"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers." ~ Richard Feynman
Walks and Talks
Column by Paul Hein.
Exclusive to STR
I enjoy taking the dog for a walk, although he probably enjoys it more. These Fall mornings the fresh air is bracing, and the chance to be alone with my thoughts is welcome. I’ll even grudgingly admit that the exercise might be beneficial, although I’m not convinced of that. It’s meeting other walkers that pleases me most.
My view of human nature is not sanguine, but encounters with other walkers, joggers, or dog-exercisers almost always boosts my dismal outlook for humanity, because the people I meet usually nod, wave, say “Good morning,” or even stop to chat. A typical conversation might go like this:
“Good morning. Cute dog you’ve got there. What’s his name?” I tell them.
“Nice day, isn’t it? Do you walk here often?” I tell them.
“What was your income last year?” I tell them.
“How about your wife? Did she have any income?” I tell them.
“How much?” I tell them.
“Any capital losses or gains?” I tell them.
“Deductions?” I tell them.
“How many bathrooms in your home?” I tell them.
“How many people live in your home?” I tell them.
Well, you get the idea. It’s pretty ordinary stuff. Some of you might wonder why I reveal so much information about myself to strangers, and it depresses me that you might be concerned about it. The reason, as I would hope you realize, is that I am a law-abiding citizen, and proud of it!
Given the sad state of public education today, I can understand that a few of you might question what the law has to do with it. It’s very simple, really. If you’ll do a little basic research in the Constitution, or your high school civics book, you’ll learn that those people we call “government” get their power by delegation from the people. They can do what they do because we authorize it.
OK, I agree that the people I meet on my walks are not, as far as I know, employed by the government. But so what? Everyone (except a few kooks, of course) accepts that the government has the right to ask me questions, which I am compelled to answer truthfully. So it’s obvious: since the government has that power, we the people must have had it first, so that we could delegate it to them. Thus, the people who question me on my A.M ambulations must definitely have the power that government employees do. I could just make up some plausible answers to their queries, but if they found that I lied, I could be charged with a serious crime. If I simply declined to answer, I could be charged with a crime also, although less serious. If I gave an answer that they considered frivolous, I could be fined a substantial amount. So being, as I said, law-abiding, I answer promptly and truthfully. It’s a small enough price to pay for the privilege of living in a free country!
I’ll admit, however, that there are limits. Don’t broadcast this, please, but just between us, there are some questions that go to far. You’d be surprised how often I’m asked, “Has your dog been ‘fixed’?” That really upsets me! Bad enough that my poor poodle pooch has been deprived of his masculinity, but must he also be deprived of his privacy? It’s outrageous! So I’ll answer something like, “Well, that’s a private matter. I don’t think he’d want me to discuss it with you.” If pushed, I’m prepared to say that I don’t have his power of attorney.
It’s risky, I know. I’ve steeled myself for that knock on the door and the flashing of a badge. I only hope my dog won’t bite the law-enforcer; after all, he’s only doing his job. (The guy with the badge, not the dog). A fellow once told me that “I’m only doing my job” constitutes the Eichman defense, but he was a wise-guy, and I never liked him anyway. It’s just that a guy has to draw the line somewhere, and I won’t have my poor dog’s privacy violated. Enough is enough, right?