Monday, July 25, 2005

And THEN... things took a turn

I lie in the darkness, splayed out on my stomach, staring at the keyboard, feeling the darkness coming on. It's a familiar feeling. This is probably going to be a bad one.

I feel the need to guest blog something on The One True Tami's blog... but the gremlins from the corner have crawled up on my shoulder, warning, "Don't do it. The darkness comes. It can only end in tears."

I can feel it happening. The One True Tami diagnosed me years ago. She said it happens when I drink Jack Daniels. (Hereafter referred to as "JD" for you civilians in the psychic wars.) JD generally has a distorting effect on people. One comedian commented that, while many liquors come with free gifts such as glassware, shirts or posters, JD should come with bail money. Not for moi, however. I'm not the violent type. The One True Tami proclaimed that I was a "maudlin drunk" on JD. I fall into a pit of blackness. It never worries me, though. I'm familiar with the route and I know all the soft spots to land.

But what to do? Today is Monday. The One True Tami was supposed to return, yet her blog lies barren, like the empty darkness of my soul. Oh, I could take comfort in the company of my fellow guest bloggers... G.D. Frogsdong and Shakespeare's Sister. And good company they be. But what of the True One? What could have happened?

Has one of the many Brazilian Soccer players who tried to woo her on her exotic cruise simply offered her a deal she couldn't refuse? Too many diamonds and stuffed lobster dinners? Is she, even now, dozing on a beach in Rio de' Janeiro while muscular young athletes rub coconut scented tanning lotion into her back? Will she awake smiling, only to shout out in some sick Demosthenes parody above the ocean's roar, "HA! Too bad! I'm not coming back! The guest bloggers can take care of my blog. Screw them! I'M STAYING! MUA HA HA HA!!!!"

And this, of course, brings us to today's topic... smoking. Apparently New Jersey is now considering a ban on smoking while driving.
Ashtrays have been disappearing in cars like fins on Cadillacs, and so could smoking while driving in New Jersey, under a measure introduced in the Legislature.
If you're a smoker, this little essay isn't for you. It's for the non-smokers. Let's stop and consider the situation rationally for a moment, shall we? We have (up here in New York) a ban on cell phone use while driving. "Hurray!" many people cried. Particularly those without cell phones. Is driving while talking on a cell phone more dangerous than driving without a phone, your hands firmly clamped on the wheel at 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock? It probably is.

Is driving while smoking (or lighting) a cigarette less safe than driving while not smoking? Again, I'm sure it is.

The smokers, of course, will be up in arms. (Disclosure... I smoke.) Smokers are a favorite target for *everyone*, as this article points out.

Although the measure faces long odds, it still has smokers incensed and arguing itÂ’s a Big Brother intrusion that threatens to take away one of the few places they can enjoy their habit.

“The day a politician wants to tell me I can’t smoke in my car, that’s the day he takes over my lease payments,” said John Cito, a financial planner from Hackensack with a taste for $20 cigars.

Smokers, feeling like easy targets, say enough already. They argue theyÂ’ve been forced outside office buildings, run off the grounds of public facilities, and asked to pony up more in per-pack excise taxes when states feel a budget squeeze.

“With smoking, it’s becoming increasingly fashionable to target legislation or prohibitions,” said George Koodray, a member of the Metropolitan Cigar Society, a 100-strong group that meets in Paterson for dinner and a smoke.

But back to my point... let's say, for the sake of argument, that we can all agree that smoking and talking on the phone make a driver less safe than a driver who is doing neither. What about putting on make-up? Combing/brushing your hair? Changing the radio station or switching CD's in the deck, or just rocking out and singing along to your favorite band instead of paying 100% attention to the road? (Yeah... let's see Detroit and the nation's drivers get behind a ban on all radios and music playing devices. Like that's gonna happen.) Drinking hot coffee from one of those custom designed road mugs, when you may dump hot liquid on your crotch at any moment?

How about that guy who just bought three cheeseburgers at the McDonald's DRIVE THROUGH and is trying to unwrap his third burger and put more ketchup on it (because they never put enough on in the store) while doing 65 up I-95? I think a valid argument could be made that a guy who has had three beers and has a blood alcohol content of .081 (illegal) but is staring intently at the road with his hands on the wheel is in better control of the vehicle than the hungry bastard with the burgers.

My point is, how are we to define this? In every instance I cited above, I defy you to say that the person is 100% as safe of a driver as the dead sober person with perfect vision and no mental impairments who has his hands at 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock and is thinking of nothing but driving. That's a pretty damned big "gray area" to deal with, isn't it? So either we need to scrap all of these laws and make a new one saying that you must be fully alert, holding the wheel and doing nothing but driving, or we have to codify exactly what else you can be doing and still be considered "safe" to drive.

Or shall we just pass two hundred laws for things that aren't "socially acceptable" or valued by big business, but give a pass to the rest? Your thoughts?

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