I’d never even heard of him until this week. Craig Ferguson hosts the “Late, Late Show” and opened his program Monday night asking the audience and the world at large, perhaps, “haven’t we had enough of this s***?”
The word with the stars of course represents a family-friendly version of the word many of us say routinely to express anger, disgust, frustration and to describe any number of unpleasant things or circumstances. I’ve also read that it’s the most common utterance recorded on airplane black boxes (Oh, s***!) when a plane is “going down.”
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid hollered (Oh, s***!) when they jumped off the cliff into a raging river to escape “those guys,” the Pinkertons, who were in hot pursuit. When that movie came out, mainstream films didn’t usually have too much potty language, so the word was muffled, but grown-up audiences knew exactly what they were hollering.
Kudos to Craig Ferguson for saying what millions if not billions of us would like to express. “We’re sick to death of this s***!” Bombings and shootings or threats of bombings and shootings, maybe not every day, but way too d*** often.
It takes a concerted effort not to feel existentially victimized by such events. Do we really want to go to the big Labor Day parade? Do we really want to cram into Candlestick Park to watch the 49ers knowing that some nut or whole can of nuts might get into the stadium with a duffle bag full of TNT and 50 pounds of ball bearings? Do we tighten our pucker strings even more than usual when we ride BART under San Francisco Bay or drive over the Golden Gate Bridge or stand on a corner enjoying the circus that is the Bay to Breakers run?
“If you see something, say something” has become the security officials’ mantra urging us all to be alert, watch for suspicious people or suspicious activities or suspicious objects. I would think that most of us have always been reasonably alert to “suspiciousness” when out and about. When walking along a crowded street or milling around at a big flea market, you move your wallet from your back pocket to your front pocket. If you carry a purse, you strap it over one shoulder and kind of hold one arm close to your body to keep it from being snatched away. That kind of common sense has always been part of life in a crowded world.
These days being suspicious has a much more universal element. It’s not just your wallet you need to worry about; it’s your building or your kid’s school, your whole neighborhood or your whole town. 9/11 brought us an increased fear of flying and a whopping increase in airport and airline security.
That’s good. I always feel better knowing that everyone getting on my plane has been screened and double-checked before being allowed into the boarding area. It’s kind of a pain to take off your shoes and belt and unload your pocket change and give up your dinky little corkscrew, but overall, it’s not that inconvenient. You can always wear easy-off shoes, keep spare change in your backpack and pick up a cheap corkscrew when you get to your destination.
By today, Friday, the information might be all different, but as of Wednesday morning, CNN was tentatively reporting that the Boston bomber was probably a “lone wolf,” and later announced a suspect had been arrested. Not long after that came another report noting that the Justice Department had later said that no one had been arrested after all.
If indeed it turns out to be a “lone wolf,” in many ways that’s a good thing. It localizes the threat to that particular street in Boston at a particular moment in time. On the other hand, it gives pause to wonder how many other “lone wolves” are out there waiting to set off a bomb at our city hall or the county court house or the Fourth of July picnic.
The September 11 attacks changed some things for us. They changed some things a lot and other things not so much. We aren’t bunkerized or scared to leave our homes, but we’re certainly more aware when we travel — not because we’ve individually had bad experiences but because of the visible increase in security measures.
About 15 years ago, while visiting relatives in Virginia, we took the subway into Washington, D.C. I wanted to go to the Holocaust Museum. Everyone else wanted to go just about anywhere but the Holocaust Museum. Taking my place at the back of a long line that stretched around the corner and down the block, I was surprised when armed guards slowly came along the line with bomb-sniffing dogs. We hadn’t seen that at any of the other landmark sights around the city. I understood it at the time, and at that location, but it was unusual. And it didn’t surprise me that they weren’t conducting the same kind of security at other historic and popular places. We wouldn’t lose our so-called innocence for another couple of years.
Back then I couldn’t have legitimately said, “I’m sick to death of this s***!” because other than the Oklahoma City bombing, we hadn’t seen much of it up till then. But I can sure say it now: “Enough of this “s***!” Now people in West, Texas can say it and mean it literally.
Chris Daley is a staff writer and columnist for the Mountain Democrat. His column appears each Friday.