I’m back from New Orleans and still struggling with a post-Mardi Gras return to reality. I hope to have several posts on the Big Easy in the coming days, but I wanted to start with a simple observation: Mardi Gras parades make absolutely no sense.
The idea is that people line up on the side of the road in eager anticipation. Hundreds of thousands of brave souls descend on the city. Many veterans camp out (with tents, grills, the whole she-bang). Then they stand and wait, rain or shine. As traffic across the city is blocked and re-routed to the point of making driving anywhere virtually impossible, ridiculously over-the-top and expensive parade floats begin to assemble on their pre-determined parade route. People on the floats dress up in various types of costumes, normally with a French aristocratic style. Then the floats start rolling.
At this point, parade-watchers become crazed animals reaching up in the air for free Mardi Gras beads. The beads themselves are worthless (you can buy a pack of a hundred them in any store for pennies), and yet people stand for hours, arms aching, desperate to catch one. Grown men trample little girls in pursuit of The Beads.
Maybe at one point in time, this form of entertainment made sense. But even with Cable TV, YouTube, and a thousand other things pulling us towards our couches, people still maintain all of the Mardi Gras traditions. And to be honest, I had a blast. I didn’t know why I was standing in the rain watching a old man dressed as Marie Antoinette throwing me worthless plastic and enjoying myself. But the sense of community was overpowering.
No profound insights here, other than the fact that any policy predicated on human beings’ rationality probably is flawed to its core.