The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Friday, March 05, 2010

DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT THE FRENCH I TOOK: I don’t know a lot about a lot of things. The finer points of Christian theology are a mystery to me, as are higher mathematics, medium mathematics, and most lower mathematics as well. When I was a boy I could bisect an angle with the greatest of ease; this was my one and only mathematical accomplishment throughout elementary and secondary school and I was very proud of my talent; but in the years since I left school no one has asked me to bisect an angle, not even a little one, and so my bisecting skills have vanished from want of practice. Even without mathematics in its various permutations, there are still plenty of things that I do not understand nowadays. For example, you may not have heard about this—in fact, there’s no reason why you should have heard about it, which is why I’m telling you about it now—but this week has been a very good week for the forces of law and order here in our happy little burg. Yes, the citizenry can nestle safe in their beds tonight, happy in the knowledge that our local gendarmerie, a stout-hearted body of men admired by all here, despite their proclivity for suing the mayor, the chief of police, and the city council for reasons best known to themselves, have finally, after a months long investigation, smashed a large and vicious criminal gang trafficking in stolen pound cakes. We, the law abiding denizens of our happy little burg, can only congratulate our men in blue for their stalwart efforts to protect us from the depredations of local socioeconomically deprived pound cake pilferers and we hope that the police and the district attorney’s office will 1.) Prosecute these malefactors to the fullest extent of the law and send them to prison for a very long time, 2.) Don’t beat the crap out of the suspects just for the fun of clobbering the felonious, a practice prevalent in this neck of the woods, even if various other authorities frown on the practice, and 3.) Don’t do something incredibly stupid like eating the evidence, which is exactly the sort of dumbass thing you’d expect those clowns to do if you gave them half a chance.

Pound cake thievery is one of the few persistent social problems hereabouts, the others being the illegal production of chocolate bundt cakes and the further depredations of the Pisser, a local desperado known for writing obscene messages about the Mayor on the sidewalk in front of City Hall with the eponymous bodily fluid as his ink of choice. In any case, scarcely a day goes by here without some good citizen calling police headquarters to complain that someone has broken into their homes and made off with their pound cakes. As far as I can tell, we are the only municipality in the area with this problem. In the slough of urban despond immediately across the river from us, for instance, the majority of the antisocial element concentrates on such remunerative crimes as selling drugs and armed robbery, and ignore baked goods entirely. Why thieves would choose to target pound cakes is a mystery to me and to everyone else in town, but the citizenry has clearly taken all they intend to endure: while out walking a few weeks ago I saw a woman catch one of the thieves red-handed; the battle between the two of them had spilled out into the street, with the woman quickly gaining the upper hand; when the police finally arrived she had the young punk down on the ground and was busy trying to choke him to death with a chafing dish. But while I approve of the citizenry beating these young thugs to within an inch of their lives with whatever crockery is at hand, I still don’t understand why anyone would want to steal pound cakes for a living in the first place. I just don’t get it. Maybe I’m slow.

I see a lot of odd things when I am out walking, some of which I don’t understand at all. Today, for example, I saw the UPS man delivering parcels to our local post office. At first, I gave the matter no thought; you see UPS and FedEx delivery people every day of the week on every street from one end of this our Great Republic to the other; it is, after all, a free country, or so people keep telling me, and UPS and FedEx can deliver stuff to anyone willing to pay them to have stuff delivered. And then something besides a nun or my mother struck me: the United States Postal Service uses UPS. Now, if I remember this correctly, the USPS is in the business of delivering stuff. UPS and FedEx are also in the business of delivering stuff. What’s more, the USPS is a semi-governmental stuff delivering organization, which is a roundabout way of saying that the USPS loses money hand over fist every year delivering stuff and that the taxpayers then have to make up the shortfall on the Postal Service’s bottom line (NOTE to the interested: the Confederate Post Office was the only Post Office in American history to make money. Really, it was; you can look it up). UPS and FedEx, on the other hand, are not semi-governmental stuff delivering organizations and therefore do not require me to make up their annual financial shortfalls, assuming they have annual financial shortfalls. But when you are a semi-governmental stuff delivering organization, you get to do things like hire your competition to deliver your stuff for you. For the casual observer, having a semi-governmental organization that delivers stuff for a living use its competition in the stuff delivering business to deliver its stuff leads ineluctably, a word I just saw in the Reader’s Digest and am now using here for the first time, to the question of why not have UPS and FedEx deliver everyone’s stuff and cut out the USPS entirely? This makes sense to a lot of people, none of whom have a government job. If they did, they would know better than to think such foolish thoughts.

And then there are the vegan bicycles for Haiti. I must admit that the question of sending bicycles, whether they be vegan, omnivorous, or carnivorous, to a disaster zone is one that had never occurred to me before, although I am sure there must be some connection between the two; there is scarcely a wall or a telephone pole anywhere within the city limits not covered with handbills announcing that vegan bicycles are raising money for Haiti. I’ve read most of these handbills and I still have no damn clue what a vegan bicycle might be. I know who vegans are, of course; in the main, vegans are gastronomic snobs who believe that their refusal to consume any sort of animal product whatsoever bestows upon them a moral stature vastly superior to the boorish omnivorous masses who enjoy stuffing their pie holes with a Big Mac, French fries, and a large Coke every now and again. I still, however, do not grasp the connection such odd eating habits might have with Haitian relief or even with bicycles, for that matter. Bicycles have always seemed somewhat non-ideological to me, unlike, for example, roller skates and pogo sticks, both of which have a whiff of the demagogic about them, but then, I haven’t ridden a bike in almost thirty years and anything can happen in that amount of time. So, I still don’t understand what’s going on, but there’s nothing new about that, unfortunately. I am sure the Haitians will be happy to have the money, or the bicycles, no matter what their make or eating habits might be. Maybe the vegan bicycles could have a bake sale; it’s not like they have to worry about the pound cake pirates anymore; and they could have UPS or FedEx deliver the proceeds, along with whatever other stuff the USPS doesn’t want to deliver.

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