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Let's talk about this elephant

Before you continue reading, I need to ask you a favor. Would you please sit down? Particularly if you are, like myself, of a sensitive nature. I have something shocking to share with you. When I first read it in the newspapers last week, the enormity of it made me sit at my kitchen table almost unable to breathe.

They should be dusting off the Pulitzers for the gangs over on Traveler Street and Morrissey Boulevard by now. Thank God for daily big city newspapers, breaking stories that we, the unwashed, would have gone clueless about for the rest of our natural lives.

Here it is: Some people fake injuries in order to obtain disabilities from their jobs. Are you okay? I always find it best to breathe deeply at times of sudden emotional upheaval. There's more. Some of them are public servants. Like firefighters.

The unearthing of this may be on the same scale as Watergate, particularly now with the alleged missing medical files. It's so retro, isn't it? The files made me think of Rosemary Woods and the missing minutes on the Nixon tapes.

I wonder if our story has a Deep Throat and who plays Rosemary Woods? And I wonder, if we followed the money in the Watergate scandal, what we should follow here? And I wonder how long it took to figure out there might be some connection with the fact that most of the awarded disabilities came from the same doctors? God, that's big stuff, isn't it?

It was actually good to see the toll-takers moved from the front pages. Okay, automate them, throw the bums out! Don't you think it might be a little above a toll-taker's pay grade to make the automation decision? No worries; blame them for the billions we are in the hole to the Big Dig because they make $60,000 a year at their extraordinarily fulfilling jobs.

If all the read-between-the-lines things are true about toll-takers, their minds must have been taxed with the recent fare increases. The Turnpike Authority bigwigs probably had to bring in an outside consultant to help them figure out the new math. "If the new toll is $1.25 per axle, and a one axle vehicle gives you two single dollar bills, what is the proper amount of U.S. currency you should return?"

No! Keeping it is not the right answer!

And while you're at it, you'd better take another deep breath - they got their jobs through political patronage. Between the toll-takers and the disabled firefighters, I'm really getting anxious. And Al Gore thinks global warming is a problem.

It must be difficult to be a firefighter these days. A firefighter friend told me guys on the fire trucks are being "posed" as they drive by some folks. "Posing" is like "mooning," but you have all your clothes on and you pretend you are striking a muscle pose. And if you don't know what "mooning" is, I can't help you there; this is a family publication.

I wonder if they're getting posed when they are pulling folks out of burning buildings or administering CPR or some other life-saving things they do?

Men and woman, public payroll or not, have been visiting their doctors' offices for years and walking away with disability pensions when they shouldn't have. We are all guilty of walking around that elephant for a long time. A lot of us are Irish Catholic; our people have practiced the art of walking around elephants since the ancient Druids, so we're genetically predisposed to be particularly talented in this regard. The only difference is our elephants are in living rooms and not fields.

The Boston Fire Department now serves as the poster child for disability fraud. The firefighters should not sit in that poster frame alone.

It's great to have this dialogue going on in our city. As long as we are looking at missing medical files and muscle contests, we don't have to look murder rates, educating our children, or figuring out how to bring revenue in for more police officers so we can educate teenagers and not bury them.

Let's talk about this elephant and figure out what to do with it and move on. There's too much at stake.

Catherine O'Neill's column appears weekly in the Reporter.