There’s a story my grandma tells:
While she was babysitting three-year-old me, I wanted to play pretend. She asked what we should pretend. I said we should pretend I was Queen of the Spider Women, which amused my grandma to no end. At which point I said, “And you shall be my servant. Kneel, servant,” and she was less amused.
After playing along for a time, fetching things for me and preparing my meals to my exact specifications, grandma grew tired of the game and, seeking an easy out with which to end the charade, said, “My queen! The peasants have risen against you! What should we do?”
“Kill dem,” I said, with the adorable speech impediment that went uncorrected until third grade.
“Kill them?” said grandma, shocked at my callous disregard for the lower classes.
“Yes, kill dem,” I clarified. “Dey have disappointed me.”
As much as I admire three-year-old me, that right there is one of the reasons I’m not in charge.
I tried to understand the government shutdown. I really did. I read articles about it, both from reliable news sources and from Fox. I watched videos, both from reliable news sources and from Youtube reports. I listened to the complaints from friends and neighbors, both in person and in bad infographics on Facebook, and I felt really bad for the 1 (one) friend I have with a bad case of “the furlough”.
Then I got distracted by cute cat pictures on the internet.
So that’s another reason I’m not in charge.
“Would you look at this?” I held up the library book so my coworker Tiffany could see that, while trying to remove the year-old “New Books” sticker, I’d ripped another cover. “Every time! Why can’t they give these things better covers?”
“The publishers certainly don’t make books with libraries in mind,” Tiffany said, nodding sympathetically as she layered plastic laminate over a paperback children’s book to make it last longer.
“Well, they should!” I said. “In fact, when I’m in charge—‘cause that’s totally going to happen someday. It’s a given—when I’m in charge, all the publishers will have to tow the line. First, better covers. Then, standard sizes for all the children’s picture books: I hate all the different heights and lengths! And they’re going to clearly state on the spine of the book whether it’s part of a series and which volume number it is. I mean, the name of the series needs to be bigger than the title, alright? And let’s bring back subject headings on the copyright page! They still do it for nonfiction, but in fiction? Don’t make me read the summary to figure out which genre sticker I have to put on this thing!”
“It all sounds wonderful,” Tiffany said. “You’ve given this a lot of thought.”
“Yes,” I said. “Mine will be a chaotic rule, as no one will collect the taxes and people will be starving in the streets, but at least the publishing industry will be sorted out.”
This seems like a perfectly valid reason not to put me in charge.
“Goodnight, you guys!” I told the evening shift on my way out the door on Wednesday. “I’ll leave you to solve all the world’s problems in my absence, okay?”
“What, all of them?” said Benjamin, exchanging a look with Kristina.
“Yeah, it might take you an hour or two. Just try to focus: I know how easily distracted you can be,” I said, turning to leave.
“Wait!” Benjamin called after me. “Is there a moral or ethical standard we should start from?”
“Oh, heavens no,” I said. “Ethics just complicate things. Have fun!”
I shouldn’t have been surprised on Thursday afternoon when they proudly proclaimed they had the solution. “But you won’t like it,” Kristina said.
“Spill it,” I said.
Benjamin went into full-on Rant Mode: “Well, in the absence of moral standards, everyone agrees that there’s no afterlife and no purpose to living, and it’s all meaningless and—”
Kristina cut him off: “Benjamin advocates mass suicide.”
“That’s your answer?” I said, looking his way. “Try again, but this time devise a solution in which I get to live.”
When Benjamin and I were closing the library Friday afternoon, he said, “I think we’ve really got it this time.”
“If we still don’t care about ethics, what we should do is close all the prisons. Just shove all the inmates in a hole or a pit somewhere and use the money we would have spent on them to solve all the financial issues.”
“Oh, that’s marvelous!” I said. “I like it!”
“Wait,” said Tiffany. “Why not an island?”
“Because Australia,” said Benjamin. “You put all the criminals on an island and eventually they take it over, start breeding, maybe even prospering, and the next thing you know they’re cutting down all the trees and building ships and you have an armada of criminals sailing in to repopulate the world after the apocalypse.”
“That’s… not quite what happened in Australia,” I said.
“Still, no islands.”
“Okay, but let’s think this through. Last time we threw a bunch of criminals in a pit, one of them got out and Bane destroyed Gotham!” I said.
“Are you seriously going to protest this plan based on a fictional example?” Benjamin asked.
“So far, it’s a fictional plan, so yes.”
He sighed. “Fine.”
The last patrons of the day were checking out their books. I checked the clock on my phone to see if I could lock the doors yet.
Then Benjamin said, “No, it’s a good plan! Bane didn’t climb out of the pit! He was rescued!”
“That fixes everything!” I said.
And this would be but one of the many reasons I’m not in charge.