Sunday, July 1, 2018

“Just In Case”

     Recently I’ve been humming or softly singing “Cleaning My Gun” pretty much continuously as I go about my day. It’s not a “traditionally catchy” song, but it lodges in the memory, especially a memory like mine, which seems to trap everything and hold onto it all indefinitely. It’s especially appropriate to today, here in the Land of the Formerly Free.

     The verse that really resonates with me is, of course:

We had women and a mirror ball, we had a DJ
We used to eat pretty much all came this way
Ever since the goons came in took apart the place
I keep a tire iron in the corner just in case

     Sounds like they were having fun...before the “goons” came in. Which “goons” he has in mind, Mark Knopfler never specifies.

     Maybe he felt no need. We each have our own “goons” in mind. Whether they’re an appropriate focus for one’s fears, no one else can say. But the “tire iron in the corner just in case” is a unifying theme. And in this Curmudgeon’s not particularly humble opinion, it’s an appropriate one.

     I’ve written before about how individual freedom today is largely a matter of contriving not to be noticed. If you’re too conspicuous about doing what you please, you’ll attract attention. I hardly need to detail the possible consequences of attracting government attention. But there are other kinds of attention most Americans would rather not receive.

     (Somewhere in my humor archives, I have a bit titled “You Know It’s Going To Be A Bad Day When,” which lists a few items just about anyone would find ominous. One of my favorites is “You get to work and find a 60 Minutes camera crew in your office.” I think we could get general agreement on that being a harbinger of pain and sorrow to come.)

     Neighborly attention is generally regarded as harmless most of the time. There are exceptions, of course. No one wants to find a neighbor rummaging through his toolshed, regardless of how well the two of you get along most of the time. But in recent years it’s become steadily more important to limit the amount one’s neighbors know about one’s activities and affinities.

     Do you own a gun or two? These days a lot of people get unduly nervous about living near someone who owns guns. Never mind that the typical armed criminal is unlikely to live in a typical suburban subdivision. (If you’re a city-dweller, the probability that you possess guns drops sharply.) Never mind that we’ve all been indoctrinated about the safe storage of guns to the point that the only sort of jerk who’d leave one lying about, ready to anyone’s hand, would be a lunatic...and he tends not to live in a typical suburban subdivision, either. Brings the property values down, don’t y’know.

     Maybe you like your spirits. Maybe you like them enough to purchase them in case lots, from distant vineyards and distilleries, and get them delivered by UPS. You might not want your neighbors to get too interested in that, either. There’s a pretty strong correlation between addresses that get frequent parcel deliveries and addresses that suffer frequent break-ins. Sad in this day of, but true.

     Is your spouse unusually attractive? Does she frequently wear expensive clothing or jewelry? Those are markers for lots of attention you might be better off without. Even omitting the break-ins possibility, they often excite unhealthful envy – specifically, unhealthful for its target. It’s always been considered foolish to own the best house in the neighborhood; this is merely an extension of the underlying principle.

     Time was, these things would have been innocuous. Today, we keep a tire iron in the corner...just in case.

     Gadding about isn’t something we do as casually as we once did, either. The typical American making his way down a public street is more “situationally aware” than his father and grandfather were under similar circumstances. The likelihood of being the victim of a mugging or a purse-snatching is on a lot of minds. It’s particularly acute for women, which has caused women to cluster more frequently than in previous generations. And no one sends an unaccompanied ten-year-old down to the corner store for a pound of cheese any more.

     Driving an expensive car is another factor that elevates the hazards. A few years ago we saw the rise of “bump-and-rob” incidents on the streets. Innocent citizen Smith is unable to proceed because of the car in front of him when the car behind him whacks his rear bumper hard enough to leave the dreaded “hidden damage.” Smith is advised to stay in his car. The drivers of the cars confining his movement just might be armed and unfriendly.

     I don’t think I need to say anything about travel by air. Let it suffice to say that I haven’t boarded a plane since 1990, and I don’t think I will ever again.

     Whatever you’re doing, wherever and with whomever you’re doing it, it’s not as safe to be noticed as it once was. Envy is rampant. So are young men from...interesting cultures. And so are persons willing to tattle on you to the Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnibenevolent State for something or other. A low profile is just about the only way to keep such persons out of your hair and wallet.

     It’s not enough to deflect inappropriate inquiries from physicians, school officials, and the takers of opinion surveys. A lot of people are looking for a reason to take offense and itching to do something about it. You don’t want their attention. Trust me on that.

     But of course, one cannot lead one’s life under a cloak of invisibility. (The damned things are heavy and hot.) Any interaction you have with anyone could touch off a series of events that would eventuate in sorrow. You knew that before starting to read this essay.

     That’s why you keep a tire iron in the corner. Just in case.


Unknown said...

The line about 60 minutes camera crew struck a nerve in me as I remember a few decades ago the company I worked for had an unpleasant encounter with 60 minutes. The company was portrayed as evil because they were associated with several retirement organizations thru which they mailed their ads for insurance marketed specifically for older citizens. These organizations mailed the ads free of charge because they were non-profit. 60 minutes felt this was an unfair advantage and made the company look like they were evil, greedy and only interested in making a profit. Truth be told the mailing arrangement was not illegal just a good business idea. Didn't matter, the episode aired and made the company out to be villains. Business dropped and many good workers lost their jobs. 60 minutes did a follow up several months later admitting the company had not done anything illegal but it was already too late. I have detested 60 minutes ever since.

Thomas said...

In the corner?
Hardly. I'm on the retail end of tire iron storage and miscellany, inc.

I can scarcely walk across the living room to the front door to yell out to the immediate world to "get the hell off my lawn" without stepping on yet another tire iron.

I can tell you this: if there is a tire that needs to be changed- and we all know there's one running off its rim right now- I'm more than willing (and able) to do it.

Oldfart said...

"... no one sends an unaccompanied ten-year-old down to the corner store for a pound of cheese any more."

I remember when I was about twelve years old and I was helping a neighbor blast stumps. We came upon one that was particularly tough. We expended the last of our dynamite on it and needed more.

The neighbor, a quiet old farmer of German extraction, wrote me a note which I took to the local General Store. I rode my bike the two miles or so to the store and returned with six sticks of "stump repellent'.

Try that nowadays!

Those WERE the good ol' days.