The Doctor Is In

in Poetry

Dr. Wes

Sticking a finger in a military tribunal


Being a member of the editorial board of this august rag, I periodically meet with other editorial board members to do editorial board stuff. For example the other day we all sat around a table eating pizza. But right now I'm thinking of a time when we were not only eating pizza, we were thinking. We were thinking about stuff that we could put in the paper.

Usually I'm not any good at that kind of thing, because I don't know anything. So I keep quite while other people talk. But this time I had a cool idea. I said we should write about this military tribunal business.

Then one of our editors, Michele "Process! Process! Process!" Marchand, said something positive and encouraging about my idea. I think she said, "Why don't you write about that in your column, Wes?"

Unfortunately, now that I sit down to write I am high on Nyquil and my brain is telling me that what Michele said was "Why don't you stick your finger in a lamp socket, Wes?" This has triggered the following flashback.

It was just about forty years ago, 1961. I was 12 years old. My parents had hauled my ass to Guadalajara to live in an apartment building in the suburbs next door on one side to an escaped Nazi, and on the other side to some self-exiled former American commie. We were just there to take advantage of the inexpensive low standard of living. Eggs rancheros! Two cent bus rides! A free nacho with every martini!

But I digress. On this particular day, I was home alone, reading, when the light in the lamp burned out. So I unscrewed the bulb and got a new one. Then I thought, "Hey, I wonder what it would feel like if I stuck my finger in the socket?"

I probably wouldn't have even considered it for more than a second if I was in the US. I mean, we've got REAL electricity here in the US of A. But I was in Mexico where the electricity was probably made by rubbing a thousand balloons on poor people's heads or something like that. So I did it.

Don't try this in your own homes, kids. I stuck my finger all the way into that lamp socket. It immediately felt like a big womping firecracker went off in my arm, concentrated in my elbow. My whole arm jerked violently, which was probably really good because it pulled my finger out so my finger wasn't fried. It just burned a little.

But the cool thing was that now all the lights were out in the whole apartment. So I went out to find the building manager, to get the fuse replaced. Then I found out that all the lights were out everywhere in our building. By the time I found the manager, he had replaced the burned out fuse, but it didn't get the lights on, BECAUSE ALL THE ELECTRICITY WAS OUT IN OUR WHOLE END OF GAUDALAJARA.

The grid was down, and it stayed down for two hours! It was so awesome! And I did it all by myself with my own little index finger!

Of course I had to tell everybody how it had happened. And then after I told everybody about my adventure with the light socket, I realized I could be in big trouble. What if the Mexican police found out an American 12 year old was sabotaging the city electrical system? I could have experienced puberty in a Mexican prison, learning a Spanish vocabulary of a sort that would be of absolutely no use to me in a career as a botanist.

It occurs to me now, with the hindsight of forty years, that sticking my finger in that lamp socket was a mistake. Sure, it looked good at the time, and there were some thrills associated with it, but all in all it wasn't worth the risk, now that I look back on it.

And that's what I think we'll all feel about military tribunals, in a few decades down the road.