When our U.S. congressfolks postponed the federal debt ceiling showdown for three months, the political commentators told us they had once again "kicked the can down the road."
As a concerned American, naturally I was, um, concerned. What was this can they kept talking about, and why was it subject to repeated kicking?
I made some discreet inquiries, and soon I was talking to a high-ranking official in the Congressional Office of Can Propulsion.
Tell me about this can that keeps being kicked down the road, I asked her.
"It is the Official Federal Legislative Can," she said. "One of Congress' most prized possessions, without which the federal government as we know it could not function."
I asked if I could see the can, and she led me down several flights of stairs to a deep sub-basement, then through a door watched by an armed guard. There, sitting on a velvet-covered table, was the can.
That's a pretty big can, I said. It was one of those institutional-size food cans, the kind commercial kitchens buy.
"Naturally," she said. "We need a substantial can that can take repeated kicks down the road, as you can see."
Indeed, the can was covered with nicks and dents. The blows had knocked off the paper label, so I asked what was in the can.
"Pork and beans, which is Congress' favorite. Especially the pork."
So, I wondered, why does this can get kicked repeatedly?
"You know about the gridlock in Washington, right?"
I'll say. I was stuck in traffic on 14th Street for the longest time.
"No, I mean the gridlock in Congress. The poor congressmen get so frustrated by their inability to get anything done. So to relieve their frustration, they come down here, sign out the can, and give it some good healthy kicks. Then they feel better."
Isn't there a danger the can will break from all the kicking?
"It does happen from time to time. Then we have to get a replacement can from the Federal Can Reserve at Fort Knox."
Fascinating. But we're told they're kicking the can down the road. What road do they kick the can down?
"To tell you the truth, they have stopped kicking it literally down a road. A while back, the can got kicked so many times, it was kicked all the way out of the District, across the Key Bridge into Virginia, and was last seen rolling into a storm sewer in Falls Church."
So where do they kick the can now?
"On the National Mall, which is convenient and out of traffic. Generally, the Republicans kick it down towards the Washington Monument, and then the Democrats kick it back up the Mall to the Capitol. So they can all get their kicking in, without the can ever really going anywhere."