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Things I don't understand
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 There are many, many things in this world that this old boy just doesn't understand. Folks who know me know that I pretty much wear my feelings on my sleeve, and that what you see is what you get. I'm not long on subterfuge, have great distaste for those donkeys who try to impress the rest of us with how important they think they are, and every once in a while get fed up with things and just vent to anyone within earshot.

That's because somewhere in the long ago, somebody told me that I'd get wiser with age. And I keep waiting for it to happen. Nowadays I'm thinking that whoever said that was just playing a trick on me, and that the only way I'll ever figure things out is as the old hymn says: in the sweet bye and bye.

Well, I don't want to wait that long. So I thought I'd just ramble a little today about things I don't understand, in the hopes that when I run into you on the square or at Kroger or at one of the upcoming Eastside High football games over at Sharp Stadium you can enlighten me.

And I won't even mention heavy things like the situation in the Middle East, the upcoming presidential election, religion or why Michael Vick should rot in prison.

No, I'll keep it simple, for I'm a simple man, who simply does not understand.

The other day I was heading east on Floyd Street and sought to turn south onto Dearing. It was all I could do to make the turn because a vehicle was sitting there on Dearing facing the northbound stop sign, and spilling over onto my side of the road.

At first I thought it to be a simple case of a dumb driver on a cell phone not paying enough attention to his position in the lane. Closer examination, however, revealed that it was a case of the vehicle just being so extravagantly huge that it took up the whole doggone road.

Get a load of this, friends. It was a Lincoln Continental pickup truck. That's right. A Lincoln Continental doggone pickup truck was filling up his side of the street and spilling over the center line, making it tough for me to make a simple turn.

I don't understand.

I need somebody to explain to me what has brought America to the point where Lincoln Continental markets a pickup truck. I mean, what kind of person drives such a truck?

Who, other than a donkey who wants to impress the menial servitude with his own lofty socioeconomic status, would need such a vehicle?

Pickup trucks are for folks who work for a living. They're honest, hard-working folks who are painters, carpenters, plumbers or brick layers. Pickup folks coach football, haul manure and loads of firewood, chew tobacco and drink beer.

In other words, pickup folks sweat. They're for real.

And although I personally am partial to Chrysler products, the truth is that when I think of pickups I think of only two varieties: bow ties or blue ovals. In my mind, a pickup is either Chevy's "heartbeat of America" or is "built Ford-tough."

What in the world is a Lincoln Continental pickup truck? What's it for? To take servings of Russian caviar and French champagne from the refrigerated storage shed in the back yard to the servant's entryway near the palace kitchen?

I mean, if you drive a Lincoln Continental pickup truck, who are you trying to impress? Working folks? Are you planning on hauling some chicken manure in that thing that costs more than a schoolteacher is paid for a year's work in the classroom? Do you think that being seen in it makes others think you actually sweat?

I just don't understand.

Similarly, I don't understand those folks who spend scads of money on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, then haul it on a customized trailer behind their 21-foot-long Suburban or Expedition, and ride it through the Smokies or on "the strip" at any beach town to impress folks with how real they are, as they give those knowing waves to other bikers.

I mean, what are they about? Do they really think that passing motorists believe they were at Woodstock? Or left home to sell flowers at Haight-Asbury? Or are charter members of the "Hell's Angels" motorcycle gang?

I just don't understand.

Another thing that has me a bit miffed is the situation regarding storm drains in our neck of the woods.

Despite our present dearth of precipitation, it hasn't always been so. A few months ago we had such frequent deluges of rain that several of our city streets were flooded. They flooded so badly, in fact, that the runoff ruined the yards and flower beds of a considerable number of tax-paying citizens.

These citizens raised an outcry, and the city not only made restitution for the damages, but installed spiffy new grated storm drains in those troubled areas to circumvent future instances of a similar nature.

The problem is, when the spiffy street sweeper machine comes around, it piles up debris all across the face of those spiffy grated storm drains, effectively blocking them and creating even more of a potential hazard than had existed before they were installed.

And despite weekly visits by trash crews who dutifully take away garbage, recycling materials and other trash which homeowners pile up by the curb, nobody takes the time to sweep the grates clean and clear obstructions from the spiffy storm drains.

I just don't understand.

Next, there's the most confusing and most interesting case of all for me: the housing market. In the old days, a house was a place where folks settled, lived, raised a family, built memories, grew old, enjoyed the twilight years together and then left to their successors.

Nowadays, a house is a statement. Where you are tells folks what and who you are. How big, how costly, and how decorated your house is, I think, the name of the game.

What ever happened to a house actually being a home? You know - a place where life happens - not just a place to keep in pristine, perfect order so that it looks like the cover of Southern Living.

And prices for houses these days boggle my mind. I saw an ad for a brand new home in a ritzy, in-town neighborhood, reduced to only half-a-million dollars.

That's ... reduced.

And the first thing the new owner will do will be to buy wide plank, plantation-style blinds and shut them so nobody can see in. Of course, that means the owner cannot see out, either. So they've just paid half-a-million bucks not to be able to see out.

Hey, even prisoners can see out of their cells.

I just don't understand.

Finally, though, I find myself most confused concerning recent events involving unruly citizens who failed to follow instructions being shot dead by law enforcement officials.

Just this week a police officer in a metropolitan Atlanta county pulled an erratic motorist over. The police officer instructed the citizen to stay in the vehicle and to keep his hands in plain view. According to televised news reports, the motorist jumped out of the car and approached the officer, making threatening gestures.

The cop shot him dead.

Now, I'm not the brightest crayon in the box. But if an armed policeman tells me to act in a certain manner, I comply. In these crazy times in which we live, police officers are at risk just by being in uniform in the public eye. So when an officer tells me to do something, I follow the Nike shoe slogan mantra: just do it.

But I guarantee you, there will be an inquest into the matter in the neighboring metro county. It'll turn into a witch hunt, and folks will try to portray the officer as the wrong-doer.

News reporters will feast on the proceedings, and officials not even remotely connected to the incident will make grandiose comments as if they were eye witnesses. And the cop, whose life was at risk, who gave clear instructions to the man who was threatening him, will go through a most difficult time as it plays out.

I just don't understand.

For you see, I know a lot of people. I mean, really, I know a lot of people. And of all those folks I know, only two are licensed and have hand guns with them at all times. Just two. And none of the folks I know would jump out of a vehicle and charge at a policeman while making threatening gestures. None of them.

Perhaps when I run into you on the square, or at Kroger, or over at Sharp Stadium, you can explain it to me. Otherwise I guess I'll just have to wait 'til the sweet bye and bye to know what makes some things tick.

But for now, I just don't understand.

Nat Harwell is a Newton County resident whose column appears Sundays in The Covington News.