Could someone please explain E.B. White's Security to me? I understand all of it except the last part.
It was a fine clear day for the fair this year, and I went up early to see how the Ferris wheel was doing and to take a ride. It pays to check up on Ferris wheels these days: by noting the volume of business one can get some idea which side is ahead in the world—whether the airborne freemen outnumber the earthbound slaves. It was encouraging to discover that there were still quite a few people at the Fair who preferred a feeling of high, breezy insecurity to one of solid support. My friend, Healy, surprised me by declining to go aloft; he is an unusually cautious man, however—even his hat was insured.
I like to watch the faces of the people who are trying to get up the nerve to take to the air. You see them at the ticket booths in amusement parks, in the waiting rooms at the airport. Within them two irreconcilables are at war—the desire for safety, the yearning for a dizzy release. My Britannica tells nothing about Mr. G.W. G. Ferris, but he belongs with the immortals. From the top of the wheel, seated beside a small boy, windswept and fancy free, I looked down on the Fair and for a moment was alive. Below us the old harness drivers pushed their trotters round the dirt track, old men with their legs still sticking out stiffly round the rumps of horses. And from the cluster of loud speakers atop the judges’ stand came the “Indian Love Call,” bathing heaven and ear in jumbo tenderness.
This silvery wheel, revolving in the cause of freedom, was only just holding its own, I soon discovered; for farther along the midway, in a sideshow tent, a tattoo artist, was doing a land-office business, not with anchors, flags, or pretty mermaids, but with Social Security Numbers, neatly pricked on your forearm with the electric needle. He had plenty of customers, mild-mannered, pale men, asking glumly for the sort of indelible ignominy that was once reserved for prisoners and beef cattle. Drab times these, when the bravado and the exhibitionism are gone from tattooing and it becomes simply a branding operation. I hope the art that produced the bird’s eye view of Sydney will not be forever lost in the routine business of putting serial numbers on people who are worried about growing old.
The sight would have depressed me had I not soon won a cane by knocking over three cats with three balls. There is no moment when a man so surely has the world by the tail as when he strolls down the midway swinging a prize cane.