Today began with the sound of construction, as almost every day in quarantine has. A six-story building is going up right outside my apartment. The construction crews gather outside my window during the 6 a.m. hour and start their equipment around 7 most days. Lately, there has been a giant cherry picker climbing up past my second-story window as I pour my morning coffee. I’ve made eye contact with its operator twice while I crank my windows shut to block out some of the beep-beep-beep it makes any time the operator toggles one of its levers, which he does at frequent and irregular intervals so that the beep-beep-beep does not become a steady sound to tune out but a constant stopping and starting.
This morning there was a conference of construction supervisors as I tried to focus on my own thoughts in my writing. The beep-beep-beep was accompanied by their comments beneath my window about the work done so far. How the project was already a million dollars over budget. How shoddy this work or that work was. How many nails were used in those boards. So, that’s why they’re always running out of nails! How such-and-such contractor is the worst, shouldn’t be on these 18-month projects. I was stuck with them on that retreat center out in bumblefuck, Virginia. But these alleys! The rats! I killed one the other day They’re harmless. But you shoulda seen so-and-so when he saw a hypodermic needle laying there. Big guy jumped back about ten feet.
Cherry picker is not the technical term, but articulated telescoping boom lift is less evocative. A cherry picker is also someone who chooses facts selectively. Perhaps some of the construction supervisors were cherry-picking.
The deeper we get in to this pandemic and this election and the news of uprisings against police violence and violent provocations around the country, there is a lot of cherry-picking going on. It’s easy to find a scientific paper that backs up your ideas about the pandemic if you dig for one. Missteps in the past of recent victims of police violence are being shared widely, as though any of us have lived perfect lives, as though some personal flaw is a justifiable reason for police to shoot someone in the back seven times, to kneel on their neck.
Social media is built for cherry-picking. A cherry-picked link that few will read or fact check is divorced from context, distracts from the broader point. The poster walks away from the conversation while the internet chews on the cherry.
What is the opposite of cherry-picking? George Washington chopping down an entire cherry tree? Seeing the forest for the trees?