The New Asperity

The New AsperityDid you know that in Germany it’s illegal for one driver to flip off another? It’s one of the most common traffic violations cited in German courts. One has to wonder why, in a country where by simply rolling your Rs around you can change the English word for ‘bitter’ into German ‘please’, someone decided that flipping another motorist the bird crossed enough of a line that it would land you in front of a judge. And we’ve all driven and know that the other guy is usually a f*cking moron and really needs that bird.

Did the country that within living memory systematically slaughtered millions of people suddenly realize that what they really meant was that Nice Makes Right? The next time the Bundestag holds a secret meeting in Wannsee is it going to agree to invade Poland just to clean it up, maybe plant a few trees? No. Somebody, some yoghurt-eating German do-gooder, thought flipping people off was rude (it is) and made it illegal (so go f*ck yourself.)

The books are full of laws, not just in Germany, proscribing objectionable behavior. We don’t mean laws that ensure for a more perfect union or protect the weak from the strong; we mean laws that make it illegal for you to do something someone else thinks is bad for you or they find objectionable. Try smoking on a plane. Or take Larry David’s crazy wife (please). She thought that incandescent bulbs were inefficient (they are) so she pushed for a law outlawing them and now we have mercury bulbs that make everyone look either jaundiced or like Ripley in an Alien movie, but it’s worse than that, much worse. They’re toxic.

Should one of these bulbs happen to fall, the EPA has issued clean-up and disposal guidelines that first attempt to allay the fears of mercury humans developed through long-term familiarity and earlier EPA statements, and then very plainly state that, although there is no reason to panic, for the LOVE OF GOD ventilate and evacuate the room for 15 minutes and don’t even THINK about using a vacuum to clean up the debris, possibly creating a mercury dust cloud (of death). Of course it’s ‘of death’. If it caused an itchy rash there would be an extra page telling you what to do once you got to the ER. But no, other than the EPA intimating that mercury is maybe bad it doesn’t offer much in the way of degrees of misery once contact occurs. So, EPA, how bad is it really? Cortisone crème and a Dove bar bad? Oxygen and observation bad? Decon chamber bad? Not stated, but they are very clear that you really, really don’t want to make one or be caught in one.

The instructions read like something out of a Book of Common Prayer 2.0– (Don’t panic) We shall not panic. (Ventilate the room and evacuate it for 15 minutes.) We shall not panic. (For Jesus’ sake don’t clean up the mess with a vacuum.) We shall not panic. (Carefully brush up what you can.) We shall not panic. (Use masking or duct tape to gently remove all residue.) We shall not panic. (Secure all debris in a airtight container and wash your hands thoroughly.) We shall not panic, but that all sounds really f*cked.

Yeah, we could have gone on using incandescent bulbs and paying for the energy we used, but now we’re reducing energy consumption and I think that we can all agree that’s a good thing. Hey, Larry David’s crazy wife, in a few years when a third of the population develops dementia at 50 and we’ve got a bunch of flipper kids taking the gold in the Olympics, how about we give you credit where it’s do and parade you through the streets in a dung cart? Or maybe we just take all your stuff?

The Sierra Club is already alarmed at the rise in mercury levels, but is placing the blame on manufacturers and not where it belongs, squarely with American families with a lot of rowdy kids and a house full of glass orbs filled with toxic gas. Larry David’s crazy wife wants you to remember that the amount of mercury she’s done so much to expose us to is toxic but it isn’t lethal – breathing mercury vapor at the levels you’re going to experience over the next several years won’t kill you, it’ll just turn you into as crazed lunatic and produce chronic health problems for you, your progeny and your pets (the term ‘mad as a hatter’ came from workers in millinery concerns using mercury-based hat paint and whose livelihood turned them into psychos and did eventually lead to their death, whether through the auspices of a benevolent god or at the hands of themselves or another we often don’t know. 28 Days Later, indeed.)

Or consider her good friend Sheryl Crow (attractive, lovely voice, nice tits) who wanted to limit the amount of toilet paper we used. That didn’t get as far because there is way too much shit in Washington to reasonably expect any kind of limitation on TP. But hey, Sheryl, I saw a picture of the 40,000 square foot house you had up for sale, so how about you lop off 10K square feet and pay for enough toilet paper to get the entire nation through the upcoming election?

So far I’m noticing a trend – extravagantly wealthy people trying to tell the rest of us how to live up to our most responsible potential. F*ck that. Seriously, it’s like Marie Antoinette getting so bummed out by hearing tales of the starving poor listlessly shambling up and down the streets outside of Versailles that she doesn’t just advise them to eat cake, but forces Louie to pass a law making it a crime not to eat cake.

