Nobody would pick the Monkees as an example of social criticism, but their "Shades Of Grey" describes todays world perfectly. We walk a line where the media creates two separate worlds, and we try to walk the thin line of social correctness. As I'm so fond of saying, I'm not socially correct, I'm just right.
I'll get my juices flowing by starting out on civil servants. This has become as overworked a cliche as army intelligence, Columbia football or rapid transit. There used to be an old joke where a drunk approached a police officer and said "You're a civil servant. Get me a coffee." While we don't expect such hoop jumping from today's municipal employees, we do expect a certain degree of accountability. I can offer a couple of examples.
I'm in a cab crosstown from Amsterdam to Broadway. There's a sanitation truck crosswise halfway up the block, ensuring nobody gets through. I leave the cab and ask one of the workers if they could straighten the truck so cars could move. I'm told this makes their job easier. Now I point to the half block long line of cars and inform him we've all got to get to work. This comment brings up my "you work for us", to which I'm informed "I'm a union man. You can't do anything to me." Going back into the cab I tell the driver what happened, lacing my comments with profanity, at which the so-called public servant comes back and physically threatens me. THIS is a "civil" servant?
My thoughts on unions differ strongly from those of my proud union delegate friend Luigi. He claims the unions create decent working conditions for employees and save their rights. On the other hand I say that the union protects workers who shouldn't have jobs at all, and use the union as a platform for their laziness. Most of these workers wouldn't be tolerated in the private sector at all, and complaining about them gives one no satisfaction. Today's unions, with sky-high pensions and benefits until one dies, are a constant in newspapers' op-ed pages.
Which brings us to the hilariously misnamed "rapid transit" system. To give the devil his due, the recent installation of electronic arrival boards has improved knowledge of when to expect the next train. We still have public address systems that announce in Martian, connecting trains that pull out when yours pulls in, and cars that are rolling bedrooms for the homeless.
High up in the incredulity table are those great announcements that end with "we thank you for your patience." Patience? I'm in a tin can underground! What'm I going to do, get out and walk? "Thank you for your sufferance and forgiveness" should be the announcement. I'm still waiting for an elderly Jewish couple to go up to the motorman's booth and say "Take this train to Flatbush."