“Government leaders are amazing. So often it seems they are the last to
know what the people want.” - Aung San Suu Kyi
It was halftime at the high school game, and I was standing in line waiting to buy a veggieburger and a glass of cider. Turned out the guy in front of me was Dave Crawford, one of my high school classmates, who has a commercial electronics business. We got to jawing, and I asked him if he was getting much work with the economy still in a nosedive.
“I can’t complain, Ace,” he said. “Things have been slow for the past year and a half, and I had to lay off most of my crew, but I landed a job in DC that’s been keeping me pretty busy right now.”
“Yeah?” I said. “What are you doing?”
“Actually,” he said, “I’m working on an acoustics problem they’re having in both the House and the Senate. Something’s not working right. They talk, and the public can hear them just fine, but when the public talks to them, they can hardly hear a word. Or if something gets through, the sound is completely distorted.”
“Distorted?” I said, puzzled. “Whaddya mean?”
“Let me give you a for instance,” he said. “The public says, ‘Help! Hundreds of thousands of us are losing our homes!’”
“Sure,” I said. “That’s a huge issue.”
“Yeah, but what Congress hears is ‘Help the banks and investment firms! They’re losing their bonuses!’”
“That’s weird,” I said.
“Isn’t it?” he agreed. “And it’s a constant problem. Right now the public is saying, ‘Create more jobs, even if it means an increase in spending,’ and Congress hears, ‘Cut more jobs in order to reduce spending.’”
“Bizarre,” I said.
“It’s just constant,” he affirmed. “The public says, ‘Tax the rich to help balance the budget,’ and Congress hears, ‘Cut taxes to line the wealthy’s pocket.’”
“How could the public’s voice get so distorted?” I wondered, shaking my head. “Is it a design problem in the audio system? Some flaw in the original?”
“No, no, the design seems fine,” said Dave. “In fact, a lot of other countries liked it so much that they’ve used it themselves. And evidently the acoustics were okay for a long time. Not terrific, maybe, but at least the public could make themselves understood.”
“How about the sound equipment?”
“That’s the first thing we looked at. It’s kind of old, but it’s all still serviceable. The mikes, amps, control panel, all that stuff checked out.”
“When did the problem crop up then?”
“Well,” he laughed, “they’re kind of embarrassed about that. They don’t know. One member said she thought it might have started after the Supreme Court ruled that money was a form of speech, and people could talk with all the money they wanted to spend. But most of her colleagues swore that hadn’t impacted their hearing at all. To tell the truth, congress members hadn’t even noticed there was a problem, but finally so many people were complaining that they asked us to come in and look over their setup.”
“Where do you go from here?” I asked.
“We did find a problem in the wiring system,” he said. “There’s a real rats’ nest in the lobbying network. There’s shredded money all over the place where they’ve made themselves at home.”
“I’ll bet that’s a mess,” I said.
“You’d better believe it,” said Dave. “Urine and feces everywhere, and they’ve actually gnawed at the fabric of the Union itself.”
“Sounds like that could be the source of your problem,” I said. “Are you replacing the wiring?
“That’s a tough one,” he said, shaking his head. “A lot of it is concealed and hard to get at, and the layers of insulation shielding that stuff are just unbelievably thick.”
“Boy, I’m glad that’s your problem and not mine,” I said, and then told the lady at the counter, “Mustard and lots of onion on that burger, if you don’t mind.”
© Tony Russell, 2010