How about Michael Moore touring an Occupy Wall Street camp and shutting down a reporter who asks him how much he makes by telling the guy to ‘just start telling the truth.’ Hey Michael, isn’t broadsiding fatcats how you became famous and if you want the truth to be known, release your tax records. The truth shall set you free, you hypocritical fat f*ck. Sorry, I should clarify that by describing him as a hypocritical rich fat f*ck. And speaking of clueless rich people, how about Mitt Romney trying to talk Rick Perry into a $10,000 bet while they were in a debate on air. Trying to show he was a man of the people in touch with traditional American values. Maybe if I had $10,000 to blow on a bet I’d know what American values he’s talking about. Even the evil bastards in Trading Places had the good sense to completely f*ck up someone’s life over a gentleman’s bet of $1. Mitt, take $15 of that $10,000 and get a haircut that doesn’t make you look like John Gotti’s attorney.

It’s not just these chowder heads, there all all kinds of laws being passed or that have already passed, each aimed at making your life better through legally mandated approved behavior and enforced through stiff penalties. We’ve all sorted our garbage out for recycling (well, not me) but who hasn’t, in their heart of hearts, felt at one time or another that the dump trucks simply unload all the crap in the same pile? If you thought that, you were at least sometimes right. The Virginia Pilot filmed a bunch or recycling trucks dumping their washed and sorted load into the landfill along with the dog’s pee-stained sofa and three tons of wet, used coffee grounds. I’m not saying recycling doesn’t do any good; it can convince your new girlfriend that you’re a stand-up guy and worth a roll in the hay even if you do always cry afterwards. So fill those recycling tubs with newspaper and washed salsa jars, just save yourself some time and don’t empty it.

But if you live in Montgomery County, Maryland, or Arlington County, Virginia, you may soon be getting new recycling tubs embedded with microchips that alert the authorities if your recycling output falls below the statistical norm. If it does, you get a visit from a county employee who inspects your garbage and if that person determines that you are not in compliance you get a fine. I can see the guy now, pulling up on his moped, dressed in a bright yellow zip suit and wearing an aerodynamically designed ‘brain bucket’, tacking a $200 fine to your door because you don’t have enough diet coke cans in the bin, or you’ve mixed your newspapers and bottles together. I have such a clear image of the guy because I met him this weekend.

I had just pulled into the parking lot of my newly rebuilt library. I love the library, not just for the books but because it also provides a central location of the local alkies and junkies to take a leak, and not on the sidewalk on my block. The library is ‘green’, which means it received hefty tax deductions to be hot in the summer and freezing in the winter and to limit landscaping to drought-resistant plants. The cheese heads who designed it also decided to purposefully limit the amount of parking so that it would not be enough to accommodate patrons’ vehicles during peak hours, forcing shared rides or walks from the parking lot at local community center. And here’s the kicker, the choicest parking spots right in front of the door are determined by how tiny your vehicle’s carbon footprint it. Furthest from the door are handicap spots, next come spots marked ‘hybrid cars only’ and then the really plum spots marked ‘Library Car Pool Parking Only’. (Personally, I don’t want my library to have a pool because I’m sure the alkies and junkies would just piss in it.)

And here’s what really does shock me – people obey the signs. The hybrid and car pool spots are always empty while some old lady drives around in circles waiting for somebody in a regular spot to leave. And this is where I met my friend in the one-piece yellow moto suit and moped. I parked in the library car pool spot and bounced out of my car (a Toyota sedan, comfortable and good gas mileage. If they make them mandatory I’m tricking mine out to be an all terrain ‘yota.) Mr. Moto (who looks exactly like you think he must look if you think he looks like a whipped dick) calls after me ‘Those are for car pools only.’ To which I made two replies: 1) Fight the power, Rosa Parks didn’t give up her seat when some white guy demanded she did, even though it was the law, and 2) that stoopid suit he was wearing made him look like something out of a Japanese cartoon.

It may seem like a stretch, even in bad taste, to compare the consequences of Rosa Parks’ bravery and disgust to the fines and shame circles we face nowadays if we don’t comply, but I thought about it and it doesn’t take much work or a huge culture shift to turn ‘Hybrid cars only’ into ‘Whites Only’. Both are legal enforcements of an accepted status quo, and a way of preserving what some thought at the time was the best of all possible worlds. As the Germans would say, ‘Vorlage Macht Frei’; ‘Submission Makes You Free.’ Our personal liberties have not been at greater risk since white people decided that ‘separate but equal’ was something they could live with. Turns out that they couldn’t but it took a lot of people a lot of work to change it.