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Since I’m focusing here on behavior of a specific person, I’ll let pass fact that no one at this venerable bank—THE SOLE FUNCTION OF WHICH IS TO HANDLE MONEY!—was able to prevent blatantly bogus currency from infiltrating its stock. As disappointed as I was by this circumstance, I’ll keep to my teller, who (her immediate triggering of a hideous psychosomatic rash on my chin, notwithstanding) had still not committed most egregious and damaging of her offenses.
Hardly. When I protested her action and was, for a solid hour, left to watch her engage in round upon round of whispered phone conversations and huddled meetings, she had temerity to come back and tell me: "[The bank] has ELECTED [emphasis mine] to reimburse you."
Now I‘ll concede that, in matter of punitive measures, antics I’ve described prior to this point may not justify penalties more severe than a modest fine and several weekends of community service. But, in my judgment, when you add condescension to rampant imbecility—AND CONCOCT, IN THE PROCESS, AN ESPECIALLY PERNICIOUS MIX THAT CAN MAKE A PERSON’S PENIS COMPLETELY DISAPPEAR FOR ALMOST A WEEK!—you invite most terrible of consequences. Working for a great financial institution, spending her days not just behind a bullet-proof shield but in a hallowed realm of miracles like compound interest, this teller’s come to feel invulnerable—she actually believes that she’s in all ways protected from harm. To be sure, so neat a self-deception is worthy of admiration. But given her failure to curb arrogance her delusion has engendered (let alone her excess of witlessness) I think she should be disabused of said delusion forthwith. In fact, I don’t think it would be in least draconian to lie in wait for her after work, rip off her face and shove her smug countenance up her ass.
I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean to suggest that we resort to violence and open ourselves to a potential penitentiary situation. But if I had a lapse there, it was due to cumulative toxicity of experiences I’ve reported and it only makes my argument. Exposure to undisciplined mindlessness can compromise most splendid of nervous systems in a trice, and people dealing with public who abuse stupidity must be discouraged from persisting. Collected now, ready to take a sensible approach, I’d say that legislation making gross stupidity in a public context a quality of life violation (and gross stupidity aggravated by a superior attitude a Class A Misdemeanor) ought to serve purposes of deterrence and remedy quite sufficiently.
Of course, should Bill of Rights fetishists thwart writing of such statutes, there’s a step I’ve been pondering that we could take on our own. Though it might require us to keep a bottle of Spirit of Ipecac handy (and would obviously be most effective when we’re sitting across a desk from phlegm-flecks like that teller), we could, just suddenly, throw up.
I’m not talking about pinpoint, or "smart," vomiting that’s directed at a specific, limited target, but vomiting which, fashioned after carpet bombing techniques developed in Vietnam, permeates everything in your immediate vicinity. It may not fix problem, but delivering remnants of Chili Surprise you had for lunch to clothing and workspace of a creep who’s making your life a roiling sea of excrement, would at least return favor somewhat in kind and figures to be immensely gratifying.
Plus, you’re not as likely to provoke interest of a criminal justice person as you’d be if you abruptly introduced an Uzi into proceedings. Quite opposite: you could be reasonably confident that law enforcement officers would keep their distance.
Former contributor to The Village Voice and Rolling Stone. Coauthor and coeditor, respectively, of two collections of essays about rock and jazz in the '60s: "Music & Politics" and "Giants of Black Music."