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My brother and I bought a used bought this winter — fifteen feet of leaky fiberglass, with a 90 horsepower motor that assumes that 15 of the horses in harness are dead and being dragged by the others — so I went downtown to register it with the authorities. If you have assembled the right set of treasure hunt collectibles, including a hand-rubbing of the vehicle identification plate, it all goes smoothly. But…

On the of the checkboxes on the registration form asks if I’m “retarded.” I thought we were done lumping the various ways our intelligences fail us into the one particular bucket, but I also wondered whether the state had minimum intelligence requirements for boat ownership. No, said the state employee on the other side of the counter. They also provide hunting licenses at the boat registration offices, and to get a permit that lets you carry a gun, the state does want to know if you’re “retarded.” They only have the one form, so they have collect the information for boat owners as well.

Inevitably, we read backwards from the metadata that’s asked of us. Had the form asked for prior felony convictions, known allergies or political party affiliation, we would have tried to make sense of the intentions behind the form. Requests for metadata are expressive. Which is one good reason you should bother to print up separate damn forms for boat owners and hunters.

What do the two have in common anyway, except that they both show up jutting their manly jaws forward in outdoor-wear catalogs? [Tags: ]

2 Responses to “Retarded metadata”

  1. on 25 May 2007 at 2:18 pmPaul Ding

    You’re not looking at this right. Asking whether someone is “retarded” doesn’t make sense on the hunting license, either.

    I know several people who have Down Syndrome. I wouldn’t hesitate to go hunting with them.

    But I don’t want to be anywhere near a guy who’s going through a divorce, a guy who is on his third beer by 10 AM, a guy who has a really bad job working for a jerk, or the Vice President of the United States.

    If a feller has recently been treated for depression, I don’t want him handling a gun, and if he hasn’t been treated, that goes double for him.

    Pennsylvania thinks it’s OK for the legally blind to go hunting, and they offer special accomodations for paraplegics. If you saw how they are handled, you’d probably have no objections; I know I feel comfortable with that.

    I don’t object to them voting, either – and if we could just get them to run for public office, perhaps they could figure out how to stop this damnable war.

  2. on 26 May 2007 at 8:58 amMichael

    you bought a bought ?