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.

9 thoughts on “Security

  1. Agree with your assessment of the dominarratrix. Not sure avoiding her is sufficient justification for the unemployment and immiseration of my generation.

    For : [hʊə̯]?

    • I stand in awe of your IPA skillz. That’s pretty much it. Though the last vocalic component has maybe a bit more of the sound of the open ‘e’ — the thing that looks like a Greek epsilon in IPA.

      And of course I’m not in favor of anybody being immiserated. But maybe there’s a case to be made that if you’re going to be immiserated — and it looks like we all are — it’s better to be immiserated without a job than to have a job, with all the psychic damage that entails, and be immiserated anyway.

  2. Where did you find the picture? It’s intriguing.
    As for the woman on the ferry–hey, her security love is mild. Most of my friends are thoroughly in favor of the more, the better. They love red light cameras and being felt up at airports. It “keeps us safe.” YES, THEY ACTUALLY SAY THAT! I’m always bemused by the fact that they remember when all these domestic horrors weren’t in place and to a reasonable extent, they could do more or less do what they wanted. You’d think they’d miss that.

    • Every time I get in line to be groped, I reflect on CDG to put things perspective.*

      I consciously violate 3-1-1 on every flight but they’ve never once made me open my suitcase, let alone discard the excess liquids. In Paris, forget it. I had to throw out a “travel-sized” bottle of contact solution along with–the worst part–a scornful lecture in immaculate English… More significantly, they detained two of my relatives for several hours for questioning because their journey originated in Beirut.

      American laziness and halfassedness and the fact “border protection” is basically a racket is a blessing, if anything.

      *And the demand for more-better security isn’t an American exclusive either. Again in many ways the Euros win. After getting our passen randomly checked riding our bikes in a German town, a French buddy I was with–who was young and genuinely very tolerant; I’m quite confident not a closeted xenophobe–lauded the county’s mandatory paper carrying law, welcoming France’s adoption of a similar requirement.

  3. I’m with you just about all the way here, MJS. It’s only that when I see the term Crazed Parent — having encountered a fair number of the species in my young boy’s 3 years of schooling thusfar — I am inclined to think, “guilty till proven innocent” on the crazed charge. Not calling for SWAT teams or Security ™ to handle. Just saying that Crazed Parent isn’t my favorite category of human.

    You surely recall the type, I’d imagine.

    • Oh yes, one has certainly seen the type. But then I’ve also been put in that category in my day. Anything less than utter acquiescece tends to get you tagged as a Problem Parent.

  4. — preschool graduation
    — kindergarten graduation
    — middle school graduation
    — high school graduation
    — university graduation
    — doctoral dissertation

    — underemployment or
    — unemployment
    — or social
    — banditry

    — or all three

    — final grad
    — u ation

Leave a Reply