2004-09-16 / This Week's Attitude

Despite The Hype, Summer Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over

This Week

This Week’sAttitude By Neil S. Friedman

Doncha hate it when an enduring season’s conclusion — especially summer — is prematurely ushered in? Life is fleeting enough without artificial interference abridging the seasons. (Actually, I couldn’t care less if winter ceased by mid-February.)

I distinctly recall, when I was 10 or 11, my mother telling me that as I got older the years would seem to pass more quickly. I didn’t think about it too much then, but I gradually grasped the concept when I began experiencing it as I aged. Every year is constant — 365 days (except 366 in Leap years), 52 weeks and 12 months — but until you live it for a while, you can’t understand or adjust to the speeding passage of time.

Parents get a precise handle on this as they watch their children become adults in what seems the brief-est stage. “Turn around and they’re grown,” to paraphrase a song.

Though the calendar that governs our lives runs from January through December, September has, for some inexplicable reason, arbitrarily become an an-nual starting point for some fresh ideas and cultural replenishment.

Let’s examine this seasonal haste, for argument’s sake, with the Christmas advertising and shopping season that’ll soon be upon us. I didn’t pay too much attention when I was younger, but I recall when holiday ads and shopping weren’t evident until after Halloween. I know it’s sensible to get Christmas shopping done early, but September is just plain ridiculous to promote December holiday buying!

Furthermore, I always found it out of sync when car manufacturers introduce next year’s models in late summer – a good four months early. When you purchase a 2005 model car this month, it’s more than three months old when the New Year commences. Nonetheless, carmakers most likely introduced this savvy marketing tactic to satisfy impatient, competitive consumers, who could then brag about being the first on the block to have the latest model automobile.

The motion picture industry is perhaps the guiltiest of all when it comes to hastening the seasons. Not long after multicolored Easter eggs are discovered, Hollywood starts flaunting — and distributing — summer movies! Americans in northern climes are trying to savor and welcome mild spring weather after a cabin-fever winter, yet Hollywood honchos can’t wait to premiere summer blockbusters.

The major network television season is recharged every September as it has been for more than half a century. However, years ago when the average series offered nearly 26 new episodes a season, it made sense to coincide with the new school year, as viewers were prone to be home-based. Summers used to be exclusively restricted to reruns as viewership tended to fall off.

But the television landscape and viewers’ habits drastically changed with the explosion of cable and satellite alternatives. Broadcast series scatter fresh episodes, which number about 22 per year, between September and May, but, for the most part, air them only during key fall, winter and spring ratings periods, which determine future advertising rates. The remaining schedule is littered with reruns, burning off failed shows, second-rate prospects, and “encores,” a term used to ward off a déjà vu mindset for viewers.

The news media sticks to the scenario, too, when it hypes Labor Day weekend as the “unofficial” end of summer. Of course it’s unofficial, the Autumnal Equinox is still three weeks away!

Through high school, the academic year is generally the guide students use rather than the regular calendar. Growing up, it always felt like summer was over when my mother — with my brother and I in tow — interrupted our outdoor activities and made a beeline for back-to-school shopping — before Labor Day — for school supplies, plus a new wardrobe for school and the approaching Jewish holidays. I re-member being strongly cautioned not to wear newly purchased dress shoes before Rosh Hashanah so as not to scuff them up, as children are wont to do, too soon. New Year’s Eve may also have less significance for younger students because all it signals is the end of Christmas break rather than start of another year.

Time passes quickly enough without needless nudging from slick marketers motivated solely by bottom-line profits. So if you’re dismayed because the new school year’s upon us and the fall television schedule is in progress, don’t be too downcast. Though there’s been a hint of autumn chill of late, fall foliage won’t be too conspicuous in the tri-state area for several weeks. And, a fleeting, though un-welcome, return of hazy, hot and humid weather may still be in our immediate future.

Real summer’s end is six days away, so savor every waking minute!

To paraphrase great word corrupter, Yogi Berra — summer ain’t over ‘til it’s over.

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