Saturday, December 31, 2022

Only the Most Deserving

 There’s a big cardboard box right next to the exit of my local grocery store. On the side of the box is a sign urging everyone to support the Chicago Bears Coat Drive by depositing a coat into the box. The sign says the coats will be distributed to “deserving “people.

Deserving? I wonder who deserves to freeze to death and who doesn’t and what criteria is applied to determine who qualifies as deserving.

It seems that people who are physically crippled, like me, at least survive the first cut when it comes to being considered deserving. Or at least that’s the impression I get when I see those commercials soliciting donations for Disabled American Veterans or the Wounded Warrior Project. All the crippled vets in these commercials have physical disabilities that are immediately obvious. like they’re missing limbs or riding around in wheelchairs.

But there are tons of vets who are wounded in war in ways that aren’t physical or obvious. They have PTSD and stuff like that. Hell, I don’t see how anybody could fight in a war and not have PTSD.

These people are as crippled as I am. But I don’t see anyone like them in those commercials. It’s probably because when you’re begging for donations, you don’t want to take time to explain how some cripples don’t look crippled but they really are and thus they are just as deserving (or not) as those whose wounds are obvious. You just want to get straight to the point, so you stick with those whose wounds speak for themselves.

But even among physical cripples, some of us are considered to be more deserving than others. It matters how you became crippled. The most deserving are those who became crippled in some noble way, such as defending our freedom or foiling a bank robbery. That’s why crippled former soldiers and cops are seen as the most deserving of the deserving. Next come people who were born crippled, like me. People are more likely to forgive us for being crippled because we have a certain innocence. We got this way through no fault of our own. But if you became crippled doing something stupid or nefarious, like diving naked into a shallow river or in a botched bank robbery, you automatically join the ranks of the least palatable and sympathetic of cripples.

So, suppose the Chicago Bears only have one coat left and I show up to ask for it at the same time another guy who’s also in a wheelchair and looks just as crippled as I do also shows up to ask for it. If he’s a vet who was wounded on the battlefield, I imagine he’ll get the coat and I’ll get to freeze to death. But if the other person who shows up at the same time doesn’t look  crippled but says they have PTSD, then the last coat will probably go to me. Of course, if that person is also a vet, that might score them enough points toward becoming considered deserving to cancel out my natural advantage. In that case, whoever it is that decides who deserves the coat might have to rip it down the middle and give us each half.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2022

The Great Purge


In this city they recently passed one of those purge laws, just like in the movie.  As a result, all laws were suspended for one day and everybody could do anything they wanted with no consequences.

Many citizens feared a bloody rampage would break out, so they locked themselves in their homes for the duration. But I had more faith in my fellow humans than that, so I went out and about my business, just like it was any other day.

Boy was that a mistake. My day was booked solid. First, I stopped at my friendly neighborhood coffee shop as I often do. Because it’s in an old building there is a step on the front entrance, but I’ve always been able to get into the place because the proprietor always puts out a ramp. But the ramp wasn’t there.

So I knocked on the window until I got the proprietor’s attention. When she came outside, I said to her, “Where’s the ramp?”

She said, “Oh I’m not putting it out today. I have too many other things to do.”

“You can’t do that!” I said. “It’s against the law!”

“What law?” she said and went back inside,

At first, I was furious. But then I realized that on this day, I couldn’t do anything about it. So I swallowed my indignation and went to the bus stop so I could take public transit to my next appointment of the day.

But when the bus arrived the driver opened the door and said, “Sorry, no wheelchairs allowed on the bus today.”

“Why not?” I protested.

“Because I got a schedule to keep,” he said. “And if I stop to pick you up, I’ll be way behind. And besides, you’re a fire hazard. What if the bus starts on fire and everybody has to escape? You’ll clog things up!” He closed the door and drove off.

After that, I just turned around and went home and stayed there until the purge expired. I didn’t feel safe and protected in such a lawless world.

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Friday, December 9, 2022

Laughing Gas

Back when I was in college, about 45 years ago, my roommate told me he’d met a couple of guys who had a new and unique way of getting high and he invited them to come over so he could get high with them. He said I could join them if I wanted to.

A few days later, two guys who were about in their early 20s or so, like us, arrived toting something that looked like an oxygen tank. It turned out it was full of laughing gas.

I didn’t know there really was such a thing as laughing gas. I thought it was just some fictional device that mostly appeared in comic strips. But I guess it was a euphemistic name for an anesthetic used by dentists, at least at the time.

And I didn’t know how these guys managed to score a tank of laughing gas. Were there pushers in dark alleys who dealt such wares? Or maybe one of them had a parent or uncle or somebody in their life who was a dentist and they swiped a tank of laughing gas from their office.

Anyway, this opportunity was too unique to pass up so I sat in a circle in my living room with my roommate and those two other guys and the tank of laughing gas was in the center of the circle between us all.  And we took turns inhaling the laughing gas and every once in a while somebody would burst out laughing out of the blue.

I don’t remember laughing or even being moved to laugh. And I never did laughing gas again. That’s ironic because I’ve spent a lot of my life since then seeking out laughs. Except I use more natural and organic sources to make me laugh, like reading Mark Twain or watching stuff like the Marx Brothers, Monty Python, the Three Stooges or a Mel Brooks movie.

And speaking of the Stooges, there’s a particularly hilarious episode where they accidentally end up in the army and on the battlefield a bomb that says LAUGHING GAS on it explodes near them. They’re all laughing their asses of off as the Nazis take them prisoner and take them to their headquarters. And at the headquarters the Stooges keep laughing their asses off as they beat the shit out of the Nazis.

Wouldn’t it be great if we really could weaponize laughing gas like that? You fire one of those missiles at your enemies and they laugh their asses off. And nobody can fight because they’re laughing too hard. Make jokes not war.

The world sure would be a better place if that’s how we fought wars. Whoever invented a laughing gas bomb would surely win the Nobel Peace Prize.

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