Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s GOVERNMENT MAN!

In the seemingly serene hamlet of Puktuk, Alberta, all that stirs the prairie grass is the Chinook wind. Or is it? No wait! An eddy of CIGARETTE SMOKE from a nearby bar of ill repute has wafted outside and besmirches the previously virginal landscape.

What scoundrels could be responsible for this dastardliness?

A cluster of scared and helpless Alberta citizens gather around the bar and stare in hope at the blue sky. When will GOVERNMENT MAN appear? Surely any minute now! There is a WORKPLACE VIOLATION going on and everyone knows that GOVERNMENT MAN cannot STAND it when people VIOLATE PROVINCIAL LEGISLATION AND/OR MUNICIPAL BYLAWS!

“When has GOVERNMENT MAN ever let us down before?” says little Trixie Tickletoots, knowing – even at her tender age of 14 – a rhetorical question when she hears one.

Meanwhile, inside Pisstank Tavern, poor Susie Muffjob, aged 33, is serving the motley crew of patrons, all the while inhaling thick, noxious fumes of deadly CIGARETTE SMOKE.

“Ah me!” she utters as she almost swoons. “How can I ever defend myself against these hordes of devilish nicotine fiends? There are six of them and only one of me! Oh!"

In between delivering another glass to Huck the One-Eyed and picking Denny the Legless out of his vomit, Susie furtively exits the bar.

“Where, oh where, is GOVERNMENT MAN?” she sighs, looking at the sky.

But the scourge of law-breakers and tax-dodgers does not appear. What could have happened to him?

“I hope ANARCHY MAN hasn’t gotten his fidgety little fingers on GOVERNMENT MAN and spray-painted a peace symbol on him, or worse, written the word ‘Listen’ across his face,” says Trixie Tickletoots, apprehensively.

“There’s nothing for it,” concludes Billy Bulginghead. “We must take matters into our own hands. We must get off our asses and send an E-MAIL to GOVERNMENT MAN!”

The resulting e-mail blasts an incendiary trail through cyberspace, arriving at the government server mere seconds later. Within only THREE DAYS it is redirected to the appropriate department, the Ministry of Health and Wellness. No sooner said than done, the e-mail is fired like a cannonball to the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC). A team of two intrepid government workers are assigned to deal with this highly vexing case, and they are led by none another than…. GOVERNMENT MAN!

“We need to refer the citizens of Puktuk to a website,” declares GOVERNMENT MAN to his eager team of anarchy haters. “Also, we need to bring in our tobacco experts, researchers, and executive administrators.”

“If only the Puktuk residents could see GOVERNMENT MAN’s powers of DELEGATION!” says Bobby Bureaucrat, almost reverentially. “He could have taken on this job himself, but he FEARLESSLY SOLICITED HELP FROM THREE AADAC DIVISIONS!”

The downtown Edmonton office quickly becomes a hive of feverish activity. A response email is drafted. It is carefully scrutinized and revised. Three phone calls are made to the tobacco experts to obtain additional input. The response email is then e-mailed to research services who interrupt their water cooler chat to discuss it. The very next day, they return the draft with RUTHLESS EFFICIENCY, having made no changes. The latest draft is then brought to GOVERNMENT MAN. He eyes it over with his superhuman powers of observation.

“All I’d change about this draft is to include another website reference,” declares GOVERNMENT MAN.

“Holy shit!” yells Bobby Bureaucrat, unable to help himself. “I guess you have to be born on another planet to think up something as stunningly insightful as that. Thank you for your leadership, GOVERNMENT MAN!”

A mere twenty-eight days after the citizens of Puktuk begged GOVERNMENT MAN for help, a response scorches its way through the wireless Internet infrastructure and arrives at the computer of Billy Bulginghead. He summons the good citizens of Puktuk to listen to him read it aloud.

“Puktukkers! Behold the decree from GOVERNMENT MAN!”

There is a brief silence.

“What does it say? What does it say?” shouts Trixie Tickletoots, now unknowingly two weeks pregnant thanks to Garry the Goat-Fingerer.

Billy Bulginghead raises his head from the e-mail print-out and speaks to the crowd.

“According to this, GOVERNMENT MAN recommends that we visit a website to find out whether our municipal district has a smoking bylaw that exceeds the provisions of the Smoke-free Places Act. If it does, then we can inform a peace office of this fact and he/she can investigate the local workplace violation. If not, the Smoke-free Places Act prevails and our local workplace and/or public place must follow its provisions, which include restricting access to minors and posting the appropriate signage. He also refers us to the tobacco website developed by AADAC to inform citizens of the dangers of tobacco smoke!”

There is a long silence. A deer mouse, affectionately known locally by its Latin name, peromycus manicalatus, emerges from the stack of packing crates outside Pisstank Tavern, curious as to when the crowd will finally disperse and allow him to go off in search of seeds and grasses and his other favourite sources of nutrients. He is startled when the Puktuk crowd suddenly erupts in cheers and shouts of joy.

“Hoorah!" they yell. “That response is so impossible to understand that it could only be the work of GOVERNMENT MAN!”

And so to this very day, the denizens of Pisstank Tavern continue to smoke happily, and lucky Susie Muffjob has throat cancer. Meanwhile, the non-smoking residents of Puktuk prosper and thrive, safe in the knowledge that the ways of GOVERNMENT MAN will forever remain inscrutable and mysterious to them.