Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's the LAW!

At the Ybor City Saturday Market last week, I saw another vendor waving over two on-the-hoof policemen. A young man with a placard was preaching hellfire and damnation. Or was it brimstone and damnation? In any case, it was from the Book of Revelations. His sign had magazine pictures of volcanoes and other natural -- or are they? -- disasters. I guess he was trying to illustrate The End of the World. And he was preaching.

The vendor told the cops that the kid was "impeding sales." Hm. How then shall I explain the last three weeks of no sales?

The cops said that the preacher was actually exercising his freedom of speech in a public place, just as the vendor was. There was nothing to be done.

A couple of vendors were really snarly about it. I wonder if "freedom of speech" just sounds like some damned liberal rhetoric or something. Or is it more like: I believe in freedom of speech as long as I like what you're saying so freely?

I know this: When it's raining and I'm driving in a parking lot, say, and visibility is low, I think that I, in an automobile, should have the right of way before a pedestrian because I can't make quick stops in this slippery rain, can I? When, on the other hand, I'm in that same parking lot, but I'm walking back to my car, I think pedestrians should have the right of way because they're getting wet, after all, and it's only right that cars let them go first.

There was a whole lot of freedom of speech going on at the Market. To my right, across the narrow street, was the museum store. It was blasting out some really white bread music whose lyrics included "this Spanish song." It didn't sound Spanish at all. It was too smooth, too much the crooner. But the singer was, in fact, a Tampa man with Spanish heritage. Still, it sounded like Ron Howard singing La Cucaracha with Aint Bea on the congos.

In front of me was more recorded music, a variety of stuff to suit the variety of children who were up on a stage doing things. It was hard to tell (but not to hear) from my location, but it seemed to range from martial arts to modern dance. When I broke out of my canopy to buy an gyro, I saw a glittering clump of hooker-looking females on stage. They turned out to be young teenagers, but they sure didn't look it. It's such good news that I've never been a mother!

Now, the night before, in my own very neighborhood, there was another issue of freedom of speech. If I'm House #1 (and I assure you I am), then House #3 is a real annoyance. I love it that the biker-looking guy who lives there burns wood outside. Such a lovely fragrance! However, I don't like his drunken Friday and Saturday nights. He and the people on the other side in his duplex crank up the radio or stereo and blast till late at night.

One night, it woke me up around eleven-thirty, and I put on a caftan and wandered over there. I seriously don't know what I thought I'd do. Maybe I thought my disheveled appearance would send them screaming into their homes. Maybe I thought I looked waifish and they'd pity me and turn down the noise. Whatever I thought, I walked up there and saw that they weren't making the noise. It was House #4. I instantly made up the surely reasonable story that House #4 is really pissed about the noise and that The Noise Wars have started.

I knocked on their door. I rang on their bell. More than once. But their music was just too loud. I walked back home through the alley. I saw the biker who'd come out to quiet his two dogs, so I muttered, as if to myself but really to him, about the time and about sleep and about bad neighbors.

Well, last Friday, it was just too much. Again. This time, I called the cops. No. I didn't dial 9-1-1. I called the non-emergency number. A woman answered. I asked if it were against the law to be noisy at this time of night (nearly midnight). She said no, but she said it might be against an ordinance. Ah! a loophole! Within six minutes -- no kidding -- the loud music stopped. And it didn't happen again on Saturday, although that's also a regularly scheduled let's-get-drunk night.

My only concern is that, well, what if I called the cops on the fed-up people at #4 instead of the biker man at #3? I'm afraid they'll hate me and slash my tires or throw paint at my car (heh heh) ... but then I remembered that I issued my complain anonymously. I mean, the cops probably kept a record of the phone number I called from, but they didn't ask for my name. Hmm.

And here's the last thing about the law and then I'll shut up.

I haven't had health insurance for over a year now but I want my teeth cleaned, so I called my dentist for an appointment. Lisa at the front desk said I can't have it done without an exam first, since the last exam was more than thirteen months ago. I said I can't afford an exam and the cleaning, plus: I don't want one. I just want the cleaning.

She said it's a law. I must have the exam, too. I said no way was dental health legislated, for pete's sake. She quoted something from the American Dental Association -- yes, that same hallowed organization that recommends every toothpaste on the market. I shared with her that I didn't think the ADA was exactly a law-making body. She insisted that I must have the exam. So we hung up.

I was steamed but I didn't know what to do. About half an hour later, the dentist himself called. He read off a Florida statute that said, indeed, a dental exam is required if more than thirteen months has passed. Sweet Jesus! (I'm pretty sure if you say that with a Spanish accent, it's not actually Taking The Lord's Name In Vain.) You wouldn't think the State of Florida would be so very concerned about my mouth health, would you? Well, I scheduled a cleaning sans exam, but I shall have to sign a waiver.

