Does the metaphor have any meaning for modernity, anymore? Those discs made of shellac resin or vinyl, pressed into magical ridges where the needle would remain stable but for the warbling of the maze; but somehow that circular maze of ridges would have a scratch, directing the point of the needle to continue back into the previous ridge just traveled, like the lost child who cannot see beyond the walled ivy and keeps running frantically in circles, exhausted by the endless infinity of a pathway unable to be traversed beyond the limitless circularity of a philosopher’s argumentum ad nauseum, where tautology of teleology is likened to the boulder being pushed by Sisyphus.
But what of the individual who has never experienced the encounter with a broken record – neither in real life, nor in watching a movie or other inane television show where the manual labor of carefully lifting the needle by the undercarriage of a forefinger, then placing it gently onto the groove closest to the condemned one, possesses no contextual significance because of a lack of knowledge?
Those who have been dated by “aha” responses to such metaphors, take for granted such commonplace declarations; and when we meet with blank stares and confused eyelids, it dawns on us that there is no replacement for an actual experience of descriptive content. For, the efficacy of the idiom itself is immediately lost upon an attempt to explain: “You know, when a record starts to…”
And what of times previous to the introduction of the gramophone (boy, now we really are reaching back into time) – did the men and women from an era now past have such peculiar dialects that described repetitive droning of whining and complaining? Was it something akin to, “Stop acting like a baying hyena,” where pioneers settled lands still dominating with lurking cries of wildlife and unsettled voices?
And what of foreign lands – countries afar and across the great oceans – did they recognize and identify the relevance of the repetition emitted by the spherical looping back upon a scratched surface, or was it ignored in other dialects as a ho-hum matter not worthy of creating a modern-day idiom to be added to the dictionary of everyday expressions?
The metaphor of the broken record is one whose utility has long passed; but for Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition has become a chronic state of inability in performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal positional duties, the underlying and substantive content of the intersection with one’s career and life, remains relevant. For, to the Agency, the U.S. Postal Service and the Supervisors, Managers and coworkers with the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal worker – they view such chronic medical conditions like a “broken record” – of a fellow Federal or Postal worker who cannot “carry his or her” weight, anymore, and begins to treat the “situation” accordingly.
Human empathy lasts barely for a day; pernicious antagonism continues well beyond. When it becomes clear that the Federal or Postal employee will no longer be able to abide by the conventions of the Federal or Postal rules, and others begin to view the use of Sick Leave, assertion of FMLA and constant need to shift workloads to others as acts to be punitively responded, it is time to consider preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in order to have that undercarriage lifted and placed gently onto the next ridge of one’s life, in an effort to avoid the metaphor of being a broken record.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire