Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Hostage Crisis

A lot of people don’t know this about me, but a couple of years ago, while living in Wisconsin, I got fatally sick of government intruding into my life, even though George Bush and Dick Cheney, good guys by any reasonable measure, were its kingpins at the time, and decided to kill myself and a bunch of bureaucrats in hope of other lovers of freedom around the country following my example, and my daughter never feeling the jackboot of oppression on the back of her head.

Leave it to me to have second thoughts. I got all my weapons and ammunition together, my whole arsenal, printed out my manifesto, cleared the history in my various Web browsers so none would blame what I was about to do on my healthy, perfectly normal interest in heterosexual pornography, and headed for the local IRS office, only to remember when I found its parking lot deserted that it was Presidents Day. I pretty nearly fainted from embarrassment, hurried home, and forgot the whole idea until my next electric bill arrived. Once more I felt the jackboot of oppression pushing my face back into the muck.

This time I ensured that I hadn’t chosen a federal holiday, and headed for the Department of Motor Vehicles. I’d been driving with an international driver’s license, and it was about to run out. I figured if I lost my nerve, I could always leave my arsenal in the trunk and renew it. I found, as I took a number from the little machine at the entrance, that I hadn’t lost my nerve. I was No. 82, and they were now serving No. 31. How like the jack-booted oppressor to waste everyone’s time so cavalierly! I asked the security guard, whose florid complexion, watery blue eyes, and bulging gut left little doubt that he was a native Midwesterner, if he had any idea how long I might have to wait. He didn’t understand the question, and didn’t understand the question, and finally snorted, “Do I look like a friggin’ mathematician or something? In my world, the use of friggin’ is a capital offense (if less offensive than frickin’, but we may be splitting hairs here), and I hastened his reunion with his creator.

There was pandemonium, of course. Within minutes, the building was surrounded by police. No. 47, who’d saved up for a special Green Bay Packers license plate for which he’d come in to apply, said I’d better prepare a list of demands. We could hear helicopters overhead. I don’t know how they got my cell phone number so fast, but they did, and someone phoned me to ascertain my demands. “Believe me now?” No. 47 asked, sneering. I shot him and told the guy on the phone I hadn’t decided yet. He suggested that, while thinking, I release all the women and children hostages. I hadn’t to that point regarded those cowering on the floor as hostages, but realized it wasn’t a bad idea.

There wasn’t a child in sight. Maybe they were all at school. I let the women go. No. 53 said to someone whose number I couldn’t see that I was really a dunce, having gotten nothing in return for the hostages. I shot both of them and used the automatic callback function on my phone to call the police guy I’d just been talking to. I said if he wanted more hostages, he’d have to be prepared to give me something. You’d never heard so many sirens. He asked what I wanted for 10 more hostages. I said for the jackboot of oppression to be lifted off the back of my head. He said, “You got it!”

I didn’t feel much different, but didn’t want to appear a welcher. I freed the nine hostages of color and a guy who said he had a dental appointment that he’d be charged for even if he didn’t turn up because he hadn’t canceled 24 hours in advance. The police guy offered to send someone in to negotiate with me face to face in exchange for five more hostages. I said three. We settled on four.

The hostage negotiator they sent in reminded me of Ricky Abbott from my class at Santa Monica High School — an alpha male you hoped would like you, rather than wanted to poison. Every time he looked around as though to ensure that none of his superiors had somehow sneaked to within hearing distance, and then said, “I’m going to be honest with you now,” I knew he was going to play me, but hardly cared. I was so flattered by his whole we’re-in-this-together manner that when, in response to my asking him to promise I wouldn’t prosecuted if I surrendered immediately, he sighed and said, “I honestly can’t to that, big guy,” I said, “Oh, what the heck?” and surrendered anyway. As noted, I knew he really wasn’t my new best-friend-forever, but it still hurt when, after they got the cuffs on me, he seemed to lose all interest in our friendship. I was sentenced to four to 10 at the ominously named but not really that bad Arthur Kill Correctional Facility on Staten Island, where I learned a useful, but not marketable skill.

You get what you can in this cruel, rotten world.

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