Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
The comic plays with the TV and film trope of Retirony, in which a cop is killed in action only a short time before (often the day before) retirement, usually producing a sense of even greater tragedy in the timing of the death. The humor of this strip arises from the notion that, given so many policemen are killed the day before retirement, retiring cops could be sequestered in a secure facility on the day before their retirement to avoid retirony. Unfortunately this merely results in tragedy when a cop is killed the day before being sequestered.
The title text is a reference to the reactionary nature of security procedures often put in place in the aftermath of an incident, and how they typically fail to address the root cause of the problem. If the logic expressed in title text was followed repeatedly, eventually the number of days police officers spent in the secure room would encompass their entire career.
A certain similarity could be drawn between this an the US Army's problematic policy of only having combat troops serve for a single year in combat during the Vietnam war (unlike during WWII, when combat units were put into the front line and left there until the war was over, with losses being made up with a constant flow of individual replacements, which was even more problematic). Having troops only serve for a single year led to a far lower rate of troops "broken" from constant combat stress, but it also led to soldiers increasingly avoiding risk
once the halfway point of their year was passed and their time to go home got closer; not only that, but the stress of the last few months, knowing one was almost "home safe", yet forced into danger repeatedly could also psychologically damage men, It also created an incentive to just make it alive through the war, no matter what it took, unlike a situation where a soldier knows they are stuck there until the war is over; this can be a great incentive to fight harder, or at least to just give up any real hope that you'll live long enough to see the end anyway. They later revisited this "combat year" approach also, and tried yet another new idea.
See also the paradox of the "unexpected hanging".
- [An old lady, a woman and Cueball are standing in the background by a coffin. A policeman and the policewoman Ponytail are standing in the foreground.]
- Ponytail: Good cop. It's a real shame—
- Ponytail: He was just one day away from getting put in the locked, heavily guarded room where all cops stay for the last day before they retire.
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The title text is essentially the beginning of the hanging paradox: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unexpected_hanging_paradox
- It's not quite the same--Joehammer79 (talk) 17:03, 27 September 2012 (UTC) thing.
- The unexpected hanging paradox only applies when you have a measure of foreknowledge. Davidy22 (talk) 05:50, 26 September 2012 (UTC)
I think there's also a strong indication that this is mocking cop films from the 80's/90's, such as Lethal Weapon, where a character would always die just before retirement.
--220.127.116.11 07:08, 26 September 2012 (UTC)
This one is a variant of the old Czech joke: "The study has proved that statistically the most casualties happen in the last car of a train. Therefore the committee suggests to make all trains one car shorter." --Mity (talk) 09:59, 26 September 2012 (UTC)
- On the other hand, adding a vacant car to the end of the train could be a reasonable approach.18.104.22.168 21:55, 7 September 2015 (UTC)
This comics's explanation is complete bollocks, I think. Of course it is NOT a "fact that such a room exists". This comics parodies trope often used in cop movies - an elderly cop goes to work for the last time before his retirement, packs things, plans fishing the next day ... only to be called to one more case (possibly with a new, young and brash partner). And despites his efforts not to screw anything and stay clear of danger, he is either mortally wounded or screws big time and is degraded. So much clichè, that if someone says "It's my last day or service", you might be sure one of the two options above happens. See http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Retirony for all the use cases and examples. Edheldil (talk) 10:25, 26 September 2012 (UTC)
- I added the tv trope to the explanation. Didn't even see your comment at first, but why didn't you just change and add to the explanation yourself? That would be the whole point of the wiki. --Buggz (talk) 10:34, 26 September 2012 (UTC)
To add a little irony to the irony, the dead cop actually IS in a "locked, heavily guarded room." (There's a Sufi story along those lines.) The real solution to the retirony risk would be for their retirement day to fall within a 12 month window, chosen by some randomly generated number chosen before the shift begins. Thus they could avoid building up a hazardous "retirony field" focused around the point-source retirement day. Sort of like this thing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corona_ring Noni Mausa (talk) 12:11, 26 September 2012 (UTC)
- ...But that doesn't eliminate the "retirony field", it only dispurses it over a larger area. The retirony claim would shift to "(s)he was due to retire this year" times the number of retirees within that retirement window. Assuming these tragic events are "uniformly distributed" the probability they'll happen will be present right up to the end of one's active tour of duty, no matter what. Shorten the train, indeed. :) -- IronyChef (talk) 14:29, 26 September 2012 (UTC)
- How about simply not planning your retirement at all, and instead just spontaneously quitting at some point? Erenan (talk) 15:38, 27 September 2012 (UTC)
- Yeah, that would work. Writing it into a collective agreement might be a bit iffy...Noni Mausa (talk) 11:20, 28 September 2012 (UTC)
- In some (read >=1) US jurisdictions (or maybe all, I just saw one story on reddit where it was explained) there is the possibility for officers who served a certain amount of time to keep working, but they have the right to quit at any time at a moment's notice without repercussions of any kind. Iirc the officers referred to someone in this state as having "pulled the pin", analogous to removing the safety pin on grenades hich would allow you to just drop it and let it blow up. 22.214.171.124 07:01, 16 February 2017 (UTC)
- Alternative route: declare someones retirement on the day of their retirement. Make sure to forbid them in the day of their retirement from taking any missions, no matter how much they need the cop! Greyson (talk) 15:17, 2 November 2012 (UTC)
- That would not work. Working on Dec 30th, you would know for sure that Dec 31st would be your retirement date. So you cannot retire on Dec 31st. With that in mind: working on Dec 29th, you would know for sure that Dec 30th would be your retirement date. With that in mind: working on Dec 28th, you would know for sure that Dec 29th would be your retirement date. With that in mind.... --Oscar (talk) 13:02, 13 November 2012 (UTC)
An unstated but related phenomenon is "Confirmation Bias, where something significant stands out in our mind, causing us to overreact or use bad judgement. In this case, the confirmation bias makes it seem like cops are always killed on their last day, so they create such a room.
- Actually, all cops who are killed on the job are killed on their last day!
- Not necessary true in all movies. Detective Marty Hopkirk, for example, continued fighting crime after dead. Seras Victoria changed the classical police officer uniform for a special force one but was still reffered as "police girl". I'm sure there are more examples. -- Hkmaly (talk) 08:16, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
^then show us these other examples if you're so sure. 126.96.36.199 23:28, 30 December 2012 (UTC)Realist
There is an easy solution: as soon as a cop is "getting too old for this shit", surely he's going to retire soon. So, to avoid the chance of retirony, you fire him immediately. This has the side effect of meaning you no longer need to pay any pensions. And, just as in every other case of "let's run this public service like a for-profit corporation", it can't possibly have any downsides. If people try to point out that such a policy will make it very hard to maintain a loyal and dedicated police force, you just call them socialists and soft on crime. Eventually they'll start gathering statistical proof that it was a bad idea, but all you have to do is maintain that the science still isn't 100% in because this one retired astrophysicist disagrees with all of the economists, so it would be rash to do anything. Keep that up for a decade or two, retire, and then blame all the problems on your successor. Everybody wins! 188.8.131.52 06:01, 18 September 2015 (UTC)