Monday, September 26, 2011

Roger, Mister

When I was very young I thought the rest of the world worked the same way as in my house. So I thought that if a policeman pulled you over they would stomp up to your car and tell you “Now, you can’t have it!” It made sense that if you couldn’t play nicely with something then it would be taken away.

I wanted to be a policeman when I grew up. I had no interest in taking people’s cars away. I just wanted to drive around in a Plymouth Fury with the siren wailing and lights flashing. I loved cars back then. And I was a fan of the TV show Adam 12. The show straightened me out enough that I learned police don’t normally confiscate your car for a moving violation. One bit of misinformation I clung to for a while was I thought the younger police officer was named Roger because that’s what he said when he answered the radio.

Another thing that I used to think as a kid was that Mister Rogers had a piano player in his living room. From the beginning of his show he would walk in beaming and usually bringing something with him. He would sing about how it was a beautiful day and that he was glad to see me. Throughout his show when he would sing reassuring songs I would hear the piano off camera playing. Mister Rogers must have had a guy sitting there all the time. I hoped he was nice like Mister Rogers too.

I liked Mister Rogers so much I remember having a dream I when I was that young. My mom told me it was time for Mister Rogers. I turned on the TV and there he was smiling. And this time he had finally brought something I liked more than anything. He was holding some toy cars.

One day when I wasn’t dreaming Mister Rogers was beginning. The music swelled as the room was panned past the traffic light and magic picture that showed movies. Up to the door it went and in came Mister Rogers. He was still smiling but not as wideas usual and he was holding a slip of paper. When his song ended and his shoes were on he told me that he had received a parking ticket.

Mister Rogers spent the episode going to traffic court. He told the judge he didn’t have change for the meter and went into a store to get some and when he came out he had a ticket. The judge calmly advised him to carry more change with him. Even Mister Rogers broke the law. Of course he hadn’t meant to. But the episode showed how a violation is still punishable even if you didn’t mean for it to happen. He reminded me that there are rules that everyone needs to follow.

This time of calm television shows that gently impress a good moral code may be gone. I don’t know because I don’t really watch TV anymore. I know that a show like Adam 12 where two L.A.P.D. officers never firing their weapons or having a serious car chase with totaled vehicles probably wouldn’t make it on TV today. And the juvenile delinquents on that show appeared too clean and well spoken. Maybe back then all they needed was some time with Mister Rogers. He could calmly tell them how he liked them just the way they were and that they would never go down the drain.

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