Sunday, June 24, 2018

Red Lights, Big Trouble

By Claire Wolfe

November 15, 2003

The Young Curmudgeon had a slight mishap a while back. One night his old pickup slid on ice, skidded into a ditch, bounced a couple of times, rolled itself up in a coil of barbed wire, sailed over the back of a cow, and landed upside down in a patch of cactus.
Mudge himself, who needless to say wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, also ended up in a patch of cactus, but right-side-up. As it happened, he was so relaxed from a 12-pack of beer that he just sort of flopped like a Beanie Baby when he hit the ground and didn’t break.
He hiked back into town, where, shortly after dawn, Janelle-the-waitress laid him out on the counter at the Hog Trough Grill and Feed. After she tweezed out a few hundred needles and served him a cup of what passes for coffee at the Hog Trough, he was just fine and went off to reclaim his truck from the cow herd.
Those who were there for breakfast say it was quite a spectacle. Unfortunately I missed it.
Even more unfortunately, nobody could miss what came next.
And now I have a confession. Forgive me. All these years, I’ve told you my little mid-nowhere town of Hardyville is the last remaining land of the free. I’ve told you it’s got (almost) no politicians, hardly any laws, no patience whatsoever with government-type fools or the people who love them, and lots of self-reliance and defiance and just plain Don’t-Tread-on-Me-ness. Well, that’s true. Almost entirely true.
But until now I couldn’t bring myself to mention the Hardyville Committee to Make Everybody Do What’s Good for Them, Whether They Enjoy it or Not.
Yeah, even here. They’re everywhere. Wherever two humans gather, one will likely decide to fix the other one. There was probably even a Committee to “improve” every paleolithic cave and pre-historic jungle compound. (“All persons are required to wear half a coconut shell to protect their heads while playing fnoogle.” “Mastodons may not be hunted with high-capacity spears measuring more than 10 gnughfs in diameter …”)
So anyway, after Mudge’s roller-coaster ride, our particular Committee (THCTMEDWGFT,WTEION, for short) decided we needed … a red-light camera. Never mind that his flight over the cows had nothing to do with red lights. You’re just thinking logically, silly you. You’re probably the sort of person who, if you got attacked by Arab terrorists, would start looking for Arab terrorists, instead of confiscating knitting needles and investigating library books.
The reason they chose a red-light camera instead of some drunk-driving law or seatbelt nanny thing was that right after Mudge went sailing they got a letter from the famous corporation, General Snoopomics Unlimited.
I don’t have the letter in front of me, so I can’t quote it exactly. But a really good paraphrase would go like this:
Hey, you gummints, you wanna make a gazillion bucks for your cops while snookering your citizens into getting more tickets and having more accidents? Then plot with us to have your traffic enforcement done by merciless, unthinking, privacy-invading cameras placed at stoplights. We’ll install ’em and only take half a gazillion in profits for helping you pull off this scam. What a deal, huh?
That was the gist of it, anyway.


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