As I was driving 20 miles above the speed limit in the wrong direction down a one-way street the other day, I realized something: The mandatory seat belt in this state has been around for more than 15 years now. So by now it’s a lame excuse to tell a cop, “Gee, officer. I didn’t know.”
The seat belt law was designed to protect people from themselves. Meanwhile there is no mandatory pants belt law—that would also protect people from themselves.
In the case of the seat belt law, people get protected from injury or worse in an auto accident. A pants belt law would protect people from embarrassment or worse—in a dancing accident.
The road signs that used to read: “Seat Belts Must Be Worn”—were replaced a few years ago because people thought it meant that only used and beat-up seat belts could be used.
Originally the fine for not wearing a seat belt was $86—now it’s gone up to $136. The lesson? If you’re going to break the law, do it early when it’s more affordable.
The zero-tolerance change in the seat belt law was made into a more easily swallowed pill by the use of the cheery rhyming slogan: “Click it or Ticket!” Boy, do kids love saying it—especially little nazis in the back seat.
The slogan seems to have worked so well you’d have to figure there are lots more fun law warning mottoes being planned.
For first-time auto thieves: “Steal it and feel it.”
For running out on a restaurant tab: “Dash and dine and pay a fine.”
For gambling cheaters: “Mark the deck and you’ll catch heck.”
Of course it has always been tricky trying to figure out how to balance a nation of laws with also being a nation of personal freedoms. That’s why the Supreme Court decided back in 1919 that freedom of expression doesn’t protect dangerous speech. It’s based on the notion of falsely yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. (This may also include falsely yelling “This is a great movie!” in a theater running “Zoolander 2.”
Our state recently turned down changing the smoking age from 18 to 21. That’s why you never see people under 21 smoking anywhere. You also never see people throwing fish at the Pike Place Market
If you ask people, they’ll tell how important education is. Thus, a public school teacher raise from $35,700 a year was also rejected in 2016—making the $46,528 pay for managing a McDonald’s a far better career choice.
Meanwhile the following laws remain real—and intact—here in Washington state:
“Harassing Bigfoot—or Sasquatch—is considered a felony.” (This law apparently came about after a number of Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) complained to authorities.)
“Destroying another person’s beer cask, keg, barrel or bottle—is illegal.” (Although an exception might be made if the beer is Natural Light.)
It supposedly is also illegal in our state “to buy a mattress on a Sunday.” (A law obviously aimed at Sleep Train-robbers.)
Another law states it is forbidden” to buy meat on a Sunday.” (Don’t even ask about meat mattresses.)
Plus it’s against the law to “pretend that your parents are rich.” Hear that Kate? (My daughter.)
Other actual state laws prohibit lollipops, spitting on a bus—and painting polka dots on the U.S. flag. (Yet, inexplicably, there is no law against the polka itself.)
How about our legislators writing some new laws that we really need? Examples:
“It is illegal for TV weather people to announce a forecast without first looking out the window.”
“Only actual citizens of Washington state towns can kid around about them. This means only Kent residents can make Kent jokes; Ballard people, Ballard jokes; Mercer Island folks, M.I. jokes—and so on.” But the new law would still allow anyone in Washington to make jokes about Idaho.
“It is against the law to use the annoying cliché ‘I am having trouble getting my head around’ something—such as ‘I am having trouble getting my head around Mick Jagger being knighted in 2002’.”
“It shall be illegal to write any new laws while smoking weed.”
The preceding laws are only imaginary at this point—but there is another actual law that is currently on the books in this state:
“It is illegal to sleep in an outhouse without the owner’s permission.” Yes, it’s real—and experts say if that law alone was rescinded—our prison population would be cut in half.
And my brother would finally be a free man again.