No Fixed Abode: For Me But Not For Thee

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

“One day in Maryland about four years ago, Carr was teaching his 16-year-old daughter how to drive when two police cars went rocketing by on the interstate, doing 80 in a 55 mph zone without lights on.” From that tiny seed — which, let’s face it, is planted about fifty thousand times a day on American roads — a great tree grew. Soldier and veteran Glen Carr now spends a significant portion of his time photographing illegally-parked police cars. It’s hard to think of a more quintessentially American thing: a man comes back from war and decides to fixate on some injustice, major or minor. It’s a story that in various forms has underpinned everything from Victorian novels to the movie Walking Tall.

What makes Carr’s jihad so engaging and admirable? Perhaps it’s the certain knowledge that he is doomed to fail. At best, he’s gonna get tired of documenting these quotidian injustices. At worst, some cop is going to shoot him dead when Carr pulls out his camera then claim he thought it was a gun. You can’t fight City Hall. Illegal vehicle operation by police officers isn’t going to stop any time soon. It might not stop until every cop car is fully autonomous. Maybe not even then. Does everybody remember the quote from Blade Runner? “If you’re not a cop, you’re little people!”

Meanwhile, for the little people in the UK, things are about to get significantly more strict.

If you’re a novice driver in Great Britain and you are observed using a mobile device while behind the wheel, you are going to lose your license. Period, point blank. I should point out that the UK licensing procedure is already significantly more strict than what we have here in the United States. It’s even worse for motorcyclists; the graduated licensing process is positively Byzantine compared to here in Freedom Land where 16-year-olds have the right to ride a Gixxer thou down the freeway at full throttle shortly after completing a short multiple-choice test.

Doesn’t that punishment seem a bit harsh to you, particularly given the low standard of “proof” needed to issue a citation? What if you’ve just spilled some coffee in your lap and a cop sees you looking down at a traffic light? After all, you don’t need to be in motion to be ticketed for mobile device use — which should be your first clue that the game is rigged against motorists. The only harm done by someone who is looking at his phone while stopped at a light is the possibility of a tardy departure when the light turns green. It’s annoying, but it’s not life-threatening.

Today, I got my latest issue of the American Motorcyclist Association in-house magazine. In the opening pages of said magazine, I was told that the AMA will be using my membership money to fight tooth-and-nail to have mobile-device use treated as a “primary offense.” which means that you can get pulled over and ticketed for it. But I commute 7,000 miles a year to work on a motorcycle and I have to say that the genuine threats to my life and limb I’ve observed are more often than not drivers who are fully engaged in their vehicle operation, absolutely not distracted by any mobile device of any kind, and with both hands on the wheel as they swerve into my spot in an attempt to knock 11 seconds off their drive home. The phone users just kind of drift around a bit. It’s mildly troubling but it rarely causes me to engage in evasive maneuvers.

Law enforcement being somewhat different in America than it is in Great Britain, you can expect that we will be issuing heavy fines to cellphone users and not taking their licenses entirely. Perhaps we will see an analogue to the hugely successful drunk-driving-industrial complex, where insurance companies, rehab places, and courts all collude to drain impaired drivers of every possible cent while steadfastly maintaining their access to automobiles. After your third time touching a phone while behind the wheel in four years, you can go to “distracted rehab” where a mild-faced recovering Samsung addict will charge you $5,000 for a ten-step program.

At the same time, the number of unlicensed drivers is soaring. More than seven thousand deaths a year occur in this country because of unlicensed drivers — for those of you counting along at home, that’s more dead people than we currently blame on “distracted driving” — and some major percentage of those people are illegal/undocumented/dreamer/beings-of-light/Daryl-Hannah-replicant immigrants. There’s a fellow out there who is trying to track that, because his son was run over twice by an unlicensed driver who was also not a citizen.

