Tales From Event City: A Philosophical Fairy Tale

Barry Perlman(Photo: File/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)Buy Photo

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Someone asked what Sunshine, Weary and Betsy were up to. The bartender leaned across the bar. “Fairy tales,” he said quietly, and shook his head.

“Once upon a time there was a kingdom where the king wanted everyone to see how grand his castle and its surroundings were, so he invented ‘gateway roads’ leading to them.” Sunshine loved fairy tales.

Betsy picked up the tale. “In this kingdom the roads and automobiles were most important. Almost more cars than the kingdom could handle.”

Weary smiled. “So when someone offered to pay most of the cost to widen one of these roads the king agreed. How could he not? And it became four lanes. But the kingdom’s residents began to complain. ‘We can’t back out of our driveways, speeders all day long, our sense of community is destroyed, accidents are piling up.’ And the king’s advisers wisely shook their heads. ‘What did people expect when the street became a four-lane road?’”

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Sunshine picked up the tale. “But the king believed the neighborhoods and citizens who owned and rented their homes deserved life quality. So he went to his kingdom planner who told him: ‘If you value home ownership as much as you do automobiles, make each outside lane on this street a ‘back-up’ lane so folks can toodle out of their driveways safely.’ The king thought and summoned his wizard. They whispered together. The next day the gateway road was 6 lanes, 3 in each direction. The inside lane was for the residents.”

Betsy’s turn. “That didn’t work out at all. No front yards and the cars went faster than ever so the wizard made it four lanes again. The king’s closest adviser, the kingdom planner had an idea. ‘Maybe we should spend some money doing something. Maybe a survey.’”

“The king liked surveys. ‘Great idea,’ he said. ‘But usually, don’t you spend money – say 50 grand – on a survey before spending millions changing a street?’ Now were going to spend the money after the fact?  And then spend even more money correcting the problem.’ The adviser replied, ‘ that’s called kingdom planning.’” Weary smiled. Planning indeed.

“It was all very confusing and no one wanted the king confused.” Sunshine said. “The king proclaimed, ‘We need a kingdom philosopher.’”

“Huh?” It was a chorus and both Betsy and Weary looked confused, as did all of the king’s advisers in the fairy tale.

Sunshine went on. “The king was aware of the French engineer Pierre Charles L'Enfant who turned a swamp into America’s capital. ‘My kingdom needs somebody like that. And I want the kingdom’s council to ask people their opinions on the kingdom’s values and what they should be?”’

“The court jester had been very quiet until now. ‘But you can’t get the ketchup back in the bottle. Even the wizard has his limits. The gateway street cannot be two lanes again.’ Everyone looked at him, amazed at his wisdom.” Betsy smiled; the thought of a wise court jester pleased her greatly.

“The king knew the wizard could juggle two balls – cars and roads, and housing and neighborhoods. But the king was worried. Could the wizard juggle four balls – adding in water containment and business/commerce interests in the kingdom?” Weary knew juggling four balls was difficult, even for a wizard.

Betsy went on. “Compromise, the king thought. ‘Perhaps slower speeds and a bit more traffic traded for more trees and prettier roads.’ The king looked at his council. ‘So we are agreed. ‘Find me Pierre L’Enfant for the workshop.’ The kingdom’s residents would pay the $50,000 cost so the king didn’t care about that. But Pierre had died long ago. And the planning led nowhere as the jester knew it would. The wizard retired. The citizens remained displeased. The kingdom council put up a brave front. And no one lived happily ever after.”

Aren’t bars wonderful? Where else do you hear a philosophical discussion of juggling? Where else could you get a lesson in urban planning? And maybe even an idea or two? And wizards and a fairy tale.

Community columnist Barry Perlman is a retired psychology professor from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

Source : https://www.thenorthwestern.com/story/opinion/columnists/2018/09/14/tales-event-city-philosophical-fairy-tale-barry-perlman/1305728002/

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