Cell Phones, Dot-coms and Prozac Were My Friends...

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I tell you, it's hard to keep a stiff upper lip these days. First my high-tech dot-com portfolio plummets. Then it turns out that my beloved cell phone may be zapping my delicate cranium with radioactive waves. And now, to top it all off, the Prozac that keeps me from murdering my coworkers is under attack, this time by recently unemployed talk therapists. It's as if everything that seemed so promising way back in the '90s has suddenly been tainted by doubt.

And, having come of age in a time of unprecedented prosperity, I don't deal well with uncertainty. Three years ago, I happily invested in the stock market; I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but everyone was babbling about bulls and IPOs and so I thought, what the heck. And now that I've arranged to have money automatically transferred to a mutual fund from my checking account each month (which sounds easy but is actually the result of a stunningly complicated process) and I have no idea how to stop them from taking the money, it looks like I've got myself a portfolio of sorts. And that means that ever since New Year's I've had to purchase several new bottles of antacid, which I clutch faithfully every morning as the market opens. It all looked so rosy back in '98, and now it's like a terrible and extremely expensive roller coaster.

And that image brings me to the whole antidepressant disaster. In Tuesday's New York Times, a profile of Dr. Joseph Glenmullen mulls over the good doctor's theory that the immensely popular Prozac-Zoloft-Paxil family could be dangerous not only in the short term (think homicidal and suicidal tendencies) but also down the road (think brain damage). Granted, Glenmullen has been dismissed by many of his fellow psychiatrists as an alarmist quack, but I think he's still got some explaining to do. I would like to know why anyone would feel the need to scare the living daylights out of an entire country where one would be hard-pressed to locate a single citizen who doesn't know someone taking one of the aforementioned drugs. Perhaps a few (say, seven or so) simultaneous doses of Paxil would calm him down.

Of course, if you're not taking Prozac yet, you probably will be once the cell phone panic takes hold. Apparently, cell phones don't only cause us to wreck our cars and die in fiery balls of steel, they also may contribute to the development of brain tumors. After years of pooh-poohing the dangers (and happily pocketing checks from Nokia and Motorola), the government has finally gotten nervous enough to sponsor a study in which cell phone users' brains will be carefully monitored (although not while they're driving). Nothing is clear at this point; cell phones could be perfectly safe, or they could be the handheld equivalent of a brain microwave. With typical scientific caution, docs are advising nervous users to keep their calls short and to invest in that earpiece/microphone contraption that keeps the phone antenna as far away from the caller's head as possible (and coincidentally also makes everyone look like they're carrying on a fascinating conversation with themselves).

So let's recap. Last year, everything was just fine. I was happy as I used my Nokia to order gourmet potato chips that I could afford because of my burgeoning portfolio. Now I'm staring down financial ruin, impending brain damage and an eerily complementary brain tumor. What a wonderful new century — I'm certainly glad I won't be around for the next one.