Mississippi Backfill

« August 2007 »

Seven hours. I'd been out of town for seven hours, and that's when Minneapolis decided to become national news?

I know you're probably sick to death of bridge shit right now, but cut me some slack. During the two weeks I was out of town, a lot of shit happened, and some of it needs to be mentioned.

At one point, the Today show described Tim Pawlenty as "at a loss for words", then cut to a clip of him reading from his statement at the evening press conference. Now, I'm no scholar of the English language, or at least that part of the English language suitable for broadcast on the Today show. But I'm pretty sure "at a loss for words" doesn't mean "having a carefully prepared and leaderly-sounding speech ready for air". I think, in fact, it means the exact fucking opposite.

It may sound like I'm being a bit harsh on old Tim-O for doing what every politician does in this situation - find someone on his staff who can express abstracts of human emotion in a safe and photogenic way - but bear with me. I mean, I'm not going to sit here and say that this was Tim Pawlenty's fault. Claiming that he was directly responsible for the deaths of up to a dozen people would be legally irresponsible and factually incorrect. He's INdirectly responsible for the deaths of up to a dozen people. Not just him. The whole lot of them. Every single politician who does the math. Who weighs in one hand the benefit to society of actually paying for the things that need doing, and weighs in the other hand the damage to their career caused by taking tax money away from their contributors. And choose themselves.

I've seen it forever. From the lowliest Connecticut school board to the federal government. They cross their fingers, put off the maintenance for another year, and roll the dice. And nine hundred and ninety times out of a thousand, it doesn't result in a catastrophic collapse and loss of life. And the one time it DOES happen, all they have to do is claim it's inappropriate to point fingers, and there'll be time for that later. Because they know that mythical later time will never manage to roll around.

I tell you, I deride the mainstream media just as much as the next Internet writer, but you can't deny that once CNN has made up special graphics and a theme song for something that happened in your home town, you are ON THE MAP, BABY. You have capital-A Arrived. I didn't think we'd get to this point until the Republican National Convention next year, and even then, it wouldn't really be about us. This time, when Matt Lauer came in person to our fair city, it wasn't because Rudy Giuliani came here from New York first.

It was also interesting to watch the calculus from afar as they tried to figure out who to send to show how much they cared. The bridge collapsed on a Wednesday. On Thursday, we warranted a Friday trip from Laura Bush, who apparently was able to take precious time away from ending gang violence. But by Friday, El Chimpacabra himself deigned to come by for the weekend. Since there wasn't a rising death count at the time, all I can figure is that they were gauging media coverage. They probably just follow some kind of Larry King Rule - once Captain Suspenders has devoted three nights in a row to it, the President of the United States has to step in.

In case you're wondering how the Sacramento newspaper covered it the first morning, I will share with you their headline. ACTUAL HEADLINE TIME!


Which is pithy, but it's really more of a pullquote you'd want from a review of Steven Spielberg's "Duel" than a tragedy affecting dozens of people. I do think it's interesting that they chose to go with width as their dimension. The natural instinct, I'd think, is to go with the Z axis (plunge, collapse, fall), followed by length ("SPAN OF DEATH"), but that's just me.

FUN FACT: Elapsed time between bridge collapse and first comparison to 9/11: 90 minutes. That's good, but we can get that time down quite a bit if we keep up with our emergency media preparedness drills, people. The next time you drop a glass on the floor and break it, I want to practice the following phrase: "This must have been how the people at Ground Zero felt, Larry."\