Ow Crick Ow

I hurt my back last week. Well, technically it wasn't my back. It was my right hip, except it was in back of me. You get what I mean. Maybe I caused the problem by sitting on my wallet--the one that (in my imagination) is stuffed with cash. I had to blame it on something.

I was fine a) walking b) sitting c) lying down. However, going from one position to the other was the problem. Yeow. I had to figure out a sequence to get out of bed: first, throw the dog on the floor (a pug who always has a permanently reproachful look on his face like I'm a dog beater), then pivot like one of those arrows pinned to a board in a kid's game, so I could put my knees on the floor, then put my hands on the bed and ow! ow! ow! lever myself to my feet.

Once on my feet (sort of, since I was still bent over like Quasimodo), I had to put my left hand on my hip and rotate myself upright. I was reminded of that song, "Do the Hokey Pokey":

You put your right foot in,

You put your right foot out;

You put your right foot in,

And you shake it all about.

You do the Hokey-Pokey,

And you turn yourself around.

Okay, laugh. You just wait until it happens to you. I hope you end up like a friend of mine, who was too cheap to buy a cane when he hurt his back and instead hobbled around using a golf club to support himself.

Things got much, much worse, unfortunately. After I got out of my car downtown, I noticed my right shoelace was untied. Surreptitiously I attempted to tie it while hiding behind a pillar. Didn't work. I couldn't bend over.

Now here's where you're really going to laugh. A woman saw me and asked, "Do you want me to tie your shoelace for you?"

I instantly shrank from six feet tall to about two and a half. The same size as a five-year-old, I think. My pride and dignity evaporated and wafted away on the breeze.

"Well," I replied, "my back's out, and I can't bend over to tie my shoelace. So if you could, I'd appreciate it if, yes, you'd tie it for me." I couldn't look her in the eye. I probably would have seen my mother's face superimposed over hers.

So, she got down on her knees and tied my shoelace for me, on a sidewalk in the middle of downtown. People walking by smiled. I put my hand over my eyes. I felt the same as when I was a little kid and my mother took me in the women's restroom because she thought I was too little to go into the men's one by myself.

"I put a double knot in it," she informed me. At least that would stop the dog from trying to untie my shoelaces with his teeth, although it wouldn't do anything to stop him from twitching while asleep and flying off my lap into the wastebasket. I just hoped I could get it untied.

"This is embarrassing," I said.

She patted me on my arm, said, "It's a mother thing," and walked away. I pulled my hat down over my face so no one could recognize me and snuck inside the building.

Later, I wondered how liberals would handle this problem. They'd probably want a federal program for Certified Shoelace-Tiers located in an office downtown, on the off chance that in another ten years when I hurt my back again, I could hobble into their office and have my shoelace compassionately tied by Professionally-Trained Shoelace-Tiers. And every year, of course, the program would get more money. And the program would never, ever be gotten rid of. Think of all those Professionally-Certified Shoelace-Tiers who'd lose their jobs and be thrown out on the street! The heartbreak! The horror!

Heck, Frederic Bastiat could have written an article about it ("What is Tied and What is Not Tied"). All the millions of taxpayer dollars paying for those Professionally-Certified Shoelace-Tiers could instead be spent by me on, let's say, a chiropractor if my ding-dang taxes weren't so high.

There are worse things than millions of dollars for Certified Shoelace-Tiers. What if I had run across an Objectivist? She'd probably whip a tattered, much-read copy of Atlas Shrugged out of her purse and peruse the Sacred Text, seeking an answer as to whether it was in her Rational Self-Interest to tie my shoelace for me ("I swear, by my love of life, that I will tie no man's shoelace for him, or ask him to tie one for me"). I'd probably be called a looter or parasite if I was lucky, or maybe told to die in a train wreck in a tunnel if I wasn't.

The more I thought about it, the more I marveled at how easily society takes care of these things. No government involved, no weird, complicated crackpot "philosophies," no lawyers or politicians or taxpayer money . . . just a guy with a hurt back who got his shoelace tied in the street by a woman who decided that in every grown man, there's a five-year-old boy just waiting to be taken care of.

Hey, wait a minute -- wasn't what happened to me a version of the story of the Good Samaritan? And for that matter, isn't the State which takes nice people and turns them mean? And isn't it overwhelmingly society that keeps people nice?

Could it really be most everything we need to know we learned in kindergarten, like Robert Fulghurn says? "Play fair. Don't hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don't take things that aren't yours. Say you are sorry when you hurt somebody."

I'll be darned. Such simple rules! Considering the mess the world is in, it makes me wonder exactly who are the children and who are the adults.

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Bob Wallace's picture
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