When you think you have it bad, you don’t, but others do…

April 20, 2009

Sometimes when things are not going right and the whole world seems to be falling apart around you, what you may not realize is that somewhere else people have it a lot worse. And once you are made aware of that you may feel kind of foolish or small (but maybe not better).

I think such was the case ten years ago, April 20, 1999.

It was a hot day in Los Angeles. That’s the way detective Joe Friday of the old Dragnet show might have put it.

I was a long haul truck driver. Among other things that day, I had a tough time backing in at a super crowded and narrow dock with all kinds of obstacles, such as a fire hydrant. No damage and no one hurt, but it took awhile. And then I had to wait a long time to simply pick up one pallet of organic bananas that had been sitting out on a hot loading dock (they were rejected at the other end). Finally I got out of there (and technically this was in Fullerton, but the whole LA basin, which is virtually all paved over, is all LA to me) but something was wrong. My refrigeration unit on my trailer was not working and I had much more produce to pick up (Oxnard and Salinas, probably, I don’t recall that for sure). So, the powers that be sent me to Vernon (still LA to me) to a refer repair shop. Glad I wasn’t paying the bill. At the time is was $100 just to have them look at it (wonder why your food costs so much?). I was there for a couple of hours at least (I don’t remember what the total bill was, but it was big). They tore apart the whole refer motor, literally. The guy had it in small pieces all neatly laid out. Now the computer built into the unit tells them what is wrong before they do anything. I can read the computer. It said a switch was defective. The switch was on the outside of the unit. When I swung by my home terminal in Northern California later, a refer mechanic there shook his head. He said the job should have taken all of but five minutes (breaking down on the road is costly).

While I was waiting at the LA refer repair place I could not help but think, being a long-haul trucker I was not making any money. I only got paid by the mile.

The customer waiting room was a cubby hole with a ratty chair and a TV set and, as I recall, it did not have air conditioning. It was at least in the high 90s outside. A truck driver was sitting in the chair and seemed to be mesmerized by what was on the television screen. I asked him what it was. He said there was some kind of shooting incident or attack on a high school.

Well of course that turned out to be the infamous Columbine High School shootings at Littleton, Colorado, where two teenage boys went on a rampage and shot 12 of their classmates and one teacher and wounded 23 others.

The thing that stuck out in my mind out of all of that was how long the police waited to go in. I know this ground has been covered by me and others, but that still bothers me. According to the reports I have read it took more than an hour and a half for the police to move in. The perpetrators had already killed themselves sometime before.

Of course had the police rushed in like the Russians do in hostage situations and killed innocent people in the process they would have become the villains.

But there has to be some type of compromise and tactic worked out to save innocent lives. In light of recent incidents, it does not seem that has been worked out.

But the theme of this post is when you think you have it bad, others have it far worse. Certainly in my case what I was going through that day was trivial.

And knowing that someone has it worse than you do may not always make you feel better. I was just making an observation.


I just read an article that says there were many myths built up by various news reports. It claimed that there was no evidence that the Columbine murderers were outcasts or that they were picked on at school. It said that actually no one really knows why they did what they did. I have no real idea myself. I can only conclude that the two were psychopaths and did not separate the make believe world of things like video games and and cartoons and TV dramas from real life. Unfortunately on that dark day back in 1999 they made an unbelievable horror come painfully true.

Going in guns blazing Russian style may not be the answer, but neither is waiting (too long)…

April 6, 2009

Somewhere there has to be a happy medium in police response in these mass shooting incidents.

On the one hand, we don’t want the police to go blazing in blindly and shoot or gas everyone Russian style, but on the other hand waiting nearly 45 minutes as at Binghamton or waiting for a long time while children continued to be shot as at Columbine several years ago seems to me unacceptable.

(At Binghamton some survivors reportedly hid for several hours before they were freed from perceived danger. At Columbine it took police something like two hours to move in after the shooting started, even though there was some police presence within minutes.)

I’m 100 percent for officer safety, but it is a police duty to protect citizens in harm’s way, not wait until the coast is clear.

I have not studied these things and I don’t have the answer – except that I wish the answer was that there would be no more such incidents to worry about.

But I can’t get over the memory of Columbine and the video of police waiting as children screamed for help and hung out windows while the rampage was still going on.

And I recall that in the not-so-long ago Virginia Tech incident there is a famous video of a cop standing there with his gun drawn but not moving and the sounds of shots from the shooter’s weapon – the death toll rising.

And I know full well that policemen face as much danger as if they were in a war zone. Within a day of the Binghamton incident, in which 13 innocent people died, three officers were gunned down responding to a domestic dispute over a dog in Pittsburgh.

All I am wishing is that the experts use these incidents to reassess their standard operating procedures.

Rescuers need to be rescuing not waiting unnecessarily. And I already noted at the top that we don’t want to go in blindly with guns blazing and kill the hostages and get police killed in the process too, but this has become such a problem, this mass shooting business, we need improvement in our response tactics.


And why is it that these nut cases have such apparently easy access to high powered weapons and why is it that there always seems to have been clues – comments and personal behavior – before hand that went unheeded?

I will answer my own question, in part. We live in a free country and have a right to keep and bear arms. I don’t want to lose freedom of movement and freedom of privacy and of self defense, but when someone gives off public clues, perhaps we need to listen and take them seriously.

And I would think anyone who makes threats loses some of his or her rights at that moment.