A distress call on May Day

By Kent Ward,
Posted April 27, 2012, at 2:33 p.m.

“May is a green as no other,’’ the poet Amy Lowell wrote. It is also many other things, she suggested, including soft earth, apple blossoms “and windows open to a South wind.’’

With its welcome greening of the countryside, rebirth of baseball and days set aside to honor motherhood, endangered species, the armed forces, our war dead and, in some quarters, Mexico’s Cinco de Mayo observance, May is a busy month. The pending black fly and mosquito hatches and the Memorial Day weekend arrival of cherished summer visitors our coastal friends delight in referring to as “summer complaints’’ will make it seem more so.

In some locales, the approaching first day of the fifth month, commonly referred to as May Day, is a festive occasion for stalwart survivors of winter who are inclined to celebrate by frolicking around a maypole or crowning a queen of May. Others, operating under the concept of to each his own — different strokes for different folks — celebrate the day in other ways.

Lawyers, not generally known as dedicated maypole frolickers, have traditionally thought of the first day of May as Law Day, a time to mingle with the great unwashed masses to speechify and participate in panel discussions promoting their profession.

The calendar in front of me refers to May 1 as Loyalty Day. To Communists the world over, May Day is a major holiday which the faithful celebrate as Labor Day, congregating in massive rallies to wave red banners, shout government-approved slogans and generally raise a ruckus while extolling the virtues of labor.

Whether benign or riotous, the annual May Day demonstrations and festivities may be considered a rite of spring in many jurisdictions. But if your average bear thinks about May Day at all it may be as the one-word Mayday — the international radio-telephone signal used by ships and aircraft as a distress call.

I am told by my pseudo-French connection that the term derives from the French “venez m’aider’’ which reportedly means “come help me,’’ although you might not want to rush out and bet the egg money on the accuracy of either the Gallic spelling or its translation.

Examples abound in which the impulse to scream “Mayday … Mayday’’ into the void in an attempt to set in motion a dramatic rescue would seem to be the rational approach to things.

If the gasoline-pricing swindle currently in vogue doesn’t rate a sincere Mayday distress transmission from the motoring public — or from President Barack Obama, who hopes to get reelected in November — I can’t picture what legitimately might. Ditto, the very real possibility that the November elections could result in the continuation of an inept Congress presiding over four more years of hopeless gridlock. And the dark premonition that we face six excruciating months of what appears to be shaping up as one of the nastier presidential election campaigns in the nation’s history.

Judging by a couple of aging newspaper clippings I rediscovered in my stash of oddball news items this week, the drunken driver is a species that might make good use of a Mayday signal as a call for help in curtailing the mayhem he often leaves in his wake.

The first item concerned a Canadian who was sentenced by a Nova Scotia judge to 45 days in jail upon conviction of a charge of driving under the influence. A police officer had observed the man’s truck weaving on a highway before the driver pulled into a gas station with the officer in hot pursuit.

According to the news clip, the highway patrolman testified that the truck’s operator got out of his vehicle, became disoriented, walked back to the police cruiser and told the officer, “Fill ‘er up.’’

But Exhibit A would be the news item involving the motorist bagged and tagged by a California police officer for operating his sports car while intoxicated. The officer’s suspicions were aroused when he spotted the vehicle rolling down the Pacific Coast Highway with half of a traffic light pole from a median strip, including the lights, draped across the hood of the car.

According to the police report on the incident, when the driver was pulled over and the officer questioned him about the pole, the man insisted it was an add-on that had come with the car when he bought it.

BDN columnist Kent Ward lives in Limestone. His email address is maineolddawg@gmail.com.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/04/27/opinion/a-distress-call-on-may-day/ printed on November 22, 2014