In case you didn’t know this: stupid people are not, legally, supposed to be able to get married. And that’s not because we’re afraid they will reproduce a bloody genius.
No, we’re afraid they’ll breed more congressmen, legislators, city council twits and, worst of all, more lawyers.
Which is why, the other day, when I stopped to talk to a police officer I had to pause to think why more parents weren’t required to eat their young.
The officer’s blue and white car, with its coruscating bubble gum lights ice-picking chunks of a Philadelphia afternoon, was barring traffic from passing thru the 900 block of a street construction site.
Traffic was backed up for at least the eight to ten blocks my squinting hazel eyes could see. Probably all the way to the Schuylkill River 20 blocks back. Philadelphia’s Pine Street, one of the major center city arteries known for its antiques row, runs one-way east to the city’s other tributary the Delaware River. And intersecting Tenth Street runs one way south.
You with me, now?
So the onslaught of traffic, with no prior warnings for a number of ongoing days, was all forced to turn south on Tenth. This, naturally, ignited a cacophony of angry horns, punctuated hand gestures, and infuriated operas that were only out-fortissimoed by people’s surging blood pressure.
Even as a pedestrian I was a tad over annoyed. I tapped on the officer’s car window. He politely lowered it as I asked: “Come on, buddy, there’s got to be a better way.”
He held the beatific grin of an amiable young man who has found noble peace in not allowing his thoughts to aggravate him. Worse yet, he said he was just following orders.
Hmmm… and I thought we killed all those Nazis.
I mean, I posed that if I ordered him to stick his head up where only a proctologist could dislodge it, would he?
Of course not, he said, no matter what sort of chauvinist pig his future ex-wife may accuse him of being.
So you don’t just follow orders, I parried. You think about them while you’re sitting here all day no doubt trying to figure out how to suggest a better way than the stupid way Philadelphia and most cities in America, have been doing things poorly the last 100 years.
Isn’t that part of your job — union or not — to come up with suggestions to do what you do every day — bigger, better and cheaper?
Hmmm… I didn’t get the feeling I was connecting. You know, generating enough heat to knock the starch out of his freshly pressed uniform. Obviously this pleasant officer wasn’t going to fold easily like hot laundry.
So I suggested: why don’t you just put a barrier up here and mosey on down the block and direct traffic. Then people will, at least, have options.
“People try to drive around barriers,” he said. “Then they can’t go any further. Have to back up. Creates a real mess.”
So let me get this straight. On the chance that one driver in a 1000 will try to go around the barrier and create a momentary traffic snare, you’d rather ruin everybody’s day. And exacerbate their angst about Philadelphia.
He looked me over pensively from his car seat. Thought for a moment. Took another bite of his oversized sandwich. Munched. Stared out the passenger window at the honking traffic. Munched some more as his mind’s eye wondered into that foreign territory – thinking. Paused to focus on another bite.
And never got back to thinking.
Hello! Is this the party to whom I am speaking?
At that I offered that if man can invent barriers that prevent women from getting pregnant, don’t you think you could construct a barrier to prevent a driver from penetrating the construction site?
Or – voila! – perhaps the street construction contractor should be required to do it.
The officer smiled politely and repeated: “I am just following my orders.”
He said it works like this: The contractor pays the city for a policeman to block traffic. He tells the city where he wants the officer. Then it comes down the chain of command. Today it is he. Someone else tomorrow.
“We are told what to do,” he said. “I don’t have much of a choice.”
Whew! Whatever happened to America? Although, I hate to have to admit, this was happening long before Bush, Dick and their fellow Sodomites left America mentally incarcerated behind the barbed-wire and chain-linked fences.
I want to say I have never come across a situation so dismal that a policeman couldn’t make it worse. But I really got to wondering about all these stone-headed contractors and city officials and police officials knocking about like Fred Flintstone, telling Barney Rubble, telling Betty…and so forth.
The contractor doesn’t care about the traffic. The city official doesn’t care. The police chain of command doesn’t care. This is just paperwork stuff. And the public be damn.
So, why am I expecting this polite, courteous lowly cop, who is just trying to get through the territory to his pension 20 years down the way, to care more than a polar bear eating its own young.
I realized he doesn’t have much of a choice. He seemed like a decent young man. If he tried to make a few waves, like a change in procedures, he could have a sergeant or captain that could make his life abjectly miserable. And for what? And why?
Yet, if it’s not his job. Or their job. Then who’s job is it?
I mean, I complain to my lawyer friends that it isn’t up to me to clean up their criminal criminal and incivil injustice system. It is up to them. But they are too busy making money.
It isn’t up to me to clean up the impossible medical system. It’s up to the docs and medical experts. But they are all too busy making lots of money.
And we know about many cops who are too busy making lots of money, but not from their day jobs. And then there are the politicians and Wall Streeters and the rest of the bozos and Neanderthals speaking out of both sides of their mouths while grabbing lots of money in their diamond ring fists.
It is everybody’s problem. And it is nobody’s problem. And money is at the root of the problem.
The trouble is, we ain’t got nobody kicking our fat asses, barking that if we want things to change, then do it! Or maybe our TVs are just too loud for us to hear.
What’s worse is that most of us seem to be afraid to make some noise. And the “suits” above us are so bureaucratically indoctrinated in the safe haven of procedures that while our world is falling apart, they still stick to the actions that have been failing us since rugged individualism went out of fashion.
The officer is just following orders. And I can appreciate that. We all must march to a drummer from time to time. But we also all must – each and everyone – make a noise so deafening, that when we are no longer here, the silence will even be more deafening.
Change something! Even if it is only your underwear!
The snarling and honking and gesticulating traffic near the policeman and me was a bad symphony of discordant angst. But no one was asking the question of why do stupid things keep happening to stupid people.
Perhaps the answer is that no matter how smart we think we are, we still spend most of our days being an idiot.
Or, as Einstein said: Only two things are infinite – the universe and human stupidity – and I’m not sure about the former.
And dats yDrewIS on DIS penal colony.