Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Road Legally Obliterated: Use Alternative Closed Roads


We are defined by the choices we make. Each existential instant (as opposed to those non-existential ones) confronts us with a congeries of profound contingencies, the resolution of each of which, whether we are conscious of it or not, has a potentially infinite effect on our moral nature, the lives of those around us, society, humanity, and, yes, the world itself. Makes you think, dunnit?

For example, just today, in an instance that only coincidentally conforms to my thesis here, I noticed that our road, for months under noisy destruction to clear the way for Improvement, is being gradually fitted out with new sidewalks. Some sections of these sidewalks are marked off, and are still wet. I was walking to the corner store, in the dim light of the early evening, with nary a soul about, and was met with a sore temptation, one familiar to anyone who has ever been a child, and more irresistible than Garbo in a nightgown. The only question was: What should I write in the wet cement?

Nothing too clever. It's not a clever neighborhood. Not only would too clever a message be lost on the potential readers, and take too long to inscribe safely (which ruled out a Shakespeare sonnet or a selection from The Federalist), but anonymity is important: the vital clues must not point to the Eggheads at the end of the street. ("You! With the book! Yer under arrest!") The importance of not being subject to legal sanction for misdemeanor ruled out my next idea: My wife's and my initials encircled with a heart. Although this would have had the positive effect of my being awarded a few dozen good-husband points (no little consideration in domestic life), much argued against it. It was stupid even by neighborhood standards. It was maudlin. And -- tipping the balance -- was the fact that using our initials must inevitably lead staunch investigators, whether after a month or a year, to our very doorstep. There being only a few dozen houses on our street, I would be living on borrowed time. I could, in the event of an accusation, proclaim my innocence and turn in my wife instead -- "Come on, officer, would a MAN draw a little heart like that?" -- but this would likely lead to a revocation of most if not all of my domestic bonus points. Crime should not be a zero-sum game.

No, the arrow of guilt should point elsewhere than to myself, so I resolved that any sentiment slated for eternal inscription ought to be both commonplace and grammatically inept. I toyed a bit with something like "FUKC YOU," but this seemed a bit too general. And there are children in the neighborhood; wouldn't want them to fall under immediate suspicion, as they'd be the only ones who would most likely find this message quite witty and utterly hilarious. ("Why didn't WE think of that?" they'd be giggling in the schoolyards.) It won't do to have a child incarcerated for an adult's crime -- except as a last resort.

But sidewalk writing ought to be infantile and vaguely offensive, as well as subliterate; it's part of the tradition. Certainly "SCKOOL SUCKS" would send a powerful social message and meet with wide agreement, at least among thoughtful people, although "COLLIGE SUCKS" would be more in line with my contemporary views -- though this would be needlessly provocative in a state whose most powerful industry is educationism, ranking just ahead of government and gourmet coffee retailing. It gave me a chuckle to consider "GRAD SCKOOL SUCKS," though it had to be dismissed, as this would really bring out the lynch mobs. Better might be "TEECHER SUCKS," with an arrow indicating a crude stick figure, with crossed eyes and a blatant urinary control problem. Once again, the kids would like it; but, once, again, they'd be the prime suspects.

Fake initials with "05" (the numbers must always be in quotes) was banal, although those initals might be used to finger the one person on the street I truly detest. Fake initials with "YEAR 34 B.C." seemed an amusing possibility, until I considered the probability that it would soon be investigated by teams of anthropological students and a television crew from our local PBS affiliate, WGBH. This would only serve to block the street even further, until a team of experts issued a much-delayed report terming the inscription "quite possibly counterfeit."

I was reconsidering the stick-figure motif -- perhaps something with highly exaggerrated female sexual characterististics, possibly with a first name scrawled underneath -- when I noticed that I had walked to the corner store, returned, was well beyond the incipient sidewalk, and was unlocking my front door.

Another moment of existential choice had passed, and been survived by the use of a keen philosophical methodology: Consider the myriad options until the moment has passed; make no choice by envisioning all choices. And, although the cosmos lumbers on indifferent to the sequence of accelerating effects my choice might have instigated, at least my ruminations are now for the ages.