fewer adults think it extremely or very likely that the next five years bring a major world war involving most industrialized nations (15 percent), a collapse of the banking system (14 percent), a nuclear-weapon attack on a U.S. city (14 percent), a massive avian-flu epidemic (11 percent) or a major stock-market crash (11 percent).

The Bureau of Labor Statistics should start issuing reports on caffeine intake by the American workforce. In a survey of workers by WorkPlace Media, 83 percent of respondents said they rely on caffeine “to get them through the day.” Also helping the labor force to keep on laboring are gum (28 percent), salty snacks (25 percent), candy bars (19 percent) and cigarettes (10 percent).

The wheels of commerce grind to a halt in a recent Visa commercial when some bozo has the audacity to pay for his cafeteria lunch with old-fashioned cash. In real life, though, cash has yet to fall so far out of favor when it comes to small transactions. As you can gather from the chart below, which draws on an Associated Press/Ipsos Public Affairs survey, just one-fourth of adults use a debit or credit card more often than not for transactions that could be covered by a $10 bill. The same poll found considerable consumer loyalty to the smallest unit of cash: Just 28 percent of respondents think the penny should be eliminated, while 71 percent do not.