Tue, Nov 11, 2008, 00:00

Today Con Textlooks at Pews

Pull up a pew there and tell me all about it.

More infectious than Sars, more depressing than Sad, and causing more bad tempers than PMT, Pews is a new affliction that is overwhelming society like a landslide.

Oh my God! When exactly did this outbreak occur?

On Wednesday, November 5th, actually. Pews is Post-Election Withdrawal Syndrome, and it's affecting millions of people not just in the US but in any country where interest in the presidential election ran high. On Wednesday, the world woke up to a bright new dawn in US politics, but also faced the dark prospect of having to find something else to talk about.

How does Pews manifest itself?

Fidgeting, twitching, insomnia and, in some extreme cases, total dementia. Victims find themselves involuntarily reaching for the TV remote control in expectation of tuning into election coverage, or flicking feverishly through newspapers in the vain hope of finding election-related articles. Sufferers become bored with any conversation that doesn't revolve around Barack Obama. Some women with extreme Pews find themselves uninterested in fashion, unless it involves Sarah Palin's wardrobe. Even The Daily Show with Jon Stewartdoesn't seem so funny any more.

This is serious. Surely the election can't have been that compelling.

For those who have been suddenly deprived of their daily fix of US election coverage, it's been like losing a leg. They've been used to having the election served up with their morning coffee, pored over at the water cooler, and deconstructed in the pub each night. These election addicts have had the proverbial rug pulled out from under them, and now they have to stand on their own two feet and try and fit back into normal life.

That shouldn't be too hard. There's plenty of stuff out there to stimulate the interest. RTÉ's winter schedule, for instance . . .

For people with Pews, the end of the US election leaves a hole the size of the Grand Canyon, and it'll take more than Gerry Ryan to fill it. One blogger (search for "US election" on sums up the feeling: "I don't think I realised just how much energy and emotion I had wrapped up in this thing and now that it's over, I'm kind of wasted. I'm happy, don't get me wrong, but my motivation to do other things is rather low and I almost feel sad. Kind of like when Christmas is over.

"You're happy with what you got but all that anticipation and excitement has ended and now you're left with the wrapping paper and taking down the tree and it's not the same, somehow. I'm having trouble transitioning."

But, at the end of the day, it's only an election.

That's like saying football is only a game. Interest in the 2008 US election has been feverish, largely due to the rise of Obamania and the entertainment value delivered by the Sarah Palin soap opera. This election also brought out a record number of voters: where they would have normally been apathetic about these matters, they've been fired up by the chance to effect real change. After the adrenalin rush of election euphoria, the world seems dull and ordinary again.

A few people, at least, have something to look forward to in nine months' time - the arrival of their "Obama baby", conceived during the election-night celebrations.

So how are we going to tackle this epidemic?

Time is a great healer, say the experts. They recommend a period of reflection and recuperation, during which patients can slowly, painstakingly, come to terms with the passing of the election, followed by a period of rehabilitation so that they can gradually get used to performing normal, everyday functions, such as watching regular TV programmes, talking about such tedious topics as the weather and the credit crunch, and actually going to bed at night.

How long will this extended recovery period last?

Oh, about a week.

Try at work:"Since we elected our new union representative, I feel strangely empty."

Try at home:"He's been listless, uncommunicative and has abandoned all personal hygiene - so everything's back to normal."