The True Cost of Justice (is a fork in the hand)

The simple act of eating ice cream can lead to all kinds of insights…

This utensil is well known to many children in Calgary as “Mr. Nick’s Lucky Spoon”

Many of you know that I often carry a spoon in my pocket. It is a wooden spoon, and it was carved by my brother, and it is broken, because one time I put it through the wash.

One of the reasons I like having my own spoon with me all the time is because I love free samples, but hate using disposable spoons.

That being said, I have a known preference for forks. When I was a teaching assistant for a genetics course, I used to give my students a little survey on the first day, ask them to draw a picture of themselves on the back, and read a couple of their answers to the class. This was far more useful and entertaining than the standard dronings about where they came from and why they were taking the class.

studentsurvey_2006-1-bOne of the things I wanted to know was if they were a fork/knife/spoon person. While I would make careful note of those that said ‘knife’, I think only one girl ever, Lorna Richardson, rejected the question and said ‘spork’. That’s a pretty good answer, and I’ll admit that for a long time, before my brother had carved me a spoon, I kept a spork in my pocket — which would allow me to both eat soup and poke food. The problem was that, eventually, the plastic sporks would always snap.

Before I could bring myself to invest in a titanium spork, I developed a fondness for spoons. Since I usually had a knife in my pocket, the fork (as well as the spork) wasn’t so necessary. And, really, a spoon and a knife together can come close to fulfilling all the functions of a fork (since a spoon can scoop, and a knife can poke with the best of them. Further, together they can combine to be a considerably unsettling set of chopsticks). And so I never bought that titanium spork, and instead keep a (wooden) spoon in my pocket.

But I didn’t come around to the pocket spoon right away. There was a time when I tried to keep a fork in my pocket. But that kept ruining my pants. Pockets are usually the first component of my pants to require repair as it is, and the fork only made things worse.studentsurvey_pic-b

Which brings me to the point, and how I came to know the True Cost of Justice.

I was somewhere in Central America, where pickpockets were a moderate concern, and I was walking around with a fork in my pants, while thinking about the fork in my pants, and considering the contrasting merits of keeping the fork tines up vs down.

To be sure, one can make an excellent case for ‘tines up’, because they wouldn’t poke the insides of your pocket, and would be far less likely to stab you in the leg.

But if you were to reach into your pocket, there would be a very good chance you would stab yourself in the hand. Now, while I was thinking about how many days and hand-stabs it would take for muscle motor memory to allow my hand to automatically weave its way into my pocket (poke-free), I realized something else: the fork would stab pick-pockets, too.

I remember once, a long time ago, my friend Meex (a formidable man, by any measure) had left his car unlocked, and I asked him about it. “It will be worth them trying to steal it just so I can catch’em,” he said, with a cheerful, wicked grin… (I could picture the look on the face of the would-be-thief — the same expression I’d expect when someone realizes they’re trying to mug Batman).

This was kind of like that. Maybe it was worth them trying to pickpocket me, just so they could get a fork in their hand — maybe even a tine right under the nail. How satisfying would it be, to leave a trail of sneaky, bloody hands in my wake?studentsurvey_2011-b

Yes, I realize it is far more likely that they would just steal the fork and my wallet, but lets say that it was a really good, really sharp, really subtle fork.

With the speed with which a good pickpocket[1] works, one can expect that there would be a high injury rate, especially while the practice of pocket forks remained relatively uncommon.

But the cost of this behaviour — the cost of exacting immediate and direct punishment on your unseen enemies — the cost of justice — is that you can expect a high frequency of stabbing yourself in the hand, every time you reached into your pocket. Are you willing to receive the punishment you wish to dole out? That is the true cost — the true cost of justice. And we choose to pay it, or not, every single day.

Now you know.


1. I attended a pick-pocketing workshop at the 2012 Vancouver Fringe Festival, and it was one of the best workshops I’ve ever attended. Not only did include a comprehensive breakdown of appropriate techniques under various circumstances and how to scout and set up a target, but we were given an opportunity to excercise practical applications of the skills and techniques in question.

Over the course of the performance our class broke into a car, assisted in the theft of a bike, executed a three-man operation in a crowded bar, and were caught by the police. (In fact, having worked in dispatch for the festival, I was aware that the doings of this show had resulted in the police being called on more than one occasion).

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