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A nation of poop sandwiches

Note: I’m a columnist for the Reader Weekly, an alt-weekly newspaper in Duluth, MN. Every Monday I post a new column.

It was a warm night, heat still rising off the cracked pavement of the old road. A pair of eyes shone out of the darkness, fixated on my car as I crept through slow traffic. I moved and the eyes followed, tracking me like a fratboy ogling an underage girl: Never approaching, just staring.

A car turned, shining light on the predator. It was a police officer crouched near the side of the street, radio in hand. He was trying to appear inconspicuous, but stuck out like an elderly man jerking off at the movies. I passed and he stared eerily at the next driver, shooting her the same icy glare.

“What the hell was that?” I wondered. Why was he staring at me? Had I forgotten to wear clothes while driving again? Had I drank seven beers before leaving the house? Had I murdered someone and left the trunk open, exposing the corpse? All were very likely possibilities. I mulled it over some more before it finally hit me: Today was July 1, the day California’s cellphone-free driving law went into effect. The officer was looking for cellphone users and radioing ahead to another officer in a patrol car.

The filthy bastard was trying to catch us, like syphilis caught Zach Braff. Fortunately, I hate talking to people, and I hate talking to them on the phone even more, so I was safe. Even more fortunate is that in a month, these officers hiding in the bushes will go back to writing tickets to homeless people for pooping at the Staples Center.

It’s a good thing, too. If the law is enforced too heavily, people might research the details and realize how dumb their political representatives are. For instance, you can’t talk on the phone while driving, but you’re allowed to dial numbers, and text messaging isn’t specifically prohibited. So I can text my friends and ignore the road completely, but I can’t hold the phone up to my ear and drive attentively. That’s like saying I’m only allowed to punch the governor in the face if I punch him really hard.

Which I might.

Here’s a list of some other things I’ve done while driving: Read the newspaper, removed and replaced a contact lens, drank boiling hot coffee, ate a quesadilla, fell asleep, changed my shirt, closed my eyes and sneezed, studied the cleavage of the woman driving next to me, steered with my knees while eating pudding, and talked on my phone. Only one of those things is illegal.

The only positive aspect of this new law is it gives me one more excuse not to talk to people on the phone. I used to have to make static sounds with my mouth and claim the reception was bad if I wanted to stop talking to someone, but now I can just say I’m driving.

“Sorry mom, God and Allah and the Tetragrammaton and the State of California won’t let me talk in the car. You wouldn’t want me to get a ticket, would you? I’ll call you back later.”

Then I call her back at night while she’s sleeping and leave a message.

So why am I writing about California laws in a Minnesota newspaper? Because the law will soon come to you. It’s only a matter of time before the bluetooth accessory companies make money off Minnesota as well.

You might actually agree with this law, as I did before it was implemented here. However, what I have learned so far is even with it in place, people drive just as poorly. Old people still drive slow. Teenage girls still drive 30 mph over the speed limit and then slam on the brakes right after cutting me off. Middle-age businessmen still weave between lanes while shuffling papers or doing God knows what.

The only difference now is none of them are using cellphones while doing it. This makes their behavior even more infuriating, because it means they’re naturally retarded, rather than retarded by choice. This law has not brought satisfaction, only increased frustration when I realize I need to call a friend for directions while on the highway, or I need to answer when a potential employer calls but I can’t because I’m in the car.

Worse yet, this law opens the floodgates for even more legislation on common-sense issues. Instead of just increasing enforcement of the all-encompassing law about inattentive driving that has been on the books for decades, we will soon have 20 laws, one for each little thing people do. Looking at a map while driving? Gone. Drinking coffee on the commute to work? Gone. Fellatio from a classy lady while speeding down a poorly-lit rural highway? One of these days, that will be gone too.

In the end, society will be a little more stressful and I’ll turn into one of those annoying old people who reminisce about the days when sodas cost a nickel.

“I remember when you could listen to music in the car.”

“Whatever grandpa. Save it for the nursing home shuttle bus driver. He gets paid to listen to you cry.”

You reap what you sow, dear reader. If what you sow is poop, then all you’ll be eating is poop sandwiches. With the way legislation has increased over the past few decades, that may soon be the only entree on the menu. Bon appetite.

 4 Responses to “A nation of poop sandwiches”

  1. Mike says:

    I think the the law is just clarifying that talking on a cell phone is inattentive driving. Once again it follows suit in that if we enforce the laws we have better we wouldn’t need to waste time and money on making new ones.

  2. Yvette says:

    What we need is for people to wise up. Quit multi-tasking and concentrate on what you’re doing. It could mean your, or someone else’s, life. And quit running flat-out red lights! Someone is going to get hurt or die. Your first task is driving well. If you can do that and chew gum too, then alright!

  3. Yvette says:

    Good to know that’s where the cops are when you need one-hiding in the bushes! More laws and wasted manpower!

  4. Tim says:

    I had the absolute misfortune of living in New Jersey where cell phone use is prohibited and it stops NO ONE. There may be more cell phone use now than before. If they set up stings, what are they going to accomplish? Maybe catching .0000000000000000000001% of violators? I still think that most people are too stupid to pull off driving and talking safely, but until such time as there is a way to catch and punish the idiots and assholes, while allowing the responsible and capable people through the dragnet, then it is just another stupid law to make money cloaked in ‘safety’. Assholes. Paul, you should start talking into calculators (like that crazy guy outside the building where I work) and intentionally driving through the sting. Then when they pull you over you can say “HA HA ASSHOLE, look, it’s not a cell phone!” They’ll probably make a law against that too. Good luck.

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