Ordinarily, when you write an introductory paragraph, you have already arrived at some sort of conclusion, and you are just preparing for the body of the writing which will develop along preordained lines and arrive at the preordained conclusion. However, I haven’t figured everything out, so this is more of a diary entry. It just describes a bad day, which, like most bad days, has a funny side.
I suppose I should begin with a description of my bad mood. I’ll try (and likely fail) to keep it short.
I have been perplexed by the fact a single letter can alter the word “weeding” to “wedding” and make such a difference. “Weeding” no one wants to help with; you have to pay people to help, but “wedding” sparks more generous impulses. Everyone wants to help.
It just so happens I am far more serious than usual about my vegetable garden this year. Usually I can laugh, if the experiment results in amazingly fertilized weeds towering eight feet tall. I just notch it up to experience. “Next year I’ll handle weeding differently.”
But this year is different, with people’s retirement savings shrinking by 50% even as their retirement costs increase by 50%. I myself am not retired, but at age 69 most of my friends are, and I am well aware this is a disaster for people who worked long and hard, and trusted the “system”. It now looks like the “system” was not trustworthy.
With inflation so bad, people are looking for things to invest in that will not lose value. Some take their money from stocks and invest in gold. I don’t have that much money and own no stocks, but I invest in a sort of gold I dig from the dirt, called “carrots”. I am a gold miner.
How is this a good investment? Actually, it is a bad investment, at April rates. You see, if I plant eight feet of carrots it will see me and my wife through next winter, and I can handle weeding eight feet. But not thirty-two feet. Thirty-two feet involves hiring weeders, which raises the cost of the carrots. At April rates such carrots would be absurdly expensive, perhaps as much as ten dollars a pound. But, with the Swamp malfunctioning so grotesquely, April rates don’t even apply to June. In a worst-case scenario, carrots might be a hundred dollars a pound by November, in which case my bad investment mysteriously becomes a good one.
I have planted long rows of all sorts of stuff which will be handy to have, if we are in dire straits by Autumn, but I’m having a hard time finding workers. It’s hard enough finding workers for my Childcare, which pays my bills, and the extra work of the garden stresses me out.
Worst is that few see things as dire as I am seeing them, (though a few are starting to come around to my way of seeing). Most townsfolk are wonderful, for nothing phases them. They can be buffeted by life, and they are like the “Whos in Whoville”, who were not bothered when the “Grinch” stole Christmas and they sang carols anyway. I like such people very much, and they are one reason I plant extra carrots. A carrot might be a nice gift to give them, next Christmas.
But just because I like and admire them doesn’t mean I should have to give up on my garden. And that is the point where the frustration and irritation start to perturb my mind, and I find myself grumbling to God. And praying He help me stop muttering to my Maker, and instead sing “This is the day the Lord has made” when I arise.
But I want to garden yet am under a sort of pressure to be a family man and do family stuff, for example attend a grandchild’s ballgames. Not that it is a bad thing, especially when the class displayed by both the players and the crowd (on both sides) makes professional athletes look shameful. It was an excellent game, 2-0 with tension in every inning, and my grandson’s team came out on top.
Yet the whole time I’m thinking about my garden. I’m even thinking that, if I really cared, I’d sacrifice the ballgame for the garden. After all, it would be a terrible thing if my grandchild lacked a carrot next January, and it was my fault.
Thinking along these lines not only sours a delightful ballgame; it sours life in general. I was frowning at speeches at a granddaughter’s graduation. And it even was souring the approaching wedding of my daughter. I felt divided and irked by the fact my help was wanted even as few would help me. For example, the wedding involved all sorts of stuff arriving via UPS and Amazon, which resulted in a towering stack of cardboard boxes at the Childcare. Someone had to take them all to the recycling center, and that someone was me. It intruded upon my Saturday “day off” schedule of weed, weed, weed, transplant, and weed, and I confess to being a bit frosty, when I was asked to dispose of the cardboard. But I did it, muttering to my Maker. And my reward?
Lydia, my lone surviving goat, who lives a life as pampered as a cat, chose to use the time I was absent from the farm to carefully pick her way through all sorts of edible weeds to my pride and joy, (and favorite vegetable), some cauliflower plants which promised to grow heads a foot across, and chomped them down to mere stubs protruding from the earth.
