The peeling columns of the Lincoln Memorial, and Abe’s majestic head, elegant hands and big feet are partially submerged in sludge. Animals that escaped from the National Zoo after zookeepers were furloughed seven decades ago migrated to the memorials, hunting for food left by tourists.

See what happens when you don’t listen to reason?  You get an apocalyptic future where elephants rumble and monkeys scamper through the hallowed monuments of a once-great nation.  So says Maureen Dowd, in any event.  And while Ms. Dowd has become increasingly more shrill lately — yes, she’s now gone up to eleven — we all have to wonder just how close to some kind of cliff we have come.

Yesterday, CBS Minnestota, a nine-year-old Minneapolis boy flew to Las Vegas without a ticket:

Around 9 a.m. or so, the boy hopped on a lightrail train to MSP, where he walked into Terminal 1. His parents didn’t notice him leave their north Minneapolis home.

The boy went through the screening process then boarded a Delta flight in Concourse C at 11:15 a.m. He also evaded Delta’s gate agent in Concourse C and made it on the plane and grabbed an empty seat.

For those of you that have been left at the gate even though you had a ticket (“sorry, we’re overbooked”), this will be hard to fathom, but the TSA’s spokesman had a wonderful explanation:

“The TSA checkpoints are not there to stop people; they’re there to stop dangerous items. So we don’t know how this child got past that TSA screening point.”

Well, that’s good to know.  If this sounds like gibberish to you, you have plenty of company.  And the TSA isn’t planning on any further commentary, citing the “shutdown” as their reason.  By the way, it wasn’t the kid’s first visit to this particular airport.

Airport surveillance video shows the boy at the airport on both Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday, he grabbed a bag from the carousel and ordered lunch at a restaurant. He left without paying, and he left the bag. Nothing was stolen from it.

If you are now wondering about the parents, they did not go without comment:

When Minneapolis Police went to the boy’s home, his parents said they hadn’t seen much of him that day.

That day — or any other, from what we can tell.  For all we know, this kid spent the summer in the south of France living off poolside buffets and sleeping in beachfront cabanas.  This little episode doesn’t seem like much compared to the notion of zoo animals rumbling around DC, but, unlike Dowd’s hysterical fantasy, this actually happened.  And that’s just one of the bizarre episodes from today’s headlines we could have chosen.  Others?

Well, someone’s been putting pooh in the clothes dryers at Yale.   Turnoffs on the road in front of Mt. Rushmore have been closed to prevent unruly sightseers from observing the monument in an unauthorized way, while the Natinal Mall — also closed because of the shutdown, isn’t,  in order to accommodate a  rally for immigration amnesty by the “Camino Americano: March for Immigration Reform.”   The poster child for Obamacare who signed up the first day online without any problems at all, didn’t, really.   And the US government is advising athletes traveling to the Winter Olympics in Solchi to leave their cell phones and laptops at home, citing the possibility that they may be monitored by Russian security.

So:

“Once the government shut down, a plague came, because they had closed the Center for Disease Control,” the man says. “Storms, floods and wildfires raged after FEMA was closed down and the National Guard got decimated.

“Once we went into default, the globe got sucked into the economic vortex. With a lot of the Defense Department, F.B.I., and intelligence community on forced leave, the country became vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Without the C.I.A. to train the moderate Syrian rebels, Syria fell to Al Qaeda.

“After the final American president, Barack Obama, canceled his trip to Asia, that part of the world decided we were weak. China moved quickly to fill the vacuum. Obama grew so disgusted, he spent his final years in office isolated in the White House residence. When he stopped returning the calls of Hassan Rouhani and Bibi Netanyahu, it was only a matter of time before the Middle East went up in flames.

“What is left of the world is being run by Julian Assange from what is left of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London and by some right-wing nut in a cabin in Idaho.”

Calm down, Maureen.  It’s not so bad as all that.   Today’s little nightmares are by themselves more horrifying than those you imagine for the future.  But one question:  that right-wing nut in Utah?  He didn’t happen to catch a flight from Minnesota to Vegas when he was nine, did he?