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Big Daddy Says, “Leave ‘Mr. Gomez’ at Home”:

How can driving a car be better or safer with a live animal in your lap? It can’t. Could running with scissors ever be a good idea? No, and that’s why your parents told you not to do it. It’s possible that, as a three- year-old, the question of having a live animal in your lap while you’re steering a two-ton vehicle never came up.

But if it had, the answer most likely would have also been “No.” That’s why the California Assembly felt they were on solid ground voting to fine drivers who feel compelled to bring their pets with them in a car, riding in their laps. The bill was numbered 2233, but it could have been named the “Stop Petting Your Miniature Schnauzer and Drive!” bill. It was not, and all were saved from a pornographic tornado of Schnauzer jokes.

I’m not sure when this notion that other things should be happening while you’re driving a car began, although it probably had its roots in ‘seat dancing’: the gyrations engendered when a great song comes on the radio. From there we went to smoking while seat dancing and driving, followed by eating a sub sandwich and smoking and making a phone call and dancing while driving, followed by eating-smoking-phoning-dancing and sharing the entire experience with your Chihuahua pup “Mr. Gomez.”

When laws are required to compel adults to act with common adult sense, there’s always some backlash regarding government’s role as a kind of parent or ‘Big Daddy.’ The questions fly: “Do we need laws to tell us the obvious?” or “What makes lawmakers think they must play the role of chastening parent?” One answer might be, “Have you watched “Deal or No Deal” lately?” A nation held spellbound for an hour by a round of “Lucky Suitcase” probably needs such laws.

But to paint the picture with a darker palette…we know that we need laws punishing people for painfully inept parenting such as leaving your child in an automobile parked in lethally roasting sunlight. So, sorry Mr. Gomez, but it looks like you’re lap dancing days are over. Bill 2233 is on its way to the state Senate.

The LA Times pointed out in a recent article that there are several interesting proposed measures in play right now related to driving and punishment. One would keep teens from having a driver’s license if they’re not attending or graduated from school. Ditto for truancy. One would allow law enforcement to impound your automobile for 30 days if you’re caught soliciting prostitutes. I suppose the frosting on that cake would be watching as a tow truck with the nickname “The Happy Hooker” stenciled on its side towed away your Buick.

Not to mention the chatter in the coffee room at work. “Hey, Larry. Noticed you walked three miles to the office today. Getting some exercise… or were you busted with a hoochie again? Looks like that “Employee Performance” bonus is drifting further and further out to sea…”

As with the punitive measures against pups and pets, there was a similar lack of evidence that cell phone use during driving improved safety and California has impressively played parent on that behavior already. But way before one notices what we might call the increasing “Duh” factor of laws, you get uneasy knowing that some of this stuff even comes up.

One might successfully argue that common sense has been taking some kind of nosedive, possibly in conjunction with dumbing-down. Still, it’s encouraging that the show is called, “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?” with a question mark at the end. To the extent that the FOX network is in charge of coast-to-coast referendums, the question appears unresolved at a national level for now. I’m hoping I don’t live to see the unavoidably dreary game show “Forget It, You Won’t Know Any of This.”

But on matters of common sense, it’s troubling that law seems to visit the area with increasing frequency. Conversations on this subject inevitably include the infamous McDonald’s coffee litigation, which resulted in the printing of “Coffee is Hot!” on the side of coffee cups. I assume Hawaii has looked at something similar in regard to molten lava. But before anybody from the big island takes offense, know that California is looking at a law that would suspend the driver’s license of convicted car thieves. Of course a car thief might get his brother to do driving… especially if the thief was smarter than a fifth grader.

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