The Back Road: The times they are a-changin’

The Island Now

Andrew Malekoff

As a young child, I rarely understood what was going on in the adult world that surrounded me. As children, we see and hear a great deal and we feel deeply, but we cannot always make sense of things, especially when grownups stonewall us with silence, misinformation and half-truths. We use our imaginations to make sense of the world.

During my early childhood years, I took it for granted that I would one day lose body parts and have them replaced. Afterall, one grandfather had two prosthetic legs and the other one had an ocular prosthesis – a glass eye. Fun fact: today a “glass eye” is made of medical-grade plastic acrylic.

I came along with my father when he took Grandpa Harry to have his new legs fitted. When he lived with us for a while, Grandpa Joe amused me by taking out his glass eye. It made me wonder, if he walked out of the room and left the eye behind, would he still be able to see me?

At the time I didn’t know what diabetes was or what it had to do with Grandpa losing his legs. And, I didn’t understand how one might lose an eye. Does it just pop out? It just seemed as if it was a natural thing that old men dealt with – losing parts and replacing them with fake ones.

In case you’re wondering where I’m going with this, I recently came across two loosely related stories that evoked my prosthetic childhood memories. The first is set on the Long Island Expressway (LIE) and the second at a vaccination center in Northern Italy,

The first story is about a dumbass who was ticketed for driving in the HOV lane of the LIE with a dummy passenger. He tried to trick the police by putting a jacket over the passenger seat and a cap and hood on the headrest. Others before him have used mannequins, masks and inflatable dolls.

The last time I checked, an HOV lane violation ticket cost in NY is a $150 fine and a $93 surcharge.

Although the guy who just got caught didn’t invest much, you can buy a full-body adjustable mannequin for only $99 at Amazon. It’s a mere 17 pounds and takes only 10 minutes to assemble. In fact, a number of the 140 people who reviewed the mannequin touted its “easy assembly,” although none remarked on its value as a traveling companion.

If a mannequin is not your cup of tea, inflatable dolls go for $21.95. Some carpool violators have used plastic skeletons with hoodies.

One Washington State driver, reported the Readers Digest, buckled in the bust of Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man in the World” character wearing a t-shirt. “I don’t always violate the HOV lane law,” a state trooper tweeted, “but when I do, I get a $124 ticket.”

The second story is about Guido Russo, an anti-vaxxer living in Northern Italy. Guido, a dentist, tried passing off a silicone arm at a vaccination site. He was hoping to be issued an official COVID-19 health certificate which would have entitled him to work, as vaccinations are mandatory for all health workers in Italy.

The Washington Post reported that the nurse who was to administer the shot to Guido said, “when I uncovered the arm, I felt skin that was cold and gummy.” Before he finally fessed up, Guido shamelessly claimed to be an “amputee who mistakenly offered the wrong arm.”

I found a silicone arm on eBay for an opening bid of $78.00. Amazon carries them for $99.00 “to practice tattooing.” Sidebar: If you are an aspiring body artist, honeydew melon is most similar to that of human skin; and, at this writing, you can get one for the bargain price of $4.48 at Walmart.

Poor Guido paid $564.00 for his silicone arm. He could have saved himself hundreds of dollars if he went, for example, with a 15-inch, 3-pound Hebrew National salami, which goes for $75.00. A salami, partially covered by a flannel shirt with a work glove fastened to one end, might have done the trick. The salami would’ve surely taken the needle much easier than the silicone arm. Moreover, Guido could have gone home with enough vaccinated deli meat to feed his family for weeks.

As a prescient child imagining the loss of my own body parts, perhaps I was mentally preparing for my twilight years. Although fantasies of losing body parts must seem macabre, especially for a child, the fact that my grandpas had reliable replacement parts was most reassuring.

Despite my childhood foresight regarding aging, what I didn’t imagine as a child was that there would be a time, one day in the future, when grownups would use replaceable body parts to try and fool the police and health professionals.

As always, Bob Dylan’s words ring true: The Times They Are A-Changin’.

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