Israel is at war with Hamas over the Gaza Strip, and all flights to Tel Aviv are suspended. The entire Middle East is in bedlam–as ISIS forces are destroying human lives–and historic accomplishments. (They stupidly reduced ancient Assyrian monuments to rubble for “religious reasons”.) Another Malaysian airliner has crashed—this time wrongfully shot down over the Ukraine by drunken rebels. Californians are embarrassing the entire United States with ignorant anti-immigration hatred directed at Central American children attempting to seek safety and asylum to escape violent drug wars. House Republicans are suing the president for doing his job. And Ebola is lose on international flights. In other words, another day, another litany of unspeakable horrors. We’ve come to expect as much. In fact the next senseless mass-shooting or genocide is an ever-pending inevitability.
The other day while walking Winnie during a break from rolling-thunderstorms, I heard a voice of indeterminate origin, a bit louder than a normal pitch. As the dog and I approached an intersection situated between Philadelphia’s Wills Eye Hospital and the The Reading Library for the Blind, we heard the voice again. It was an authoritative, celestial voice–firm and commanding in sultry feminine tones. She had valuable, albeit androidal information to impart. Clearly it was our duty as astute citizens to lend an ear to absorb her message. The loudspeaker voice-boxes were hidden from view–perched at a height taller than a transit bus aiming her electronic words directly at pedestrians on the sidewalk below. Hers is a voice that could keep people awake at night, and in fact it does, because some of the loudspeakers are mounted on the walls of Jefferson Hospital’s student housing–which is probably good training for a profession scarred by scrambled sleep patterns.
But what was she saying? All I could do was sweep aside all my meandering worries about our globe full of troubles, if only to find out what this mysterious goddess-like voice had to say.
The “She Voice” was both comforting and at once decidedly synthesized in a very science-fiction-sorta way. I paused to listen to her siren’s song. She was the voice of all wisdom and at once, temptation. (It’s worth noting that the Miriam Webster Dictionary defines a “siren” as: “female and partly human creatures in Greek mythology.” This, definition does give the overtly insensitive impression that the entire female gender is merely a distant relative of “partly human creatures.”
But I digress. Allow me to return to what I was originally describing…
…I moved in closer, merely for a listen. It wasn’t easy to discern what advice she was dispensing to all locals and passersby. After a dozen or more attempts at dissecting her sounds, (interrupted by buses roaring past and other ambient city noises) as best as I could tell, the auto-siren was saying: “Mashed Potatoes and Dumb Blonds at Cross Streets.” And she was repeating that same phrase over and over and over again.
I live in a neighborhood bordered by several hospitals as well as institutions for the blind. I’m vision impaired, but only to a point where I wave furiously at perfect strangers and walk briskly past people I’ve known all my life. My eyesight falls more into the category of “unreliable.” So keep in mind that I’m only partially damaged in both eyes, but not totally blind in either. Perhaps if I were totally blind I’d have been able to hear AND properly decipher what the electronic lady wanted me to know. To the best of my understanding (at least at that particular intersection) there was no dispensation or warning for the deaf nor the gluten free. And meanwhile, anyone driving a car who needed to be on the lookout for vision-impaired pedestrians could mow-down a dozen blind nuns before hearing (let alone understanding) what the mystery voice means to convey. It basically boils down to: “Try not to plow over pedestrians even if some of them might make for an easy mark.”
We live in a horribly violent world overrun with people who don’t have a clue how to conduct themselves or treat others. Lame as it all may be, I feel privileged to live in a society with “kneeling buses”, wheelchair access ramps, braille in elevators—and yes, incoherent voice goddesses bridging the communications gap from Esperanto to jive–from Ebonics to Coptic with a very important message: Our thoughtless or distracted actions can–and will impact others. And at least we try to do the right thing. OK some of us do, but we don’t always succeed. We try, in an otherwise trying world.
Disassociated Press, 7/29/2014