‘Twas a fine summer’s night, as I recall, a couple decades ago. Anna and I were out rolling around, soaking it all in, not a care in the world.
We happened upon Oz Park, the bustling public park one block from where we lived at Over the Rainbow Apartments, a public housing development for cripples. Off in the distance, we heard elephant noises. And then we heard them again. We discovered that the source of the elephant noise was a couple of elephants.
What the hell? Why were there elephants loose in Oz Park? As far as we could tell, it was some sort of traveling petting zoo type of thing. The elephants were closely watched by keepers.
We rolled forward to take a closer look. But as we approached, the elephants whinnied and trumpeted. They rose up on their hind legs and shadow boxed. They handlers were alarmed. They looked around to see what was suddenly spooking the elephants. They looked at us. Everybody else looked at us. We stopped. We backed off.
But hell, it wasn’t our fault! Nobody ever told us that elephants are spooked by wheelchairs! There were no warning labels on our chairs telling us to stay away from elephants or anything like that. I guess when we backed off that removed the source of agitation. Otherwise we would have heard about it for sure. It would’ve been all over the news: Cripples Incite Elephant Stampede.
And the political aftershocks would have been felt for decades. The extensive property damage caused by frantic elephants trampling our upscale Lincoln Park neighborhood would have been Exhibit A for NIMBYs when educating the citizenry about the unspeakable things that can happen when crippled public housing goes up next door. Angry NIMBYs would have surrounded Over the Rainbow, demanding the eviction of all cripples. Some of the NIMBYs didn’t want us there in the first place. Painted on the wall of the building next to Over the Rainbow was a picture of a tree and the words We Shall Not Be Moved. Apparently the plot on which Over the Rainbow was built was once a vegetable garden and some neighbors were adamant about keeping it that way. I guess a compromise was reached— it would no longer be a garden but because it was cripple public housing, it would still be a home for vegetables.
Those were probably the same NIMBYs that once picketed the nearby children’s hospital. When they heard of the plan to build a heliport on the roof of the hospital, they mobilized. I guess they feared that all the noise from helicopters bringing in sick children might flatten their soufflés.
The NIMBYs would’ve demanded that the authorities charge us with inciting an elephant stampede. The ensuing publicity from our trial would’ve had a widespread chilling effect on the construction of public housing for cripples. Of course we’d put up a vigorous legal defense. Whoever issued the permit for an elephant petting zoo, we'd assert, should have done their due diligence and realized there was public housing for cripples right around the corner! But it probably would have been futile.
So it's a good thing we backed off. But it's inevitable that there will be a similar stampede someday, wherever there is crippled public housing and elephant roam. So I still think there ought to be a warning label.