"It is poor civic hygiene to install technologies that could someday facilitate a police state." ~ Bruce Schneier
How the Government Helped Me Today
I woke up at 5:30 a.m. to do my usual round at the governmental indoctrination camp. Today was my last day there, at least for this cycle, but The Last Day Of School has ceased to mean much for a while now. I wouldn't have had to go to school today, but it seems I've bilked the place out of so much state money by being in the hospital for two weeks that they feel they need to punish me by making me take an exam over things I've known for a good long time. But that, too, has ceased to matter.
I climbed onto the bus -- an excellent money-saving device for me, or it would be if I wasn't scared witless by the way the $7.75/hour semi-private government contractor drives -- with the herd of other expressionless minions, and was herded off to the camp.
I sat down to take a final exam. Fifteen minutes later I was done. Ok. So I had an hour and 45 minutes to kill. Spent it talking to the teacher. No, he said, he doesn't believe in final exams. Yes, he said, he would very much like to be free to teach his own way. Nevertheless, he also said, a job is a job.
Well, a job is a job.
I sat down to take another final exam. Fifteen minutes later I was done. Obtained permission from the teacher and a hall pass to go downstairs and see another teacher about another test grade. Instead, I went to the room of my old Latin teacher, who is retiring this year. No other children or -- heavens forfend -- teachers were around, so we talked in the corner for a bit. He'd like to stay on, he says, but he cannot stand the principals. Well, I knew that the principals were incompetent in the very same way that any child knows when its babysitter is incompetent. Either way, children run wild.
How many teachers are retiring this year? Well, he doesn't know about other departments, but seven in the English department alone are quitting. So, they don't like the camps either. Nevertheless, a job's a job.
And that was that. Took my hall pass and went back upstairs to bide my time until my four hours of service were up.
Finally, they were up. I went home, got on my computer, surfed the internet for a while. When the feds go through my use logs later, they won't find anything but eBay and Hotmail. I had won something on eBay. When the feds go through my purchase logs later, they'll see it was only a book about medieval music, but I -- oops! -- didn't pay any tax on it, even though the seller is located in my home state.
I found an envelope and smacked a 37 cent stamp on it. I don't think it really costs the United States Post Office 37 cents to ferry a piece of paper weighing a half an ounce across Houston, but no one else is authorized to carry first class mail. I wanted to take the car down to the store to mail the envelope, but I have up until now neglected to get my driving permit changed into a class C license. That means if a nice policeman should happen to see me driving at a moderate speed down a street I've traversed over a hundred times without fault, I'd be banged in jail for three years or fined quite a bit of money for driving without a license. Suffice to say I walked to the store in the 98 degree heat.
At the store I bought a money order from a pleasant Iranian immigrant who, for the six years that I've known him, has never once displayed any homicidal tendencies or ties to al-Quaeda. I sealed my envelope, checked again that I had affixed the tax stamp in the proper corner, and dropped it into the large blue box.
So, what then? I went home and turned on my local Clear Channel television station to watch Dr. Phil. Know thine enemy, I guess. Saw a lovely commercial about the new "Click It Or Ticket" campaign cooked up by the hopelessly destitute state of Texas. If you don't wear your seatbelt, they now charge you $200 right off the bat. No warnings, no nothing. Stick to your budget, boys, and you won't need to fleece your public.
That was my day. So, let's review how good ol' Uncle Sam has made my life easier and better through the taxes I (yes, I, the teenager) pay him:
1. He robbed me of four hours of my life that I could have used to actually teach myself something useful.
2. He made my fear for my life as one of his paid employees drove a four ton machine at 50 miles an hour down a residential street home to many small children.
3. He drove seven good teachers out of the profession due to his asinine regulations and imbecilic administrators.
4. He spied on my perfectly legal usage of a machine belonging to me.
5. He overcharged me for a service that private companies would be much better able to perform.
6. He threatened me with imprisonment if I should so much as presume to drive without paying them $24 and taking an eye test.
7. He threatened me with a $200 fine if I myself should decide not to use an uncomfortable restraint device in a machine belonging to me.
Well, those among other things. It's nice to see what you pay for, eh?