All my warm feelings towards that goat vanished, and I considered turning her to goat-burgers. In other words, I was becoming unreasonable. It didn’t help when someone stated I should not blame the goat and instead should tend to my fences. Like I have time! I can’t even weed, when there isn’t rain and I have to water my long rows, in which case I am also watering the weeds!
In a way that could be my motto for the past two years: “Like I have time!”. Just as I have to choose between weeding and watering, there have been all too many situations wherein, in doing one thing, I neglect another.
For example, last week I took my 2000 Jeep Cherokee to the local garage because the brakes of the old clunker were making a scraping sound, (“Like I have time for this!”) and, while fixing the brakes the mechanic observed the vehicle wasn’t inspected. I felt a sort of shock. That was a job I should have done in February! The fellow said he could inspect it quickly, if I had the registration, but, when I checked the registration, I realized the vehicle was also unregistered. How could I miss that!? Thinking back, I vaguely recalled attempting to do it on-line, but running into some glitch where the computer refused to cooperate. Somehow that exasperating attempt manufactured a feeling in my mind that the effort had been made and the job was done, when it wasn’t. (I recall wondering why nothing came in the mail, and no money vanished from my account.) In any case, I told my mechanic I’d be back in a few days, when I found time to stop in at the Town Office and register the Jeep.
In case you are wondering how I could drive around unregistered and uninspected, blame the coronavirus. Our small-town police-chief has had between two part-time officers, and zero part-time officers. An airhead like myself could drive about in flagrant violation of the law and never be reprimanded.
Come to think of it, the coronavirus had me as hard-pressed as our police-chief, as I kept a Childcare open despite the Swamp’s efforts to shut everything down. However, that was old news, and we are facing new news, which is crazy inflation and crashing markets and the fact we might be running out of food by November. Thank you, Brandon.
However, my little town, in its efforts to recover from the coronavirus, had recently sworn in three young officers to help the chief. They were from out of town, which meant they had no understanding of why an old coot like me might be driving around with no registration and no inspection. (I mention this to create what is called “Foreshadowing”)
My first dim awareness that things had changed occurred when I was trying to snatch a nap after lunch on a day when I had to cover for an absent worker at the Childcare in the morning. Though I lay down I never napped. First, I got a call that a child had a finger caught in a sleighbell at the Childcare. (The metal had a hole created by turning metal inward, which allowed a little finger to slip in, but caught the finger when it tried to slip out.) As the child was weeping, this was a critical crisis, but the adroit use of tip snips freed the finger, and I settled back to nap. Then a second call disturbed me to remind me to attend my grandson’s championship game. I already knew that. And then the third interruption was a loud crashing, scraping sound in front of my house. When I blearily went to the window, I noted the driver leaving the car and running away. It looked like his car was not pulled-over to the side, but was in the middle of the lane on a sharp curve.
I gave up on my nap and went outside to see. Yes, he was stopped in the center of his lane, on a dangerous curve. His jury-rigged tie rods had failed and dropped his front axle on the right side, flattening a tire. I dialed 911 and reported the situation, and then directed traffic, including two school buses, to avoid people pulling out into the opposite lane (to get around the stopped car) from crashing headlong into cars coming the other way around the sharp curve. Most people assumed the car was my car and asked me if I needed help. That irked me a bit. It was like I was getting blamed. I figured I was actually a sort of minor hero, though I was mostly irked I hadn’t napped and might be late to my grandson’s game. But rather than the chief taking twenty minutes to arrive as usual, a young officer arrived in only ten minutes followed by two more five minutes later.
The young officers seemed inexperienced, as if it was the first time they’d seen such a predicament and weren’t exactly certain of how to handle it by-the-book. Likely it wasn’t covered in school. They disagreed about the correct procedure and seemed to be a little rude to each other, and also to me. One fellow was offended by my inability to describe the driver, who I’d only blearily and briefly glimpsed through a screen. I supposed they were learning on the fly, dealing with their own inexperience in such situations, but I vainly thought I myself had handled the situation pretty well, without schooling. I shrugged, left them to their learning, and went to get ready to my grandson’s game.
By the time I came back out to hop in my Jeep and leave for the game the officers had set out cones and positioned the two policecars, with lights flashing to alert traffic to the problem. They also were dealing with the driver, who had returned with the help he’d run off to find. Rather than understanding this was how we deal with problems in our rural way, they were giving him a hard time for “leaving the scene of an accident.” I blithely forgot that my sticker was expired, cheerfully waving while weaving my way through all the parked vehicles on the curve to go to the game. The police were too busy to notice the criminal in their midst.
