Shutdown promises a very different Columbus Day

Thursday - 10/10/2013, 1:59am EDT

Monday is supposed to be a federal holiday. When everybody (at least banks and federal government offices) gets the day off. But what happens if the shutdown is still with us? If everybody who is due to get off is already off?

If the government is already in shutdown mode, how much more can you do? Do you allow exempt workers the day off too? Do you not pay workers who haven't been working? Or, should they, eventually, get double time?

It might have been different, if more modern people, like Washington-based politicians, had run the first Christopher Columbus expedition. Imagine if...

It is Sept. 30, 1492. Somewhere in the Caribbean. Three Spanish ships head west toward what they believe will either be India or China. Their captain is a an Italian contractor working for the Queen of Spain.

With the "New World" just over the horizon, a fast messenger ship arrives from Spain with startling news — the government has been shut down. The Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria (which translate to House, Senate and White House) are ordered to drop anchor. And do nothing.

Sensing land, the crew gets restless. Some of the guys want fresh water. Others are anxious to check out the local nightlife. Columbus isn't sure what to do.

Fortunately, each vessel has one government lawyer. Naturally, they have trouble agreeing who's essential and who's not.

The Nina votes to honor the shutdown until the crews of the Pinta and Santa Maria agree to negotiations on the number of health care items. Like how many limes should be taken aboard when and if they land.

The attorneys say that certain seamen — like the navigator and helmsman, and one cook — are exempt. They can continue on their journey to China, India or whatever is over the next horizon. Non-exempt crew are told they can do nothing, not even bail if the boats spring a leak, and will get nothing. (Later the non-exempt, who did nothing, are told they will get paid provided they keep doing nothing while their exempt colleagues keep the ships in ship shape.)

Finally, the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria reach an agreement, hammered out by the lawyers:

The Nina will sail, but only in a circle, until further orders.

The Pinta will withdraw 100 nautical miles to the east and then either decide to sail in circles or head back for Spain sans loot, parrots and other treasures.

The Santa Maria will test the theory that the world is flat. It will head to the suspected dropping off point. It is known as the "debt ceiling." If it finds the magic spot, it will drop off, content in its last moments to have made its point. If not, it will wind up back in Spain, blaming the stubborn crews of the Nina and Pinta for all the wasted time, effort and money.

If the New World expedition had been shut down, it might have discouraged westward exploration for decades. Even centuries. There would be no Declaration of Independence, no South Beach Diet. No Washington, D.C. No Miley Cyrus.

Instead, if the U.S. had been settled from west-to-east, the area known as inside-the-beltway might be a giant federal deer preserve. Think what the nation, and the world, would have missed? So...

What's your idea of a way to commemorate Columbus Day at the time of a shutdown? Got any ideas for parties, protests, a squawk fest? Let us know and we'll pass it on to our leaders who appear to need a little help.

Email me at mcausey@federalnewsradio.com.

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Nearly Useless Factoid:

By Julia Ziegler
According to BuzzFeed, elephants use the skin folds on their backs to crush mosquitoes.


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