Every morning, I try to think of the worst thing that might happen by the end of the day. Lately, it almost always happens.
As I’ve said here often, my principal hobby in life is the amateur study of stupidology, a science I personally invented. I’ve been making great progress.
One of the stupidest ideas, even in good times, is the notion that homeless people should all try to get into shelters because authorities say it will be good for them. When authorities say something is good for someone, it usually turns out what they mean is it will be good for the authorities.
It would be great for politicians if homeless people were in shelters and out of sight, 24/7.
How stupid is that? Well, let’s think about it. Do shelters keep people out of sight 24/7? No. Are there enough shelter beds in King County to bed the roughly 6,000 outdoor sleepers currently not in shelters? No. There are probably only 300 empty beds any given night, and they are hard to find, scattered across the system.
And what about the idea that overnighting in a shelter is good for you? Again, even in the best of times, it’s a dubious proposition. Who wants tuberculosis?
Now, we have a shelter-in-place order from the Washington governor. As usual, I ask the question: What is the worst that can happen in this scenario? The key in doing applied stupidology is to look at a scenario and use your own experience at being stupid to spot the stupidest thing that people could possibly come up with.
I quickly see that the stupidity will arise by the most stupid interpretation of “shelter-in-place” possible as it applies to homeless people. For a homeless person to be in compliance with a shelter-in-place order would entail that person being in a shelter. It’s right there in the expression “shelter-in-place,” in the very first word, right? No shelter means no sheltering. So, a violation occurs.
If people interpret such an order that way, the only thing that could happen that could satisfy them is for 12,000 homeless people to be crammed two to every available mat in shelters only meant to hold 6,000. In the middle of a viral pandemic.
Or, the police round up people who won’t go to shelters and use them to stuff King County jail to overflowing. In a viral pandemic.
Either way, the result would exactly oppose the intended result of a shelter-in-place order: It would result in a big increase in the spread of the new coronavirus, instead of helping reduce it.
Meanwhile, it looks like most of us adults will get checks for somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000. The current word is children will only get $500 each, because, come on, they don’t vote.
About 24 years ago, I came up with a scam. In a column, I auctioned off my vote for president. I actually got a bid of $10 to vote for a third-party candidate, which I did. It didn’t occur to me that I should have set a minimum bid of $1,000 and made sure the incumbent president knew about the auction; I suck at scams.
If Biden is nominated, I might wonder if he could top this bribe of Trump’s. I wouldn’t come right out and ask Biden to bribe me. I’d just wonder about it, and what the amount might be, in print. Maybe $3,000? He could call it a stimulus package.
Seriously, the Trump bribe will only work with citizens who can’t find the pea in a shell game played with no shells.
The average American 40 or over who has a retirement fund had $60,000 in it as of January. That’s dropped by a minimum of $8,000 in the two months since. $2,000 isn’t going to replace what they’ve lost.
Still, as I always say, never look a gift horse in the mouth. A baby is nothing to sneeze at. A bird in the hand is worth one bird. Every bird has a mother. Necessity is a mother. A stitch in time saves nine, and nine stitches in time save 81, etc. A watched pot never runs away. Nothing in life happens by accident. It happens because it’s your fault. It’s always your fault. Unless it’s good, then someone else gets the credit for it.
Take the money and run.
Don’t buy toilet paper with it.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd. He can be reached at drwes (at) realchangenews (dot) org
Read more in the Mar. 25-31, 2020 issue.