Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Street Car Conductor

"Everyone rises to their level of incompetence." ~ Laurence J. Peter

For as long as Harvey remembered, he had always been fascinated by street cars. Growing up, as he did in the 1890's, street cars were the preferred method of modern mass transportation within the city limits.

Even as a child, Harvey had already decided on his chosen vocation. He was determined to be a street car conductor. When he attended grammar school, he eagerly read up on everything about street cars and street car conducting he could find in the school library. Everyday, he would barely make it to school on time because he spent so much time watching the street cars pass, that he quite forgot that there was someplace he had to be.



Right up through high school, the prevailing thought that continually occupied his mind was street car conducting. One might say, if one had a penchant for bad puns, that Harvey had a "one track mind". And one would be correct in that assessment.

He was, nevertheless, an exemplary student, and never missed being on or near the top of the honor roll in high school. He applied for, and won a full scholarship to Harvard's prestigious School of Street Car Conducting.

Harvey excelled in college, and graduated at the top of his class in street car conducting, recieving a SCD (Doctor of Streetcar Conducting). He was selected as the valedictorian of street car conducting school, and had many offers from all the best street car companies around the world.

He interviewed for, and had no trouble procuring a job with the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority as a Street Car Conductor.

It soon became apparent that education and practical application of that education were very much two different concepts. Harvey soon became aware that he was not a very good street car conductor, in spite of all his acquired knowledge and training. After an unfortunate accident, in which he ran over a newly wed couple who were crossing the tracks, apparently so much in love that they were blissfully unaware that Harvey's street car was coming, he was unceremoniously asked to tender his resignation, in an obvious attempt by the street car company to avoid a lawsuit.

From there, he landed in Boston, where an eerily similar situation came up in which he struck and killed an elderly woman, who apparently didn't hear the bell that Harvey so furiously rang in an attempt to warn the hard of hearing pedestrian.

Fired from that position he wandered to Phildelphia, where his ability as a street car conductor failed to improve and he had another unfortunate accident which also resulted in a fatality, and another dismissal.

He experienced much the same problems in the subsequent cities and towns in which he traveled, his impressive scholary achievements in the field of street car conducting being the only reason he could still manage to secure employment as a street car conductor. However, there came the day when he could no longer avoid the inevitable refusal of street car companies to take a chance on hiring him, and he was left with the option of either trying to start a new life in another field, or travel to Europe, where street car companies were not as particular as to who they hired.

But alas, Harvey had the same experiences there, and, after trying to expunge the curse at every major city in Europe, and failing, he returned, dejected, to the United States.

Finally, after applying and being rejected in every major city across America, a miracle happened. The City of San Francisco hired Harvey as a street car conductor to be a strike breaker during the great mass transit strike of 1922. The city was literally crippled by the strike and the San Francisco street car company was grasping at straws in their efforts to keep the street cars running. They were so desperate, that they hired Harvey in spite of the reputation that preceded him.

Alas, Harvey's good fortune was short lived, when, on his first day of employment, while conducting the street car down Market Street, he ran over two nuns and a dog.

While Harvey had been abroad, a new law had been passed, called, "Harvey's Law", which had been passed especially because of Harvey's travails in street car conducting. The new law made death by incompetent street car conducting a homicide, and Harvey was arrested for murder.

The trial was the showcase trial of the new century, and hundreds of victim's and their families testified to Harvey's incompetence from all over the United States and Europe. After a six week trial (because it took that long to hear from the hundreds of witnesses for the prosecution), Harvey was convicted and sentenced to die in the Electric chair.

Once all the obligatory appeals were presented and dispensed with, the day of Harvey's execution had at last arrived. He had his last meal, and was counseled by the prison chaplain, and was asked if he had any final requests. Next to street car conducting, Harvey had a love for big black cigars, so a big black cigar was his final request. The cigar was brought to him, and he smoked it down to about halfway and announced that he was ready to meet his maker.

They strapped him in, attached the wires, and at the stroke of midnight, the warden nodded, and the switch was pulled. Nothing happened. After thousands of volts of electricity shot through him, he was as alive and unscathed as the moment he sat down in the chair. Harvey was sent back to his cell on death row to await a second attempt.

One week later, after making absolutely sure that all the wiring was fastidiously attached properly and tightened down correctly, Harvey was once again led into the death chamber, where "Old Sparky" waited in stony silence for it's next hapless victim. As an extra precaution, the warden had stipulated that the voltage be doubled to prevent the last failure being repeated.

Again, Harvey requested a big black cigar as his last request, which he smoked until it was half gone, threw the butt aside, and bravely sat, once again, in the chair. Again, the switch was pulled, and after the smoke had cleared away, there sat Harvey, just as alive as you and me. Perplexed, the warden ordered Harvey to be ushered back to his cell to await another attempt.

This time, The state of California ordered that an entire power plant be built just to generate the power to finally execute poor Harvey. And yet, when Harvey was escorted to the execution chamber, he once again made his request for a big black cigar, which he smoked halfway, and discarded the butt.

Once again, the switch was pulled.

A tremendous sound erupted, like the buzzing of a million bees on adrenaline. The very ground shook with the force of millions of volts of electricity coursing through Harvey's body. The lights all over California went out. There was a massive power failure that plunged almost all of the west coast into darkness.

But when the smoke had cleared away, Harvey was still very much alive, and none the worse for wear!

Now, in California, after three attempts to execute someone are unsuccessful, Divine intervention is assumed, so according to state law, Harvey had to be released and his sentence overturned.

As he left the prison, news reporters from all over the world swarmed him, asking questions about his good fortune and his opinion of it all. One reporter asked him the one question that the world had waited with bated breath to hear:

"Harvey, why do you think your life was so miraculously spared? Did it have anything at all to do with those big black cigars?"

Harvey reflected for a moment, and at last, shrugged his shoulders, and replied, humbly,

"I don't think so. I guess I'm just a poor conductor."

11 comments:

Goat said...

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http://thisthatandfroghair.blogspot.com/2006/02/giggles-rated_28.html

Francis Lynn said...

Slow news day, huh? :)

Mark said...

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

ELAshley said...

All that effort for a bad pun?!? You must be really bored.

Mark said...

Hey, if a pun isn't bad, it isn't good.

Lone Ranger said...

I don't mind a good pun. I just don't like to walk 20 miles to get to it.

rich bachelor said...

I didn't walk the twenty miles. I knew this one after reading the first couple of lines.
I first heard it at summer camp when I was in fourth grade. Same question as last time: what's yer source?

Mark said...

Same answer as before. Question for you.

So what? What difference does it make?

It's a joke. Just a stupid joke. What is your point?

Are you trying to insinuate that I am plagiarizing? It's public domain!

Or are you just trying to impress everyone with how much general knowledge you have?

Or maybe you are just trying to make me look foolish. Well, you know who looks foolish? People who make a big deal out of a joke. Geeeez!

Daffy76 said...

Actually Mark, I quite enjoy the set-up for this kind of pun. It's like reading a good story and this one was very well written. Thanks for givin us the lighter side for a change.

Mark said...

Thank you, Daffy. It is clear that you "get it." And I'm not talking about the punchline.

rich bachelor said...

It was actually an innocent question. You just happen to keep bringing up jokes I remember from a long time ago, and it intrigues me. That wasn't some weird liberal trap made to make you look like a fool or something.
But you were pretty quick to freak out about it, which does.