Waiting for the ferryboat today, on my way home from the salt mine, I overheard a conversation between two thirtyish women, well turned out, obviously ‘educated’ (as that term is understood in this country) and, judging by their attire and demeanor, somewhere healthily over the median income, though not one-percenters by any means.
It was actually more of a monologue than a conversation, now that I think of it. One of the women — let’s call her Narratrix — was telling a rather intricately circumstantial story about her son’s preschool, and the other — Echo — made soft cooing sounds of sympathy whenever Narratrix paused for breath.
Narratrix’ narratio began with an Incident. Apparently some crazed parent Made A Scene(*) at the school, and, in Narratrix’s absolute unselfconscious words, “refused to leave the premises when directed. That’s private property!”
If Crazed Parent committed other atrocities — pulling out a shootin’ iron, for example, or defecating on the Head’s desk — we didn’t hear about them. Unruliness, as far as I could tell, was the A to Z of it.
It developed that Narratrix herself was not present for the Incident. She heard about it because the school’s headmistress promptly emailed all the other parents, told the story — or rather, told her story — apologized abjectly that anything as coarse as human passion and anger was allowed to impinge on their little darlings’ lives and possibly interfere with their edumacation, and assured them that Steps Would Be Taken to ensure that no such horror ever occuurred again.
Now up to this point I had thought that Narratrix was telling this tale as an example of wretched excess and absurd overreation.
Wronnng. It developed that Narratrix’s response was to call the school and berate them for not acting more strongly. She said — I jotted this down on the flyleaf of the book I’ve been hauling around, as soon as I got on the ferry, so it’s pretty close to verbatim:
“I said to huuah(**), no, this is not enough. What about graduation(***)? You know, that woman could come back. And it’s not crazy. These days, nothing is crazy. She could come back and shoot the place up. So you need, like, extra security. What are you going to do about that?”
Ungenerously, I hope the school takes the suggestion, and subjects all its parents to a robust, uncompromising cavity search before ‘graduation’. But I can’t help feeling that Narratrix would approve, after one or two small grunts of muted discomfort, such as we all emit, involuntarily, once a year or so, on the doctor’s examining table.
Like many of her fellow citizens, she has fallen in love with Security, and can’t get enough of it.
It’s conventional to depict this passion for policing as a response to fear: people trading liberty for security, in old Ben’s oft-quoted words, because they’re so scared of terr’rists or whatever.
I no longer see it that way. What struck me about Narratrix’ telling of the tale was the lip-smacking relish with which she recounted her demand for more ‘security’. I’ll see your twenty cops, and raise you a SWAT team.
Hers was not the tone of person accepting the lesser evil, because she’s frightened of what might happen otherwise. It was the tone of a person thoroughly invested in being, you might say, on the right side of the gun.
My guess is that Narratrix works in a place much like my own workplace, where shit, as the proverb says, flows downhill. I don’t think she’s very far up the hill, but she likes the thought that there are people down in the declivities who are deeper in the shit than she is.
She’s not allowed to misbehave, or emote, or make a scene. Disaster would certainly ensue if she did. So it follows that anybody else who does these forbidden things must be punished severely, and steps must be taken to ensure that it never happens again.
This is why I’m very pleased about the dismal employment prospects of the twentysomethings. Fewer and fewer of them will have the opportunity to turn into this vengeful, punitive, twisted harpy.
(*) I would very much like to hear the crazed parent’s side of the story. Just sayin’.
(**) Jersey accent. IPA doesn’t have glyphs for these diphthongs.
(***) Apparently preschools now have ‘graduations’, perhaps the most depressing note in the whole story.