We think being right is always a good thing. But it's not.
For instance, I always thought our congress was the biggest group of self-serving, callous, and cowardly hypocrites to gather in one place since the First Crusade.
And as the shutdown has proven, they are. But just because I'm right is no consolation. In fact there's a huge danger in being right in this case, namely thinking all public servants are uber-schmucks. It's something I have to guard against, and it's why I have to remind myself of our public employees who are doing good things.
Two examples have sprung to mind.
One is the new wall on what used to be Dorsey Street but is now Pelkey Lane. I don't know if you've noticed it, but you should. A few years ago the wall crumbled - badly. All kinds of warning tapes went up around it - and for good reason: With my Old Testament heritage, it looked like Jericho just after Joshua started doing his thing. Not only was the wall a disaster waiting to happen, but the street was a mess as well.
But no longer. Everything's been completely redone, and it's lovely to look at - even if you never noticed the wreck it used to be. And it wasn't done by magic or a team of federal disaster relief experts, but by our own village workers. Next time you drive on LaPan highway, check it out. It's the least you can do, just to get a sense of what gets done here that we too often don't appreciate, much less even notice.
A schmoozin' fool
Another issue - cops. There's another bunch that always gets bad-mouthed. Oh sure, they've got their share of nut jobs, power trippers and swine, but what profession doesn't?
Certainly, since I've gotten only one ticket in my life, I've had more cops give me breaks than tickets.
My biggest break was a real doozie.
As a kid I never had any of the traditional hobbies. I was too disorganized to collect stamps or coins; too impatient to build models, and too distracted to play a musical instrument. But one thing I could do was schmooze and I did. I'm still disorganized, impatient and distracted, but I'm one helluva schmoozer. Maybe I'm not world class, but I've if it ever becomes an NCAA sport, I know I'll be nationally ranked.
Everyone who knows me, knows this, and since I'm an equal-opportunity schmoozer, a lot of people who don't know me, know this as well. And such was a guy I seemed to run into by Riverside Park a lot and with whom I always chatted. We never had a memorable conversation, but we always had pleasant ones.
One day in the first week of February, our paths crossed and we did our usual visiting, and I remember asking him if he was getting ready for Carnival.
"Can't," he said. "I've gotta work that weekend."
"Too bad," I said. "But tell you what. I'll be your designated hell-raiser if you want."
He laughed, we chatted some more, and then went our separate ways.
Time flies when you're spacing out
A few days later I was on my way to school, just atop Easy Street Hill, when a trooper passed me, going the other way. I know a lot of people get nervous when they see troopers, but I'm not one of them, and for good reason: I always obey traffic laws. So when I got to the bottom of the hill and suddenly saw that a trooper car had snuck up in back of me, I got a bit rattled.
What the hey? I wondered. I'm not speeding, I haven't been speeding, but it seems like this dude is on my case.
And no sooner had I thought that, then his lights came on. I pulled over, as did he.
And then I suddenly remembered - my inspection! I'd noticed in early January that my inspection was up at the end of the month and I swore I'd do it, but one thing led to another (including 10 days overseas) so by the time I returned and got back in the swing of school, it'd completely slipped my mind.
When the trooper came up to my car, he was - lo and behold - the guy I shot the breeze with about Winter Carnival. I didn't know he was a trooper - then again, since I didn't even know his name, why would I?
We exchanged the usual perfunctory greetings; he asked for my registration and driver's license and I handed them over.
That done, he said, "So, you know why I pulled you over?"
"Yeah, my inspection," I said. "But, hey, it's only five days overdue."
"Correction," he said. "It's a year and five days overdue."
"Whuh? Whuh? Whuh? I managed.
And of course he was right. Somehow, I'd managed to space out, not a mere week with my inspection, but an entire year.
For once, the nationally ranked schmoozer was speechless.
I don't remember anything that happened after that (since I was probably in shock) except he let me go and I swore I'd get it inspected the next day. Which indeed I did.
Since then, I've never forgotten that favor.
I've also never forgotten to inspect my car on time.