Hennessy's View

Domine, non sum dignus

Do You Follow Procedure?

The tram cars are tiny, metal containers. Passengers–six to a car–sit cramped on molded plastic seats. The air inside the cars is stale and hot. There is no air conditioning.

Arch Tram Car

The trams take you to the top of the 632 foot Gateway Arch in St. Louis. The uncomfortable ride takes only a few minutes.

Except when it doesn’t.

Sometimes things go wrong, as they did this week. Forty people were trapped for an hour. Temperatures rose to 110 degrees.

According to reports, after about 40 minutes, Bi-State Development Agency, which operates the Arch, sent workers up the monument’s emergency staircase to bring bottled water to the prisioners. With the water came some fresh air and news about the problem.

Several of the trapped people were hospitalized. Others were furious that Bi-State waited until the end of the ordeal to pay a personal visit to the cars.

When asked why the transit agency waited so long, a spokeswoman answered, “We followed procedure.”

Following procedure is the lamest excuse of a bureaucrat. It means, “I am too lazy to think; I am too selfish to act.”

Just following procedure smacks of government, of protection, of security over decency.

No one died in the Arch. That’s good. Even if someone had, no one would have been accountable. That’s because everyone followed procedure that were designed to protect Bi-State, not people.


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