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Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2006 11:03 am

Here and there, part 2

Not many things really seem to make sense, do they?

He was not from here; he was from there. He’d been here once before, with, at best, confusing results [see Bybee, “Here and there,” Feb. 23]. His previous visit had been a medical matter; this time he was here on business, and he expected a more logical conclusion. His company’s human-services software (job-application process, personnel, payroll) had become the private-sector standard. It was time to test the public-sector market. He targeted state government here because there were rumors of a problem.

His last visit had been a quick in-and-out affair; this trip, he’ll spend more time, get the feel of the place, look around.

The sign in front of the grade school reads “Drug-Free School Zone,” and he sees no logic to it. Did the school have another zone where drugs were allowed? A zone where drugs were not free? He drives on, passing another school without a drug sign — does this one encourage drugs? He puts the puzzle aside and continued driving.

A road sign reads “No U-Turn, Authorized Vehicles Only,” and again he seeks reason. Are only “authorized” vehicles barred from making U-turns? In any case, why include “Authorized Vehicles Only” on the sign? “Authorized” drivers know they are allowed to make U-turns; no need for a sign to re-say it. And if the sign were intended for general (unauthorized) motorists, it would only need to say “No U-Turn.”

A restaurant appears from the morning mist. He stores away the sign conundrums and goes inside.

The “Thief Height Identification” strip pasted beside the restaurant’s door stretches from 3 to 7 feet. He visualizes an after-robbery scenario.

Cashier: There were two of ’em: One was about 3 foot 2 inches; the other one was taller, maybe 3 foot 6 inches.

Officer: Any distinguishing marks?

Perhaps the little people robbed the restaurant because, just as they were about to sell drugs at the grade school, they spotted the sign reading “Drug-Free School Zone.”

“Damn!” exclaims Diminutive Dave.

“We’ll do no dope business here today,” says Sam the Short. “Let’s rob a restaurant.”

The robbery goes well, but Sam and Dave are pulled over after they make a U-turn.

Officer: That No U-Turn sign ain’t there for the fun of it, boys.

Dave: This car isn’t authorized.

Officer: What?

Dave: Sign says only authorized vehicles can’t make a U-turn, and I’m driving an unauthorized car.

Officer: How do I know it’s unauthorized?

Dave: Here’s the registration. The car isn’t even mine; I just now borrowed it from a restaurant parking lot.

Officer: Everything seems in order, but . . . how tall are you?

Dave: Three-foot-10.

Officer: And you?

Sam: Three-foot-9.

Officer: A bit too tall to be suspect —- on your way, then, but be careful.

Back to the restaurant reality. The three people in the corner booth all wear state-employee identification badges. The man from there tries conversation — maybe he can get some usable information.

“How’s it going, gentlemen?”

Worker No. 1: I have 10 years and 2 months till retirement.

Worker No. 2: I have 6 years and 8 months till retirement.

Worker No. 3: I have 2 years, 1 month, and 16 days till retirement.

He returns to his morning newspaper. In response to an inquiry about circumventing legal hiring process, the governor here says, “We’re not even afraid to police people, you know, who are working for us who have responsibilities” [see the State Journal-Register, July 2].

Because no one as smart as “a governor” can speak so incoherently, unless on purpose, it is then logical that some people working for him have “no responsibilities.” Otherwise, why qualify the statement with “who have responsibilities”?

A problem: Accommodating workers with no responsibilities will be an expensive modification to his software, because his system requires that all employees have responsibilities — the system links its data tables accordingly. Actual responsibilities are key to his system — to all personnel-payroll systems, for that matter, except, it seems, for here.

All is different here. All is illogical here. His software cannot help here. He leaves! His car radio is quoting George W. Bush on education; “The literacy level of our children are appalling.” And again: “They never ask the question ‘Is our children learning?’ ”

His head hurts. He inserts a James Taylor CD and lets the music spirit him away from the madness here — back to there.

He floats back to 1976, college days, when he, too, had no responsibilities and he “are” learning and literate. He’s atop a hillside painted in wildflowers. A beautiful young woman wearing a dress made from one part gentle breeze and one part fading August sunshine pours him a glass of cool summer wine. Taylor sings, “There’s something in the way she moves.”

Back there.

Contact Doug Bybee Sr. at dougbybee@sbcglobal.net.

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