Russ Ringsak

Prohibitions and Politicians

May 1, 2002

Pounding the highways year after year - and being pounded back - seems to hammer certain perceptions into place somewhere up there along the attic of the cranium, the same for all who make a living at it; much as careers spent inside the sanctified walls of academia seem to breed a near-unanimity of outlook among college professors, rendering most incapable of thinking anything outside currently fashionable professorial dogma. I will spare the reader my long-winded and sour opinion on that subject, but will unload a few other easily verifiable observations from one trucker's attic.
We are enjoying a recently-won monumental freedom here in Minnesota: after a bitter battle, and only through the rarefied wisdom and saintly beneficence of the slim majority of our legislators, we ordinary adults have suddenly been empowered to buy and to actually light sparklers and snakes. No firecrackers of course, or bottle rockets or anything like that, but sparklers. And little snakes. And we are so grateful for the trust they place in us, and don't we all hope we'll be found worthy.

The connection here to trucking across the lines of all these states all these countless hundreds of times is that it's almost impossible for a casual visitor to tell, no matter how ridiculous the laws of the single states, the difference. You can tell when you leave a no-fireworks state, of course, by all the billboards in the adjoining state, but while you were in that other state you wouldn't have known if you didn't ask somebody. People in the restaurants and truck stops of fireworks states are pretty much the same as those in non-fireworks states; you don't see a lot of eye patches, hooks and wooden legs, for instance, in the fireworks states.

Same with almost any issue; take drive-thru liquor. States which allow that are seen as dangerously strange by residents of other states, but you can work with somebody for years and never realize they came from a drive-thru liquor state. They seemed like anybody else, up until you discovered that. We can't sell cars in Minnesota on Sunday, but folks don't seem to notice anything that bizarre about us when we travel. We don't brag about it, of course, but nobody ever seems to ask either. (".... there's a uniqueness about you, somehow, a strangeness... you don't come from a place with odd closing laws, do you?")

Same with concealed carry. We've done many shows in Texas, Georgia, Montana, Washington state, Arizona, Tennessee, all those dangerous places, and we've even done a few shows in Vermont, where they have no gun control at all; never saw a gun in public in any of them, except on cops. But in New York I once saw a car riddled with bullet holes sitting under the viaduct on Broadway with four bodies still inside, and we saw shell casings lying in the street outside of Town Hall early one Sunday morning, and they're really strict about guns. So you just can't tell. People seem pretty much the same everywhere, regardless of their various statutory burdens. Doesn't seem to affect 'em much.
Mostly the laws that are supposed to make us into better people end up sidestepped by the many and being a pain in the ass for the few; for instance the guy who thought he might go out and by a quart of beer and watch a Sunday baseball game in his Minnesota hotel room, not knowing you can't buy beer here on Sunday. Doesn't make the rest of us any better, but it was a real irritation to the unknowing visitor. Maybe it's meant as just a local joke, but I suspect it was voted in by the humorless.

We also make it illegal to scalp tickets, which doesn't mean you can't do it but you need to know your buyer. Playing poker for real money is outlawed in many places but that's never kept anybody I knew from playing poker.

Helmets, hookers, hemp, moonshine, marriage, divorce, abortion, crap games, pull tabs, shooting pool for money, teaching evolution or whatever; lots of stuff for politicians to hoot themselves sweaty about and then come up with weird prohibitions and circumscriptions. And in the end, if you're a visitor and you don't ask about it, chances are you'd never be able to tell, one way or the other. (Well, you can tell the helmet states, if you're in traffic.)

The big one to the truck driver is of course the speed limits. A few states still hang on to the ridiculous - and there's no other way to say it - well, no, there are other ways to say it - the stupid, the unrealistic, the boneheaded, the heavy-handed, the absurd, the goofy, the idiotic - 55 mph truck speed limit. And when you've got troopers out every 15 miles like Ohio does it's plain to everyone that the state is involved in nothing less than full-scale racketeering. They've got armed extortionists out there with lasers and they mean to fine enough drivers to show a profit every shift. Nothing about their 55 mph turnpike - and they're already charging you to drive on the stinkin' thing - is any different from any other Interstate, where we drive 70.

We all know that traffic moves at 70 miles an hour, all across the country, maybe plus 2 and bit more out west. Fleet trucks are all set right in there and most independents drive that range unless they need otherwise. It's clear that traffic in the various states, for all their different limits - 55, 60, 65, 70, 75 and '65 night' - is all the same. We all drive 70 in Ohio as well, of course; as soon as you hear on the CB that it's clear, you're right back up to 70.

So how is it that something as obvious as this can be missed by the various governing bodies? How is it, we unwashed truckers ask, that people who go in and get soft government jobs with no heavy lifting magically acquire the power to think for the rest of us? They seem just like us; they aren't raised in camps somewhere away from the general population. We all seem to have the same general DNA, so why do they get to tell us what to do and what compels them to come up with such stupidities as to outlaw everyday normal behavior?

This isn't to say there shouldn't be order and nobody says we don't need law, but we need some sense up there. Laws have to work or the whole system is a joke, no? So we wonder how ordinary people can get themselves elected and then fall all over each other wrestling with these mockeries.

Anyway:

Two old friends meet in a park; haven't seen each other for a couple of years. They're out walking their dogs. They talk, and the first guy says, "You got time for a beer? We got a lot of catching up to do."
"I got the time, but how about the dogs? They'll never let'em in the bar."
"You got sunglasses?"
"Yah."
"Put'em on. We'll go in with sunglasses on, fumble a little and tell'em we're blind -- these are our guide dogs."
"That works? You get away with that?"
"I do it all the time. Piece of cake. I'll go in first. C'mon."
They cross the street, go into the tavern, the bartender says to the first one: "Sir.... Sorry, but you'll have to leave the Doberman outside. It's house rules."
"He's my guide dog. I'm visually impaired."
"A Doberman? They're usin' Dobermans now?"
"Well, yah, there's kind of a shortage these days, so they're usin' Dobermans. And they work out really good. Real smart, loyal; fast learners."
"Huh. Well, okay... but you, sir; you can't bring that Chihuahua in here. Sorry."
"Uh... Chihuahua? They gave me a CHIHUAHUA?"

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