For the past couple of weeks, I spent some time at the beach near Rockport, Massachusetts, one of my favorite places on earth. I rented a cute little beach house, within a stones throw of the surf. While the weather didn't much cooperate, the mostly continual rain provided me with a great opportunity for some much needed solitude and work on a new book which I've been hatching. Little did I know what excitement would unfold on my last day.
11:00am: It had been raining all night and the wind was pretty active. The surf was angry. Through the rain pelting down, I notice a man in a bright orange raincoat standing on the beach, about 200' from my front door. No big deal. There are plenty of people who enjoy a walk on the beach in any weather, although the place is pretty much deserted now, what with the howling wind and driving rain.
But, about 30 minutes later, with the rain subsiding, I notice him again. He's still standing in the same place. Hmmm. What's going on? I grab my binoculars and notice that he's appears to be guarding a small canister that's apparantly washed up on the beach. Ah hah! With the headline "Cleinman wins Pulitzer Prize for Breaking Story" in mind, I unpack my Nikon with the 400mm zoom lens and start photographing what's unfolding before me.
Noon: The original chap has disappeared but I observe that now there are three "officials" standing around and eyeballing this cylinder. They're talking both among themselves as well as by radio. There's obviously something BIG going down, here.
1:00pm: By now, the suspense ever-increasing, there are five "officials" on the beach, some looking at the strange canister, others off to the side. They're likely discussing when they expect the bomb to go off or what to do if the nerve gas escapes. This is serious stuff! Binoculars and Nikon in hand, I'm watching all this unfold from my upstairs window.
3:00pm: After watching no less than seven "officials" and two pick-up trucks arrive and depart over a period of about four hours,I'm anxiously awaiting the bomb squad with their sniffing dogs. Not a single hand has touched this strange device.
Instead an orange dump truck arrives, carrying a 55 gallon open drum. Why aren't they breaking out the HAZMAT suits and the remote control bomb detonating device?
No sooner had the dump truck arrived, I mean almost immediately, one of the "officials" leans over, nonchalantly picks up the canaster with one hand and deposits it, bare-handed, in the barrel with the flip of his left arm. Without a single moment of hesitation, without even a glove, the mystery cannister was been relegated to the trash.
Again, virtually instantaneously, the dump truck drives off (probably to the landfill) and the seven men scatter to their respective destinations. Poof…they're gone.
Yep…this is your stimulus package at work in the real world. Add up the impact to our economy. Seven men at $30 an hour and three vehicles; benefits, pensions, time off with pay, etc. Four hours start to finish. That's likely well over $2000 of economic stimuli…all to accomplish what one guy did in less than 30 seconds.
Perhaps Abe Lincoln summarized this situation best with "if I have a one hour job, I'll spend the first 45 minutes planning it."
Now, as for your and my tax dollars, I feel compelled to report that we can feel secure knowing that so many people and assets are deployed to ensure our safety.
As they say, "Only in America."