Friday, October 1, 2010

The Logistics of Cups-Tales From a PTA Coffee Morning

My second touring Thursday was preempted by a coffee morning, this one for the nursery school.  In fact, I had coffees for all the kids classes this week.  I might actually be coffeed out for a while. The coffees were eventful, though.  (How often do you think gun control comes up at a London nursery PTA coffee?) 

Foxy, who I haven't seen in a while, came and we had a long discussion about schools.  After I wrote my finding a school post, I realized I hadn't covered public schools, but that was basically because the process is similar.  I wanted to pick her brain about the additional post I started.  It turns out that she has been thinking on writing a book on the ins and outs of finding a school.  Hopefully she will.  

Another mom and I had a laugh about the logistics of putting these mornings together.  It isn't difficult, but how many people have coffee cups for 50, especially in a city like London where kitchen storage is at a premium?  So if you have a coffee morning for 50, you have to borrow cups.  The night before, therefore, we had an email thread entitled "The logistics of cups."  I think this is one of those things that only housewives will find mildly and ironically amusing.

As befitting a nursery coffee morning, at some point discussion will turn to to-work-or-not-to-work topics.  

I was having just such a discussion with a mom and mentioned that the one of the biggest advantages that I had as a home mom was that I never know when the big moments are going to come.  I don't know when they will get sick or when they will want to have a discussion about why the sky is blue.  

Quality time is a nice concept, but you can't schedule the big moments.  They just happen.  

This morning, Christopher Robin was kind enough to demonstrate that for me.  Fridays are my hardest school day.  My nanny is off so I have no help getting the kids out the door, and their school ends at lunch on Fridays so I have to have everything together and organized for the rest of the day.  (By mid-afternoon today, I will have 8 children in the flat.  I will be busy.)  Friday mornings, therefore, are work intensive for me.  

After eating breakfast, Christopher Robin had to unload the dishwasher.  I had turned on some music to help wake them up.  One of the lyrics in the song was something about the truth killing the singer.  Christopher Robin, who listens to lyrics, asked why/how the truth was killing the singer and why did other songs say things like the truth hurting.  He wanted to know if the truth was bad.  So over clean coffee cups we had our first discussion about Truth not requiring belief to exist, not caring whether you like it or think it fair.  Truth just is.  Since we often don't like the Truth, and since we are often frustrated in our attempts to change it, songs, poems, and literature are full of 'Truth hurts' themes.  

I promise you that I would never choose a Friday morning for such a discussion.  I can also tell you from experience that if I bring up the subject later he will likely not be interested in talking about it.  Chances are that in a few weeks, perhaps while I'm in the loo cleaning up Terremoto's attempt at clean up, he will come seeking more guidance on Truth.  Something will have happened at school or he will have had time to digest what I had said and come up with new questions.  I can't plan it.  The big moments just come.

But none of the preceeding tales will keep this coffee morning in my memory.  The gun discussion will.  

Yesterday's coffee was on Markham Square.  I'd usually vauge details like location up a bit for blogging, but right now everyone in London knows about Markham Square.  Markham Square was the scene of the barrister shooting in 2008, which I don't think made much news in America, but which everyone in London has at least heard about.  It is in the news often now because the police inquest into whether he was killed lawfully is underway.  More than a few women asked Suzanne Powers if her house was the house.  No, it was nearby.  Multiple times during the coffee someone would mention how tragic it was and why did the police have to shoot the guy.  The first time I heard the topic discussed, I got caught out and blurted out that of course they shot him because he been shooting about in a resedential area.  

After that comment, the Texan was not invited into the discussion.  I cleared the kitchen out pretty quickly, actually.  In front of me, the topic only came up again when Foxy arrived.  She started to ask me about it, I smiled in that do-I-have-to-answer way, and then she waved me off as the Texan who she knew what I thought.

I got the impression that people think that Texans such as myself approve the shooting because we just like a good shoot out, because we like decisive justice.  It fits the cowboy narrative.  We don't, however, like shoot outs.  We simply like innocent deaths less.  

Our cowboy nature is more a matter of practical realities than Justice.  The problem with a gunman of any sort, is that everyone else doesn't know what he is going to do, and his choice could be quick and fatal to others.  I had not actually read much about this story until yesterday.  This is a good summary of the inquest into whether he was lawfully killed.  

The women yesterday suggested alternatives such as negotiation, which you will notice was going on until he pointed his gun at officers--though why they wouldn't let his wife try to talk him down baffles me.  The women discussed injuring him, which leaves him possibly drunk and enraged and still able to fire (for my Texan readers, yes shooting to injure was an actual discussion; for my other readers, shooting to injure is only done in movies and courts disaster in real life).  A couple of ladies wished they had hit him with a tranq dart.  

I called in a medical consult on the last one.  Her assessment:  "I know that by guessing [his weight] I could drop a man in about 20 secs with a syringe. I will have to research for you what is availble via a tranquillizer dart." To which I asked, could a man get off a few rounds before he went down?  Twenty seconds sounds like enough time to fire.  Her answer: "To my knowledge there isn't a drug that will work fast enough that a few rounds could not be fired, especially if the weapon is an automatic."  (She's from Tennessee.  She knows what she is talking about on the drugs and weapons point.)  So that's why they didn't use drugs.  Not only would he still be able to fire, but also he might fire wildly as the drugs took effect.    

I wonder, at what point would killing the gunman be acceptable?  After he took the life of another?  Or, if the girl into whose bedroom he had been shooting had been at home and he had killed her, would there have been an inquest into why he wasn't taken down before he killed her?   If a drunk gunman has you and your children trapped in a bathroom, at that moment do you care more about the drunk gunman's motivations or getting your children to safety?  Do you want to give him another chance to stand down if it means he gets another chance to kill your daughter?   

I don't think it is good that the police shot him because he was bad and this is Justice.  I think it is good that the police shot him because the risk to innocent others was too great.  That position at the coffee, however, gave a little more depth to the meaning of the "Lone" in Lone Star State.   

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