Intersecting minds

“Officer, I’d like to report a theft.”

“Uh, huh. Name?”

“Peter Pollack.”


“37 Schmuck Lane, Oak Lawn.”

“And when did you first notice the theft?”

“Last night, driving to White Castle.”

“Had you been drinking or partying at the time?”


“Never mind. Go on. What is it that was stolen?”

“An intersection. Several of them, in fact.”

“A what?”

“An intersection. You see, when two non-parallel roads are local to each other, there is a high likelihood that they might cross, and…”

“I know what an intersection is. I’d like to know how someone can steal one.”

“All I know is, one day I’m driving convenient side streets to the quickie mart, the next day there are dead end signs all over the place, the intersection is blockaded, and I have to take Cicero Avenue to buy potato chips. As far as I can tell, it must be done under the cover of darkness. The thieving scum wouldn’t dare show their faces in the light of day. So, what are you going to do about it?”


“Nothing? What about stakeouts? Dusting for prints? DNA matching? Surely there must be some technology you can use to track down the perps.”

“I don’t have to track down the perps. I know who did it.”


“We did.”

“You did?”

“Not me personally. Actually, it was my brother-in-law, Frank.”

“What is he, some kind of a nutcase?”

“Yeah, he works for the village.”

“A likely story. Why would he do this?”

“He was told to.”

“Ah, yes. The Nuremberg defense. A classic. Why would someone tell him to do this?”



“Well, gangs and terrorists.”

“What does closing streets and making it hard to drive around my neighborhood have to do with gangs and terrorists?”

“We believe that, if it’s harder for them to get around, our streets will be safer.”

“What about making it harder for me to get around?”

“What about it?”

“Don’t I get a say in whether or not I want to be safer?”

“Why wouldn’t you want to be safer?”

“Well, for one thing, I’ve lived in this town most of my life, and I’ve never seen a gang member or a terrorist in my neighborhood.”

“Have you been specially trained to spot gang members and terrorists?”


“Then how do you know you haven’t seen them?”

“You’re right, I don’t. Have you been specially trained to spot gang members and terrorists?”

“No, but trust me, they’re out there.”

“Sure they are, but are they here?”

“Not since we closed those intersections.”

“But anyone can walk right around the barriers.”

“Gang members and terrorists drive cars, sir. This is 2005.”

“What prevents them from driving the roads that are still open? Or are you planning on closing every street in town?”

“They can’t enter a neighborhood if they can’t find the entrance.”

“But I can’t find the entrance.”

“That’s not my problem. Why don’t you get a map?”

“Can’t the bad guys get maps?”


“Why not?”


“Look, this is obviously going nowhere. Is there someone I could talk to about closing the intersections?”

“The intersections have already been closed.”

“Okay, is there someone I could talk to about reopening the intersections?”

“You could talk to your neighbors.”

“What do they have to do with it?”

“They’re the ones who requested the intersections be closed.”

“Why would they do that?”

“Because they’re scared of gang members and terrorists.”

“But that makes no sense. What would any of those people do around here? This town isn’t perfect, but there’s not much to steal or shoot or blow up. I suppose someone could terrorize me by spray painting my garage door, but then again, it might be an improvement.”

“Maybe they’re looking to buy some real estate. Did you consider that?”

“Do you really think evildoers might be thinking of buying in my neighborhood?”

“Are you kidding? Who would want to live there? It’s a pain in the butt. None of the streets go through.”

“What would you say if we lived in a world where people could drive their cars wherever they wanted?”

“I’d say the terrorists have already won.”