That sort of thing is not evenly distributed in this country. I’ve never had any personal interactions with an unlicensed driver, but my Albuquerque-born wife was the victim of two Mexican hit-and-runs over the course of slightly over a decade before she escaped to Ohio three years ago. In one of the accidents, the dreamer-in-question managed to center-punch her vehicle while he was engaged in a running gun battle with police. She was pregnant at the time, but that was okay because from an overall societal-benefit perspective it’s cheaper to miscarry a kid and replace him or her with an adult worker from another country. Before you ask — no, the fellow did not bother to purchase insurance while he was crossing the Rio Grande, despite the many outstanding online providers of auto coverage out there on the 4G-LTE network. It may just be a coincidence, but uninsured motorist coverage in that state is the most expensive part of your policy, even if you’re a 16-year-old with a Gixxer Thou. Danger Girl insures a Corvette, a Fiesta, and a Tahoe for less than an SUV alone cost her down New Mexico way.

Does it strike you as a little odd that our law enforcement community is so good at catching iPhone users while it’s simultaneously so bad at preventing undocumented immigrants from going mucho loco behind the wheel of a stolen Silverado? The infamous Sultan Knish offers some perspective on this:

The truly civilized man is expected not to notice uncivilized behavior. Relativism is the expected response to any violation of human norms, but not to violations of any element of the petty codes of urbania. It is very well for a man to strip naked on a train and run from car to car shouting that the aliens are coming, but not to throw his recycling into the trash.

The only free people in cities are eccentrics and criminals. Eccentricity is a necessary performance art in the face of anonymity. And criminality is often the only way to get things done.

Put another way: An ever-increasing percentage of America-dwellers are going to be permitted to do whatever they like, because they have nothing to lose. But if you are following the laws, you will be rewarded with more laws that you need to follow.

Let me give you a little glimpse of the future. You’re going to be driving down the road in your vehicle. Perhaps the vehicle will be driving, come to think of it. You will be leasing the vehicle with post-tax dollars; every dollar you pay the bank really represents two that you earned. You’ll be taxed on the monthly payment, on the miles driven, on the electricity consumed, on the wear and tear of the crumbling infrastructure. You will keep both hands on the wheel because removing a hand will result in the issuance of a distracted-driving ticket that will be direct-debited against your long-suffering bank account. Everything you do will cost you money. You will be milked for cash every day like a cow in the dairy machines. And while you’re doing this, you’re gonna see an old Suburban go blasting by, chock-full of non-citizens or career criminals. They’ll be blasting the music, swerving across lanes, smoking heavily from both tailpipes as they three-wheel-motion on a compact spare. When you look in the other direction, you’ll see a police cruiser doing 20 mph over the limit. The cop will be on his phone, laughing. He will ignore the Suburban; pulling over a vehicle like that generates way too much paperwork, amigo.

Look forward, citizen! You’ve been given a glimpse of both possible freedoms — the people with nothing to lose and the untouchable government employee. But those freedoms are not for you. There’s work to be done at your open-plan bench-seating code farm! The economy depends on you. You’re the only person left working in any industry besides Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate! Sucks to be you! Freedom for me, but not for thee!

[Image: “ Free!” ( CC BY 2.0) by Payton Chung]

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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3 of 386 comments
  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Mar 05, 2017

    All these comments! You really know how to push buttons, Jack.

    • JimZ JimZ on Mar 06, 2017

      yes, then he feigns "surprise" when the comments go a certain way.

  • DirtRoads DirtRoads on Mar 06, 2017

    I liked it Jack. The article I mean. You got balls, man. I don't think many will read 400-odd comments down this list but hey I get to throw my two cents in anyway, right? There are some comments I like here as well. Other than the whacked-out, clueless, liberal/socialists and bleeding hearts who think it's up to "us" to fix all the world's problems, there's some pretty decent discourse here. So if that was, indeed, your aim, then you have hit the bullseye.

  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.
  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.
  • ToolGuy Also on to-do list: Read the latest Steve S. fiction work on TTAC (May 20 Junkyard Find)