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09/24/2004 Archived Entry: "IPM"

Yesterday, Brad and I spent a long afternoon as communication volunteers at the International Plowing Match -- an event resembling a state fair sprawled over about 1 sq. mile of countryside -- that is going on in our neck of the globe.

A communication volunteer is a ham radio operator whose essential function is to relay messages from point-to-point -- especially to paramedics and police -- so that no area of the event is isolated from assistance. The assistance required yesterday overwhelmingly fell into two categories: 1) lost children, for whom announcements were made over the PM system; and, 2) heat prostration for which paramedics were dispatched and several people taken to the hospital in ambulances. The one and only "crime": a man who decided he could not use his day passes to the event scalped them in the parking lot. I'm not sure this is technically scalping because a scalper is supposed to charge more than the going price for tickets -- not that it is a union rule or anything -- and the poor schlub in question was just trying to recoup most of his money by giving someone else a price break. By the time the police got to the parking lot, he was gone...I am pleased to say. I feel very strange about being part of the communications effort. (My main role was to make sure batteries were charged for the hand held radios and to keep track of when the radios themselves were checked out, and by whom.) I am a rarity in the ham radio community in that I do not like to work with the police in any capacity. The IPM is/was the police at their best. They kept peace in a venue that was inherently and universally peaceful; they directed traffic in an efficient manner; they calmed people whose relatives were in medical distress, parents whose children were lost. These were the cops from "the best of all possible worlds," from a Disneyland version of smalltown USA. But I couldn't stop thinking that they were also the ones who bust people for victimless crimes, like growing marijuana or owning a firearm for self-defense. And one of the reasons they will be able to violate people's rights with impunity in the future is because the community will remember them as the "good old boys" who took care of lost children at the IPM. I don't think I will volunteer for venues in which I must work with the police again.

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