As the smoke of battle clears, it's time to draw a few lessons for voters and candidates from this week's nail-biting events:
1. Sock puppets are out. The sudden closure of pets.com - on election day - confirms Al Gore's decision not to use one of his own socks during the debates to explain global warming. Aides had hoped a little ventriloquism (Mr. Gore is an expert at that, too) would emphasize the vice president's softer side. But friends warned that Gov. George W. Bush would accuse him of using fuzzy socks.
2. Everyone who cares about American politics should move to Florida. That's where the real movers and shakers retire to watch political ads and take recorded phone calls from General Schwartzkopf and Paul Newman. (Here in Massachusetts, neither candidate wasted ad dollars. We heard nothing about the campaign till early returns interrupted "Buffy the Vampire Slayer.") Besides, Florida's prominence in the election seems entirely appropriate. The retirees down there have plenty of time to think about which candidate is more attractive.
3. If you want to be the center of attention but can't afford to run for president, become an undecided voter. Why be hemmed in by ideals when you could be interviewed by Katie Couric on national TV. Does life begin at conception? Who knows. Do the richest 1 percent of Americans deserve a tax break? I can't decide! Get back to me next week. And send a limo.
4. After decades of boring elections with their tediously definitive results, this week showed us the drama of voting by absentee ballot. To increase the suspense, mail yours back using the wrong ZIP code to General Schwartzkopf or Paul Newman. That should delay the results by another week or two. Miami officials may ask voters in the next election to stuff their ballots into bottles and throw them out to sea; results are expected during the hurricane season.
5. Don't concede defeat - even if you lose, but especially if you win. Gore considered convening a board of fellow astrophysicists to recalculate the results using quantum mechanics. But Bush knows Americans don't trust government. Why should we turn to some "election official" to tell us who won the election? We know how we voted.
Ron Charles is the Monitor's book editor.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society