Unpunctured

By David Grima | Apr 08, 2021

Sorry about missing last week’s paper. Was feeling ill and was woefully unable even to scribble my usual scribblings.

Then, this week, the Spectrum interwebby thing lost connections all over Maine and New Hampster, causing me to regret giving up my previous system of writing on recycled breakfast cereal boxes which were dispatched to Courier headquarters by way of homing pigeons.

Always rely on the less complex things in life, in favor of the technologically splendid and miraculous, but often unreliable.

The fact that this nonsense even appears this week is itself something of a last-minute technical miracle mixed with unwanted haste, and a certain latitude extended by the editor of this fine publication.

* * * * *

There are many terrible things a community has to put up with, so I will not say that there is nothing worse than having a public clock that does not work.

But we happen to be putting up with such a thing here in the Blessed South End, where the clock installed by MBNA in 2001 at the corner of Water and (South) Main has been stuck in mechanical death for several weeks now, showing only that it never made it past 11:50 at some unforgotten day of a lost week.

In my ignorance I still do not know who is responsible for maintaining this clock, or who it is that usually waits a few days before adjusting it to the latest time change. So I do not know if the clock is broken but is awaiting the delivery of some hard-to-find mechanical parts, or whether it has simply been abandoned to rot and fall to pieces in front of our anguished eyes.

There is a piece of unwise folk wisdom that says a broken clock is worth more than no clock at all, because at least it is infallibly correct twice every day.

This is nonsense, of course. To take advantage of a clock that shows the correct time only twice a day, you need another clock to tell you when those so-called special moments arrive. So a broken clock calls out only to be repaired or else gotten rid of. It has no use when it doesn’t work.

Worse, a broken clock implies a broken community. Broken clocks are one of the things that happen when society has begun to fall apart. They gave notice of things that were once important, but which have now been abandoned, overlooked, ignored.

So, whoever you are who holds the overall responsibility for this wretched clock, please either repair it, replace it, or take it away.

* * * * *

Talking of ignoring things, I wish to mention a kind of person who has been overlooked by the media lately.

We hear all kinds of indigestible facts in the news each day about how many of us have received vaccinations against the plague. We have also heard about people who have read enough dubious writings on the subject that they fear that vaccinations are a fiendish government plot. We hear of communities where it is difficult to even schedule a shot, and so forth, but we hear nothing about people for whom the simple act of getting a vaccination is a great horror.

Speaking simply from a factual point of view, getting vaccinated is a simple affair, with many vaccinees claiming they feel little or nothing as the needle goes in. Many seem to respond as though it is a religious blessing, casting away crutches and leaping from their wheelchairs. Well, not really, but you get my drift?

But for those of us who were terrorized as children with a gothic vision of hypodermic evils, there is nothing said or written anywhere that even acknowledges our frustrating situation. We are simply unknown to the general population.

I returned to the Lime City the other day after my own failure to be vaccinated, feeling humiliated and absurd.

It had been my deepest intention to take the shot. I drove up to Belfast where the shooting was being done at the Athenahealth campus. I went through all the signing and all the papers, and was ushered into the shooting gallery, a nice place staffed by nice people, who probably assumed I would quickly be one more success to be added to their charts. Until this point, I was wholly with them.

It was the sight of the needle, lying there on the desk, that made the whole thing blow up in my face. Once more I was just 10 years old, waking up in hospital to find crowds of medical students gathered in the half-light around my bed, a hypodermic already inserted into my arm, and the overwhelming feeling of helplessness and pain hanging over everything.

Although this sort of thing has come back to you at all subsequent occasions in your life whenever you catch sight of the needle, in real life or even just on television, the familiar reaction can still come upon you as a surprise.

I freeze and lock up in an utterly irrational fear of what is to come — of what always did come, actually — and the nightmare is back.

As I small boy I was helpless in the hands of those wearing rubber gloves and waving the needle around. As an adult I have, at least, been able to flee. The consequences of this distressing scenario played themselves out all over again the other day, and I left Belfast quite unpunctured.

There is nothing rational about any of this, I suppose. I have failed to play my part in the great Public Health War, and It is embarrassing, and I doubt this sorry little confession will help in the slightest. But there it is.

They say that alternatives are being explored, people in white coats seeking ways to give vaccinations other than by needle. I hold out little hope.

* * * * *

Here in the South End we were once again visited by a humanoid creature in a lop-eared animal suit on Easter Sunday, as it handed out chocolate eggs from door to door.

It would be convenient to describe this character as Mr. E. Bunny, because there are the makings of a good pun in that name. However, it was definitely a Mrs. E. Bunny, and so the pun is destroyed.

It is my belief, however, that E. Bunny is none other than the South End Tomato Lady.

* * * * *

Saw a gray squirrel with a blond tail, the other day. Maybe nature is evolving a new species before our eyes, or else something else is going on.

* * * * *

I hear they are once more predicting that Amtrak will open passenger rail service to Rockland. But I no longer believe in this possibility, any more than I believe in needle-free vaccination.

Somebody will always find a reason why this will not happen. They have been very successful so far, so why would we think they have suddenly run out of excuses?

* * * * *

Speaking of Easter there was a printed sign in a local store the other day, announcing that egg-dyeing supplies were to be found in “Isle 3”.

Again, on a trip to Waterville last weekend, I saw a notice that a certain business was selling “pre-maid or custom clothes”.

(There is something interesting in both errors, such as the idea of an island in Penobscot Bay inhabited by multicolored rabbits laying multicolored eggs; or a place that makes clothing for girls who are not yet maids. Perhaps some of this is actually true?)

Either they have agreed to make these mistakes on purpose, or not. But the result is the same. At a time where not many people even write things with their own hands anymore, the art of spelling properly is starting to ebb away.

Pretty soon we will be back to the state that existed in Shakespeare’s day, when people spelled words how they thought they sounded. This is the situation Dr. Johnson wanted to confront a century later when he published his dictionary, even if he did forget to include the word “sausage.”

I am not sure about that last bit. Possibly it was a joke I once heard on television.

David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at davidgrima@ymail.com.

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