"Somewhere there ought to be a club for anti-social people.” — Ashleigh Brilliant.
I think I've found it, Mr. Brilliant! You know those signs every few miles along the freeways and highways that inform us just what group had signed up to be responsible for highway cleanup for a certain section of the road? They may have read: "Litter removal — next two miles — Dunsmuir Methodist Church” or "Litter Removal — next three miles — Employees of Dan's Diner.” We passed a very interesting one when we would drive to Ashland, Ore. to visit with our son and family. It read, "Litter Removal — next three miles — Loners of America.” This one always caught my attention: "Loners of America”! This must be an organization of people who want to be alone, right? But why would a loner want to organize?
When I saw that sign I wondered about a lot of other things, too, like how they communicated. By telephone? By email? When they carried out their job every three months or whatever, did they keep a certain distance so they could work alone? How does a person qualify to become a member? What was the original purpose of the organization and how did they find each other in the first place? Were they anti-social, or were they just people who enjoyed their own company? Did they ever get together, except possibly to clean up the highway? Were they single? Did they live alone, far from everyone else? Is Greta Garbo a charter member?
I would have loved to have known more about "Loners of America.” What kind of people could they be? If I were to meet them, would I admire them or think they're a bit odd? Were they hermits? After all of this, maybe "Loners of America” meant something entirely different, but I couldn't think what.
They are no doubt aware of the fact that in our culture spending time alone is highly underrated. In fact, it is discouraged by many (maybe a hangover from the Puritan ethic). Not to worry too much these days because even if they'd like to, most people are so busy that they rarely find time to be alone except maybe in the car on their way to work. And then the stress of traffic prevents this from being quality time.
For some people, being alone is frightening and they avoid it (consciously or unconsciously) like the plague. If solitude threatens, they turn on the television, get on the telephone or Internet, maybe go shopping, or take a nap. Or they might have a few drinks to numb the feeling. These types are very uncomfortable with themselves. They're not like Anne Morrow Lindbergh who wrote: "I find that there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before.”
"Loners of America” no doubt know that solitude (without television, radio or other distraction) can add a great deal to the quality of our lives. Cogitating and reflecting when we are alone can help us know ourselves better. It can also be a time for serious thought about such things as relationships, events, the future and our values. It is when we do our best creating — whether new ideas, poetry, music, handiwork or anything that challenges and/or intrigues us. It's when we contemplate and absorb or discard other people's ideas. It can be a great time to renew ourselves. But maybe "Loners of America” don't care about any of that — just want to do their own thing.
Well, finally, thanks to that amazing encyclopedia of the Internet, Google, I found out that "Loners of America” is a club for single RV owners. They have three rules: You must love to travel. You must have some type of RV. You must currently be single. Their motto is, "Where singles mingle.”
Of course, some "Loners of America” may simply be escaping — getting away from it all — avoiding the complications that arise when living among others. Maybe, like George Washington, they believe that "It is better to be alone than in bad company.” But whatever they do now that they're not "delittering” the Interstate, I hope they agree with Mr. Brilliant who would add: "I live in a world of my own, but visitors are always welcome.”
I guess members of "Loners of America” are not cleaning up the highway anywhere any more (nor any others that were listed on the signs along the way) but, according to Google, they are still organized. I'll bet they'd appreciate what William Cowper wrote: "How sweet, how passing sweet, is solitude! But grant me still a friend in my retreat, to whom I may whisper, Solitude is sweet.”
Since 1984, Dorothy Dimitre has written more than 650 columns for various local newspapers. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.