(This is further foreshadowing.)
To skip ahead past the delightful ballgame, the next day found my reason failing. I was at the point described as, “losing all reason.” The goat eating my cauliflower was just the final straw. Further irritations came from things which should have pleased me. For example, all my hard work, (and the cool weather) resulted in a bountiful growth of lettuce. How could that irk me?
Well, I was irked because having all that lettuce meant I had work more, figuring out who to give it to, and how to do it. Would I never be free of further work? In a fit of independence, after taking all the boxes to the recycling center I decided the heck with both weeding and weddings, and drove to a local greenhouse to buy cauliflower seedlings. It was very selfish of me, but I do like cauliflower.
Even though I was civil and polite with the industrious woman who sells seedlings, part of my mind was in rebellion. Despite all my religion I was thinking of nasty and hurtful ways to make the point that I felt like I was giving and never getting. Even my goat was against me.
It was as I returned from the greenhouse with cauliflower seedlings waving from the dashboard, grumbling to God because I knew I was thinking nasty and hateful thoughts, and suggesting He should have created creation and me differently, that I passed one of the young policemen, heading the other way, eager to prove he was good at enforcing the law. As I continued up the road, I glanced in my rear-view mirror and saw his lights come on, and thought, “I hope that’s not for me. I hope he got called to another crisis.” Just then I saw a little lane ahead. It occurred to me that if I pulled into that lane I’d be out of his way if he was off to another crisis, and also that, if he was after me, he might not find me. Big mistake.
He must have turned around with adroitness I never expected. Last thing I saw in my rear-view mirror he was headed the opposite way. I was pretty much pulled into the narrow, shaded lane, but the butt of my old jeep was still visible from the main road, when I heard the police car’s modern siren make that weird noise sirens now make. It reminds me of the flying saucer in one of the first video games, (“Space Invaders”); (twenty-five cents per game, in 1969.) I figured he had seen me, and was after me, so I pulled over.
The young man came whizzing into the side lane practically on two wheels and had to brake hard to avoid smashing into me. The lane was a narrow one. He stopped dead center in the street, blocking traffic both ways. I thought he looked a little flushed as he came to my window. Pulling me over was likely the most exciting thing he’d seen, in our sleepy little town. An actual pursuit!
He asked me for my license and registration and I sighed deeply for I knew the registration was expired. I deserved a ticket. Instead, I got arrested and handcuffed.
It happened like this: He asked me, “Why did you accelerate into this lane?”
“I did not accelerate.”
“But why pull into this lane?”
I said, “I know people who live down this lane,” which was no lie, but for some weird reason I decided God would not like it if I insinuated that I had pulled into the lane to see an old friend, so I added, “But if you want the truth, I was hoping to avoid you.”
“You saw my lights?”
I noticed the young man’s face became much redder, and thought to myself, “Big Mistake.”
He announced, “I am going to have to ask you to step from the car. You are under arrest for resisting arrest.”
“I have to cuff you and take you to the station and charge you.”
“This is rediculous.” But, as it seemed I’d be resisting arrest if I said I wasn’t resisting arrest, I got out of my Jeep and was told to stand facing my Jeep, and, at age 69, for the first time in my life, felt cold steel clamp around my wrists. I did say, “Aren’t you supposed to read me my rights, or something like that,” and the officer replied, “We do that at the station.”
I think I may have been the first person the young fellow had the chance to handcuff, for they were much too tight. But I now commend him for choosing an old geezer to practice on, and not some drug-addled musclebound punk of nineteen who was full of hormones. (Having run a Childcare, I know even when you have another’s hands under control, considerable damage can be done to your nose with a forehead, even by a four-year-old). But I didn’t butt, and instead, despite the pain in my wrists, was extremely polite and well-behaved. The young man was swept up in a whirlwind of procedure, making the correct reports on his radio, and asking me all the correct questions, and seemed so inexperienced and over-his-head I did my best to be helpful. I sat as he wanted, in the rear of his police car.
I must say that seat is designed to be uncomfortable. Hard plastic. No cushions. No place you want to sit with your hands behind your back. I sat sort of sideways, as the pain in my wrists diminished slightly when I sat that way, and I must have looked uncomfortable. The young officer suddenly paused and asked me, “Do those cuffs hurt?”
“Well, if you agree to obey, I can cuff your hands in front.”
“Sure. I’ll agree. Don’t worry. I’m a good guy.”
