Saturday, January 24, 2004

A Modest Proposal

And the first of my short stories to be blogged is...


"A Modest Proposal" - I wrote this in my senior year for a homework assignment where I had to, after reading Jonathan Swift's version of "A Modest Proposal", make up my own "modest proposal". Basically, the assignment was that I had to think up something that I could write about that was so absurd that it wasn't modest or even plausibly reasonable at all. So this is what I came up with. By the way, I ended up getting a 47/50 on this assignment, with a comment from the teacher saying, "Good detailed descriptions". (If you've never read Jonathan Swift's version, it might be useful to do that since it will help you get a few of the jokes...but it isn't really necessary if you don't have access to a copy.)

"A Modest Proposal"

How many times have you been in a rush to go somewhere, and the only thing impeding you is a red light? In the modern society that we live in, we spend countless hours waiting at traffic signals. What about when you want to go straight at a signal, but you have to wait for the green arrow to change even though there is not a single person within three square miles wanting to turn left at that signal? Believe it or not, there is a very simple way to stop this from happening! I have a very reasonable and modest proposal that will solve all of these problems and more!

I propose to have every car equipped with a device that has the ability to instantly switch red lights to green with the simple push of a button. Just think of how much easier and faster it would be to have the power to change the color of a signal whenever you want to. What if you have a job that normally takes twenty minutes to get to? With the ability to change red signals to green with the press of a button, you could literally smash your driving time in half. What about when you are at one of those signals that gives a green light to the traffic perpendicular to you, but there is no traffic going that direction? Just press the button and you can be on your way!

However, due to the inevitable popularity of these devices, there will be people wanting to get a handheld version for when they have to walk to where they want to go. There is no problem with that. In fact, it would be great for kids who have to walk to school also. When they reach a red light, they can just press the button of their handy-dandy signal switcher, and they can be on their way to school unobstructed by red lights. In fact, why not make one specifically designed to fit on the handlebars of a bike so that when bikers get to a red light, they can simply reach to the middle of the handlebars, press the button, and continue on without having to get off their bike and press the "walk" button.

As a matter of fact, since people are going to be constantly pressing that little button to turn red lights to green, why not make it infinitely easier? Remove all the stoplights in the entire world! Then people can commute in peace, unhindered by signals, free to go at their own pace. Well, maybe that is taking it just a little bit too far...

Unfortunately, there are a few small problems with my wonderful yet modest proposal. First of all, since there are about thirty billion people in the world, minus the approximately sixty thousand infants and around ten thousand disabled and senior citizens who never go out of their house anyway, there would have to be about seven hundred and fifty million of these devices made. Plus you must take into consideration the number of devices that will be potentially broken, lost or stolen, and that number should be around two thousand annually. Also you must consider that all these devices have to be shipped to all the people who order them, and that the shipping and handling costs by themselves would be around six million dollars, unless people order them by air mail, which would make the price fly up to seven and a half million dollars. Then you have your certain individuals who absolutely, positively must have their device delivered overnight. That would make the cost soar up to around ten million dollars for just the shipping and handling. Then you have the price of the devices themselves. Considering that they need to be relatively small to fit on a bike or the palm of your hand, they will probably be rather expensive. I would imagine that they would cost approximately eleven hundred dollars each, which is a small price to pay considering how much happiness you will receive by being able to turn red lights to green. (Disclaimer: The amount of happiness gained by these devices may vary. Actual happiness can be bought at your local Costco store for a low low price of only $3.75 a pound.)

Of course, there is one other slight problem with giving commuters power over when red lights are green, and when green lights are red. I would imagine that many drivers, bikers, and pedestrians would end up occupying the same space at the same time, which would make for a rather nasty development. Also, if you let people change the lights whenever they want and go when they please, they would end up getting used to having the right to do what they want, and I am sure that a few members of our government would have a problem with giving the people too much authority to do what they want. If the government had their way, they would make everyone sign a form at every intersection promising that they will not go until the light turns green, and that they will proceed until the next red light, at which time they will stop, and fill out another form of the same nature. If for some reason there are no forms to fill out at a signal, they must wait 6-8 weeks in their car for the post office to deliver a replacement form. How's that for a modest proposal?

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