Scratching My Ass

I had a tough time scratching my ass the other day. Normally, that’s a pretty easy process, but things ain’t always easy. Well, giving in is, I suppose. That’s what I didn’t want to do. I was at the Mall of America, catching a ride on the light-rail, which is not as easy as it sounds either. For one thing, this is located on the southeast side of the Mall and it’s a fucking shithole. They don’t clean up down there, probably because they figure us bus-ridin’, light-rail-taking folks are used to it. Fuck that. Anyway, there was a lot of people down there, trying to catch the train into the city, but every single ticket-machine was busted except one. Those machines are pieces of shit, but they can’t be expected to breeze through a Minnesota winter.

So me and my crew (which is to say Matt & Nikki) are waiting in line to get ticket that they will never bother to check. This old lady in front of us gets up to the machine and promptly starts to panic. She can’t get the damn machine to take her dollar bills. Everybody starts giving her advice. She’s on the verge of tears and can’t get anything right. Somebody yells for the cop to come help. He’d been been sitting over by the gates, scratching his ass.

You see, I wanted to scratch my ass, just like him. We’re all human after all, but I saw all the video cameras as I came down to that level, and the prospect of getting my rectum-rubbing on tape (or are they digital!) was not an appealing one. It was one of those un-holy itches where you know you’ve gotta jam your hand way back there in order to get at it. It’s kind of a private moment, and there was nothing nearby to kind of hide behind. (ha! get it?) So I just went for it. I’m sure you’ll see it if I ever get famous. The Ass Scratching Tape, they’ll call it. Or maybe Urges From the Deep. Regardless, I feel a little kinship with Paris Hilton, but not much. She’s still a skanky-ass slut who needs to be tied up and sent to live in the dirtiest part of Buenos Aires.

But (and I do mean “butt”) how can we as a society tape all of our lowliest citizens as they try to get on the bus — one of the easiest challenges we face daily — but we don’t put video cameras in corporate boardrooms, where they might actually catch something that threatens our safety and security. Instead, we prefer to be titillated. We know there’s something seedy going on at the bus station. And I’m sure there is. Theft, violence, drugs and stupidity — it’s all there. But we rarely catch anything substantial. What about the people who sit behind closed doors (because they can afford great oaken doors) and plot to steal millions or billions of dollars? What about those who slash thousands of jobs in order to make the stock go up short-term, which enables them to cash out and make millions? Why aren’t we monitoring them on camera? They are the people who need watching.

Do we really need video evidence to throw Jimmy Tough-Streets in jail? No, we’ve been throwing him in jail for years — centuries. But what about James Easy-Street — why doesn’t he ever do any time? He claims to employ many. Funny, he never talks about the people he impovrishes. Or about those killed in the managed wars that he particiapes in, all for the greater enrichment of the military-industrial complex. I bet he’s very content with the sorrow he’s wrought to others, just as I would be very happy if he were behind bars.

Do you think you can look at a person and tell if he’s good or evil by the clothes he wears? I think we make many judgments about people every day on that very basis — myself included — and most of it is baseless or banal. I see those politicians on TV in their expensive suits and I know that the people inside those suits aren’t worth more than a piece of rat shit, festering under the sun. Sure, not every person in the ghetto is a glowing example of class and decency, but at least you know what you’re getting. The rich and powerful lie and cheat and steal to say in power — or maybe just for fun. They think the poor would do the same thing in their position…..but would they?

I would like to make a break in the chain and not immediately dive into despoticism as soon as the cup of power touches my lips. Somehow it’s possible to end the cycle of oppression that has continued unabated for so many millenia. We humans are not rats. But our leaders treat us as if we are — is that how they see us? I’ve often thought that people who don’t trust others are themselves untrustworthy. I’m willing to give people a chance (but I’m not a foolish glutton for fallacy — thus the rant you’re reading), but the powerful will give few such a hearing. They look at you like you’re human filth, but it is the reflection in our eyes that they see.

So I try to look kindly at the old woman who can’t figure out a ticket machine. In her defense, the user interface was extremely crappy, and I as I was watching her try to use the machine, she did things that should have worked, but weren’t implemented by lazy programmers and the non-existant UI team. She was a woman plagued by the idiocy and greed of others. Did the company that made those machines know they were making a crappy product that wouldn’t stand up to winter or usage? Of course — they’re not that dumb! But they still got paid, and probably extremely well considering that it was juicy government contract (“Lots of overtime boys! Scratch your asses and get paid for it!”). Who suffers for their mistakes? Not them certainly — they don’t take public transportation! Are you crazy?! You can’t park an SUV on a bus (although they would if they could).

I hope you enjoy a little glimpse into the base realities of our culture and economy. Afterall, it affects all of us on a daily basis, and helps determine our station in life. I guess if you aren’t a rat, willing to crawl over the backs of the poor to get yours, then you don’t deserve it. Such is capitalism.

So when you see that Ass-ilistic Scratch-tastic video of mine, enjoy it. Your tax dollars paid for the video. Maybe there was a video camera in the ticket-machine, just like in ATMs. It’ll never break, of course. Maybe you can stare right at that old lady’s face as she nearly breaks down trying to get fucking ticket. Make sure you laugh — that could never be you, could it? You’re stronger, faster, smarter, better — right?

If you’re wondering, yes, she did eventual manage to get a ticket. She needed the help of the cop and four impatient strangers behind her, but she did it. And in her fluster she didn’t grab all of her change, leaving it for us to fish out, and then experience our own frustrations with the machine.

Nobody asked to look at any of our tickets. The cop was too busy helping people (poorly) use the machine and dreaming about his imminent retirement (looks like that 401K didn’t come through). Here we are, holding up the system on our backs, trying our best to color within the lines and not make waves. We do it every day. Do our elite, jet-set, power-broker leaders give a shit? No, they’re looking for the best way to explo
it both us and the system for their own personal gain. I don’t think your have to buy tickets when you have your own learjet. Although I’m sure they can be a real struggle, too. Oh, what a pity. I’m sympathetic — really!

And so the struggle continues. Sorry to bitch so much, but I’d like to be more of a muckraker than a whiner. Now you see what it’s like to be me. Just scratching my ass brings impossibly complex questions of wrong and right inside a cracked system. Maybe one day we’ll wake up and change the system. Until then, I’ll continue to worry about scracthing my ass in public.


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