The Quality of Mercy – Part the Second – Being An Examination of Common Sense and the Fact that it is most Uncommon Indeed”
As we left the intrepid tourists they were undergoing the shock of finding that their car had been broken into and important an expensive material had been removed. Anyone who has been in that situation realizes the absolute panic, frustration, confusion and anger that sets in. One cannot at first believe what is happening and will try and find evidence that it is a mistake or a misunderstanding. In this case it is difficult. It is their car that is broken into and there can be no doubt.
History leaves us the words and thoughts of great men and important people whose contributions to society and history can be huge and others that contribute to small things and the matters of the heart. The mind goes back to Colonel Brabazon, the commanding officer of the 4th Hussars, the Queens Own to whom Winston Churchill belonged as a young man. Brabazon was a soldier’s soldier and a gentlemen; respected by all and beloved by his troops, he enjoyed high society, paid close attention to the service at dinners and insisted on high standards. He also could not pronounce his R’s. On one occasion, when not satisfied with the quality of the beverages at a dinner, Churchill heard the colonel enquire of the head waiter, ‘And what chemist do you get this champagne fwom?’ Had our confused and terrified young men been students of history the Barbazon bon mot may have occurred to them. From what diabolical chemist; from what demonic cauldron was brewed the bitter cup that they had been proffered? What chaotic mixologists had deigned give them this cup of suffering and would they have to drink it to it’s bitter dregs? The first sip of this noxious brew was about to be quaffed – how to call the police without a cell phone?
I am not sure how many folks today have tried this with the ubiquity of the cell phone and the way that it took over our lives. There was a time when banks of public telephones were everywhere and they cost about a quarter to use. Rushing into a restaurant the proprietor was loath to let them use his personal I phone but told them that there were two public phones that had been set up about a half block down the street. He informed them that they were new and that they had been installed because people were peeing in the old ones so much that they had rusted out. (This is essentially the information in a story about pay phones found in a local newspaper printed in the Tenderloin). Our gallant and intrepid group hustled to the phones and ﬁnding them unoccupied either by communicants or relievers they put aside the thought of rusticating apparatus and made a call to the San Francisco police.
Holding the phones gingerly to escape any pestilence that “walketh` in a phone booth” they deposited what change they had. After a long interval of instructions to choose the language in which they wished to be addressed, starting with Arabic and meandering to Mandarin, Parsi and Esperanto, English was ﬁnally arrived at and a conversation like this occurred.
Police – Sirdar Abdul Begg speaking.
Bluﬀ Midwesterner – I want to report a stolen set of cell phones and computers.
P. – you have reached the wrong department. This is the S.F.S.R.F.
BM – and what, if I may ask in curiosity is S.F.S.R.F?
P – why it is the newest of our police operations; the San Francisco Straw Reduction Force.
BM – (falling for the bait) – and what is that?
P. Our department is tasked with the important work of patrolling, restaurants, coﬀee houses and other establishments to levy ﬁnes on waiters and waitresses as well as customers who insist upon the unlawful use of plastic straws as they engage in culinary activity as well as beverage consumption. Under the law in this city it is a crime demanding a ﬁne of $1000 per oﬀense.
BM – you mean…..?
P – I mean that if we ﬁnd a wait staﬀ that has handed out six plastic straws to six customers it is a ﬁne of $6000. There may be a 6 month jail sentence as well. (Jail time has been dropped recently for some unknown reason that only bureaucrats can understand.)
BM – so you don’t care about a theft of rather expensive devices and the breaking and entering of a personal vehicle.
P – no sir. Your report fades into insigniﬁcance if you understand that there are more restaurant seats in the city of San Francisco than there are inhabitants thereof. Since our population is nearing a million that is an incredible amount of work. You obviously have no concept of the damaging environmental consequences of straw usage. The land ﬁll usage is incredible and their eﬀect on the coastal waterways is incalculable.
BM – since you are being serious I will answer you seriously. I think this is the most egregiously stupid thing I have ever been informed of, and….
P. You are obviously a globally warming denier and I have no other comment. I will transfer you to another department.
A brief time out occurred in which steam was seen to be rising from the head of our caller and his friends worried for his safety.
P- This is Sargent Garibaldi Pelosi speaking.
BM are your related to…..?
P- sorry sir that is a private matter. What is your business?
BM – I want to report the breaking and entering of a vehicle to steal cell phones and computers.
P- I am sorry but that is a diﬀerent department. You have reached the S.F.N.S.R.
BM – (the ﬁrst bile of depression is beginning to rise) What is that?
P – The San Francisco Needle and Syringe Recovery unit. We are a special ﬂying squad that patrols the city identifying areas of mass drug paraphernalia piles left on public and private areas.
BM – so you run around picking up used needles that addicts use to shoot up and then you clean up the mess?
P- No sir we identify the areas that are heavily infested and dispatch another unit to clean them up.
P -yes sir. Since the city hands out the drugs and the syringes in the ﬁrst place it is only just and proper that we dispose of them.
BM – Dispose of them where?
P – In the landﬁll of course.
BM – I was just informed by another oﬃcer that the city cannot abide anymore plastic straws in the land ﬁll and you are telling me that you take hundreds of pounds of used syringes made of guess what?, plastic, and deposit them in the landﬁll. Do you see any strangeness in that at all?
P- Sir you sound like one of those addiction denying conservatives that believe that we should not give our addicted citizens safe and clean needles to protect them from disease and illness. I suppose you believe that free drugs and free health care for all is a bad idea as well. Good day sir. I will transfer you to another department so you can complain to them. I have a question for you before I go – where is your mercy sir?
At this point in the action we must away. Our journey continues tomorrow as things get as they say “curiouser and curiouser” Prepare a trip to the Augean Stables. Prepare for The Quality of Mercy – part the Third – A very public toilette.