Thursday, June 1, 2000

One Man's Wrong, Another Man's Oopsy

Yesterday, against my better judgment, yours truly and a Duck of intimate acquaintance walked into the evil McDonalds. If you know downtown Seattle and you know your local McDonalds, you probably know the one I mean already.

I'm not talking about the lawyer's McDonalds that only operates during lawyer's hours. I'm not talking about the visiting businessmen's McDonalds that has the exotic fish and caters to the traffic between the Westin and the nudie palace. I'm not talking about the tourists' McDonalds, the one built where the revolving restaurant will land when the big one finally happens.

No, I'm talking about the really evil McDonalds, the one that has the country-western music piped in all day long in spite of the fact that probably not one in 10 of their customers ever heard Merle Haggard, or would care if they did.

Not that there's anything wrong with country-western, mind you. I love a good yodel or a nasal whine or some pale guy with a severe iodine deficiency pitching a bitch and a moan now and then. Such things keep me alert and functioning in a way that, say, Jimi Hendrix never could. While it might make sense to book Willi Nelson at the Apollo for one show or even two, or hell, even 30, you ought not to make it a permanent engagement. You ought not to say to HELL with what the regulars want, EVER.

So there we were. Ducky orders a #6 and says "supersize it, please," and Cashier (actually the Manager, it turns out) taps at the pictures on her cash machine and says, "that'll be 11 dollars," so Ducky says, "No way!" so Cashier says "Way! Read my register!" and so Ducky says "There must be a misunderstanding" and Cashier says, "No there is no misunderstanding, you're just wrong."

Well, guess what? It turns out Cashier was charging Ducky for TWO supersized #6's. Whoops!

After Cashier was empowered to realize this fact, via repeated emphatic assertions during which I offered to teach her arithmetic for free, she excused herself by saying "It was just a misunderstanding." [Italics added for the purpose of drawing attention to the mega-irony of it all, i.e., her mega-duh-ness.]

At this point I'll bet you're all thinking, "Wes, you've really lost it this time, what could any of this have to do with homelessness?" and "What's the name of your Duck, and is she anyone we know?"

The answers to these questions are very simple. Consider for example the first question (since I don't feel like answering the second) for which the answer is merely Tent City and live-aboards.

See how that ties in?

OK, I'll spell it out. You've got the city saying to the Tent City people over and over again, "You are wrong to think that you should have the right to sleep outdoors." You've got the state saying to the Lake Union live-aboards over and over again, "You are wrong to think that you should be allowed to sleep in the boats that you are already allowed to moor on Lake Union."

City and state say: "You are wrong, wrong, wrong." "Look at the register." "We added it up, and according to the way WE read the law books, you're WRONG!" "So go away, wrong-goes!"

Meanwhile, the Tent City people are just saying, "Look, there must be a misunderstanding here, we're alive, we need to sleep, we've got to sleep SOMEWHERE, so where will it be?" And likewise the live-aboards are saying "Look, there must be a misunderstanding, there's no law that prohibits people from sleeping on their boats; if we can moor our boats here we should be able to stay on them. If we can stay on them we can sleep in them. We haven't made a mess of the lake," etc., etc., etc.

The homeless and the live-aboards are all saying that there is a problem her, something needs to be worked out. The city and the state are saying that there is no problem, that they (the city and the state) are in the right and the others are in the wrong.

It's not about who is right or wrong, it is about solving problems.

When the courts have finished with it, I guarantee you that the city and the state will say: "We said what we said because, you see, it was just a silly misunderstanding. Ha, ha, ha, we thought we were right and you were wrong. It was just a natural mistake."

Now I don't want to start giving governments advice – I'd much rather ridicule them. But wouldn't it be a good idea to look ahead, see how things are going and try to skip the boring parts to get there?

Just a thought. Please don't just tell me how wrong I am.