(There may have been some sarcasm hidden in my statement, for policemen are supposed to capture bad guys, and perhaps I was suggesting he had arrested the wrong guy. But never mind that. Such subtlety was over Barney Fife’s head.)
In a fit of unexpected compassion, the young officer unhandcuffed me and then re-handcuffed me with my hands in front of me. As I held my wrists forward to be re-handcuffed the red dents in my skin caused by the prior handcuffing were plain to see, and he handcuffed more gently the second time. Live and learn. I am proud to be part of the education of a young officer.
But the world sure does look different from the back of a police care, on your way to the station to be booked. My fret about the one letter difference between “weeding” and “wedding”, and the crises about carrots, cauliflowers and lettuce, abruptly seemed removed and far away.
I did remember to consult God, which I was glad to see myself do. Usually, when I am abruptly in some tornado outside my ordinary experience, I forget the very One I should be thinking of, and instead am engrossed by the interesting turn my life has taken. Even if I stepped into an elevator with no floor, and was falling to my doom, rather than my final words being “Oh God” I fear they would be “Oh Shit!”. But in this bizarre situation I actually did remember God, and my conversation was a mix of “What is going on?” and “Help!”
Next, I got to see how hardened criminals are treated at police stations. I was handcuffed to a bench for around an hour as legalities were attended to: What were the actual charges, and what bail should be set, and who would be my bail-bondsman. One of my hands was released so I could sign certain papers, but my other hand remained handcuffed. I asked the young officer if he could allow me to use my cellphone to take a picture of my handcuffed hand, and he said it would be OK. (I was thinking it would make my blog more interesting than pictures of my hand, picking green lettuce.)
(By this point I think I had persuaded the young officer I was not a dangerous threat, and actually am a kindly old man. I thanked him when he brought me a glass of water. I mean a plastic cup of water. (Glass would obviously be too dangerous.) And I found things to chat about. For example, as he fingerprinted me, using old-fashioned ink, I told him that when I got fingerprinted by the state police because the state requires it for my Childcare, they had a new-fangled, ink-free computer screen to press fingers on. He begrudged our town couldn’t afford that update yet.
Mentioning my Childcare made him curious, and he asked me a few unprofessional questions pertaining to my Childcare and not my case, and I cheerfully regaled him with a few recent episodes.
As I studied the three sets of fingerprints he was required to take, I mentioned my prints sure had a lot of scars, but that I supposed I hadn’t kept track of all the cuts my fingertips have received, as a hands-on sort of worker, now pushing seventy. (Too much information? Not sure. I was painting a self-portrait for the young man, hopefully making him feel a little ashamed for handcuffing such a sweet, old man.)
We even joked a little. He had to ask me a long list of careful questions he read from a sheet of paper, such as, “Do you have diabetes, high blood-pressure, cancer…” and so forth, an then he paused, looked at me, and said, “I’ve got to ask these…Are you pregnant?” I made some politically incorrect comment that made him laugh, though he said nothing, because we were being automatically filmed by a camera by the ceiling, and cancel culture is so rampant even policemen obey unwritten laws.
Next I had to raise bail, which involved getting a bondsman. After a long wait my tax accountant came walking in, and cheerfully said, “Hi Caleb.” As I replied, “Hi Brenda,” the young officer looked surprised. I added, “I got in trouble trying to avoid trouble. Sorry you had to drive all this way on a Saturday.”
Brenda replied, “No trouble. I have another job, next town over, so I have to drive down this way anyway.”
The young officer looked mystified. How could such a familiarity be? Was I such a habitual criminal that I knew the bail bondsman on a first name basis? (In an area of small towns a single person can have five or six jobs.)
After that we were pretty much done. The station-computer produced twelve sheets of paper and I signed five of them. The other seven involved my rights, and a form to fill out if I wanted court-appointed lawyer, (involving a lengthy interrogation about my income), and lastly the date of my arraignment.
The officer also gave me two warnings, one for no inspection and one for no registration. I stated I’d take care of it right away.
Then he said he’d drive me back to my jeep. He could only then return the boxcutter I’d had in my back pocket. I joked, “Now I have to think of what I’m going to tell my wife.”
He looked curious. “What are you going to tell her?”
“I’m thinking maybe I won’t go home.”
(To be continued)
(Memory: in 1985, out west, I asked a Navajo how he dared drive around without plates, and he replied, “Do they make your car drive any better? Your white-man-laws are stupid.”)