Friday, July 19, 2013

"Postus Interruptus"


A man walks into an office, accompanied by a large dog.

Sorry.  No dogs in here.”

“I need him.  He’s a ‘Comfort Dog.’”

“A ‘Comfort Dog’?”

“He’s a ‘Guide Dog.’  I’m blind.”

“Still…well, okay.  What can I do for you?”

“I’d like a job application.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“A job application.”

“This is a bus company.”

“I know.  I want to work here.”

“As what?”

“A bus driver.”

“You want to apply for a job as a bus driver…”

It has always been my dream.”

“…and you’re blind.”

“I have never found that to be an impediment.  I ski.  I bowl.  I play Scrabble…”

“A blind bus driver.”

“I consider myself the Jackie Robinson of blind bus drivers.”

“Sorry.  No can do.”

“Because I’m blind?”

“Correct.” 

“That’s prejudice.”

“Sir, the bus company has an – understandable – minimum visual requirement.  Are you one hundred percent blind?”

Can’t see a thing.”

That is below the minimum requirement.  Way below.”

“Look, I know this is groundbreaking.  But remember ‘Gays in the military will be an obstacle to Corps cohesion’?  It has now been demonstrated that they aren’t.  It’s the ‘heteros’ that do that.

“You cannot drive a bus if you’re blind.”

“‘You cannot fly a plane if you’re a woman.’  Sound familiar?  The naysayers always say that.  Then pioneers like myself show up, and we prove them totally wrong.  

“I am telling you, a blind person cannot drive a bus!

“And a little old ant (SINGS) ‘can’t, move a rubber tree plant.’  (TURNING TO HIS “GUIDE DOG”) Good one, eh, Rusty?”

The dog barks once, in appreciation.

“Look, all I’m asking for is a chance.  I mean, come on!  A man who could see ran over eleven people in a Farmer’s Market.  I know I can do better than that.”

“We wouldn’t have hired him either.”

“I understand your predicament.  You’re a faceless bureaucrat, fearful of ‘the new.’  All right, ‘baby steps.’  Lemme fill out an application.  To at least say that I tried.  We both tried.  Because I know change is difficult for you.”

“Fine.  Here’s an application.”

“You are growing in stature before my eyes.

“And here’s a pen.”

Thank you.  Okay, now, what does it say?”

You can’t read it.”

“Are you kidding me?  I’m blind!

Okay, let’s stop.  I could go on, but it would pretty much be more of the same.  Here’s the deal with this thing. 

For a long time, I’ve been wanting to write about the reasonable limits to personal entitlement.  My thought process drew me to to ‘a blind person demanding a job driving a bus’, which I believe we can all agree takes “I want what I want” just maybe a bridgelet too far. 

Comedically, there are precedents here.  The classic Peter Cook-Dudley Moore sketch, in which Cook plays a producer, and Moore hopping in to audition for the role of “Tarzan”, “hopping in” because, holding one leg up behind him with his hand, Moore is applying for the job as a one legged actor. 

“I have nothing against your left leg.  The problem is, neither do you”, is one of the lines the polite but firm Mr. Cook delivers to the applicant.

There is also the plucky “Black Knight” in Monty Python’s The Holy Grail, who, after all of his arms and legs have been lopped off, continues to fight on as if he actually believed he would ultimately prevail.  (“Come on back here!  I’ll bite you legs off!”) 

The difference, though all three examples reflect a stubborn denial of recognizable reality, is that the other two – at least in their comedic representations – are inherently silly, whereas blindness is not.  The premise of a blind man insisting on a job driving a bus seems undeniably silly.  Yet, by itself, that is not quite enough.

Part of the reason my example does not measure up is a matter of the agenda.  The “One-legged Tarzan” and the extremity-deprived knight are bits of comedy that are simply trying to be funny (and possibly satirize/slash/pay-tribute-to the “never say die” spirit of the English people.)

My version, though competently executed – I am a professional after all – is weakened by a debilitating element of annoyance, its appeal further diminished by a proportional misguidedness.

The far bigger story is undeniably discrimination – people unfairly deprived of legitimately deserved opportunity.  Yet, I have chosen to rail against a minority who demand rights they have no justification in asking for, a group difficult to distinguish, because the people unjustly discriminated against were once barred by precisely the same rationale.  

For some reason, the “exaggerated personal entitlement” issue annoys me, partly  because of its relentless oppressiveness.  My research revealed five songs entitled “I Want It All” (Queen, Warren G., Ashley Tisdale, Birdman and a song by that name from the 1983 Broadway musical Baby.)  There are also three “High Hopes” songs.  (Kodaline, Pink Floyd, and the Sammy Cahn-Jimmy Van Heusen version.) 

Fueling my annoyance, on the day I write this, the animated feature Turbo came out, involving a snail with a lifelong dream of competing in the Indianapolis 500.

In story after story, America’s repeated mantra is, “If you just don’t give up, you can achieve whatever you want.”  And for some reason, that pisses me off.  Most of us are lucky to get a portion of what we want.  How are we supposed to feel when the people in those stories keep getting it all?

I imagine there’s a pitch-perfect-comedic-while-making-the-point-I am-trying-to make analogy out there.  It just didn’t come to me.

Got any ideas?

5 comments:

Mac said...

If you just keep trying and never give up Earl, that pitch-perfect analogy will come to you. It's a good point, and one that results in a lot of denial. By definition, jobs that people dream about are very limited, and not everyone who dreams about them is going to get one; no matter how good you are or how much you refuse to give up. Sometimes giving up is what you need to do, so you can work out what other things you might be good at.

canda said...

It's only worse today because everyone wants kids to have their self-esteem validated. Thus, the idea that everyone gets a trophy for competing, rather than learning the life lesson that some people are better than you. Why should you try harder in the future when your lack of skill is rewarded. Why believe you can't fail, when everyone has told you that you're as good as everyone else.

California is the perfect place for most of these people to live. Everywhere you turn, people will tell you that your failure is someone else's fault.

Pidge said...

When they still had parking lot attendants instead of machines, there was a guy working in the pay booth at the exit of Hazelton Lanes who had no fingers on the hand he used to reach out for the money. It was disconcerting, to say the least.
For some reason, he had some difficulty making change!
I recognized your concerns and remembered asking myself the same questions then.

pete medina said...

I went along with happy endings more when I was younger.

yatesy said...

I went to see Monsters University. The basic plot is that Mike (the one with the 1 eye) dreams of being a scarer since he was a little kid and the only way to do it is going to Monsters University. The movie takes you thru him being in the school, meeting Sully, going thru some stuff and getting kicked out of school after failing to win a contest. You think they'll get reinstated by the Dean but (spoilers), they don't. They never go back to school. But they do take jobs in the lowest place you can work at Monsters Inc: in the mailroom. And they conquer it. Then they move up to another department and conquer that, and so on and so forth, until they finally get promoted to being scarers.

I was really taken aback by the way that they didn't go thru the "the good guys win, learn a lesson, and happily go thru school being the popular guys until they become the scarers you know".

The moral of the story was "sometimes you can get to where you want to be by taking numerous roads, not just the one you imagined". I hope all kids see this movie and learn that.