I can't help it. I just despise lawyers and legislators. And insurance people. And loud neighbors.

Meanwhile, back at the Market ...

A man came by with a big carton of books which he was handing out. I hate to waste paper, and I usually refuse the things people want to thrust into my hands at shows and events anyhow, so I did not easily accept this book. It was The Way of Happiness by L. Ron Hubbard. Each was individually wrapped in thin plastic, like Saran Wrap. I scratched off the wrap and looked at the book. There were pencil drawings throughout and lots of leading (the space between lines). It was clearly a book set up to look bigger than it really is, like a dog whose hackles are up.

Other vendors were muttering about how awful Scientology is. I agree that it's kind of creepy to be on that Clearwater street with so many quiet, slow people in suits. And if The Media call something a cult, I tend to shiver, too, whether from fear or anticipation, I'm not sure. That's just one of many, many reasons I avoid The Media. I don't like it that John Travolta is a Scientologist, even as I haven't a clue what Scientology is.

I was arguing about it with the vendor next to me. I told her I'd really rather not hate something until I know what it is, ya' know? She pointed out that there were mysterious deaths connected to Scientology. Yes. I sort of remember that from the days when I read newspapers.

She also said she was raised Catholic, so she knows what the real beliefs should be, even though, she was quick to add, she's a lapsed Catholic. Yeah. I'm sure the Catholic Church has no mysterious deaths on its hands. No abuses of any sort.

Well, I skimmed the book, it being a long, boring day. I hoped to find out what, exactly, is so spooky about Scientology. I didn't find out. The Way to Happiness said to take baths often and to eat right, to avoid drugs altogether and take alcohol sparingly. The only thing it said that seemed against my own current thought is that we should try to influence people to our own way of thinking -- as long as our own way is The Way to Happiness, I would guess. I'm not sure there's a benefit to trying to influence people.

Hours later, I saw some man not only do a double-take, but walk back to my booth. Be still, my banging heart! Is a sale looming? No. The guy saw The Way to Happiness propped up against the tree where I'd put it. He'd thought it was L. Ron Hubbard. Yep. I moved it a block away to the newspaper box. My own heart couldn't have withstood more excitement like that ...

Completely off the subject, how about this picture of my beloved Mittens, huh? She got involved with a paper bag full of newspaper strips I use for papier-mache. The bag has those loop handles. I thought the bag was going to win for a while, but Mittens prevailed.

It's unfortunate that Mister Google once again refuses to publish my photo as I gave it to him. Move your monitor ninety degrees clockwise and you'll be looking at this picture the way god meant you to look at it.


Anonymous said...

If I didn't know that my cat Simon departed his 9th life last October, at the age of 19, I would think Mittens was Simon reincarnated. (Simon came into my home at the age of 5, and his name came with him.) Since his passing, I've created a montage of photos showing some of the places he liked to hide and/or sleep: the floor of my scooter, a wastebasket, a plastic grocery bag hung by one handle to collect other bags, the LOWER level of my library kick stool (under the part I step on), my unfolded folding dolly, an empty box that once held cans of SlimFast, the bathroom sink, and the top of an UPRIGHT box of Scoop Away litter. (Near the end, he also sometimes curled up IN his litter box; not so cute.)

Paper bags are an excellent toy for any cat, and for their humans too, since one can play inside while the other plays on the outside. (Who takes which place depends on the size of the bag.) Also, paper bags are excellent choices for toys, since they are initially obtained FREE, though there's usually a charge for what's put INTO them before you take them home. -- Eunice

olga kruse said...

Love your insights. BUT, the picture of Mittens, no matter what I do looks like the body has been severed...?

Anonymous said...

Sweet bien,

Thank you for finally spelling it as I've so often envisioned it, 'Aint Bea.'

As for the concerns over having unjustly subjected people in #4 to discipline needed by those in #3, even though I know it sounds a little like W, but if you're part of the problem then you're part of the problem. And I wouldn't worry (very much) about recriminations, since they were presumably equal-opportunity offenders, awakening people throughout a 360 degree span, which is a lot of people. I wouldn't make any more personal appearances, though.

That exam requirement prior to cleaning is the kind of thing that 'professional' groups pay lobbyists a lot of money to get legislators to set into law. Many Florida legislators are among the sorriest characteristics of the state.

It's such a pleasure to be able to stand back, understand the widely varied necessities religion supplies to a troubled mankind, and understand reasons it's become so influential in so many different ways, while feeling almost no emotional or intellectual connection to any religious tenets. Horrible crimes, brutalities, and injustices have been committed through the years in the name of one religion or another. Will go on from time to time, probably. It's man's tribal spirit.

Aren't we lucky there's also love?


(I'd have posted this one for your followers to share, if I knew how. If you can, and care to, go fer it.)

Barbara said...

Well, Olga, Mittens has worn the bag's hoop-handle like normal cats wear belts, you see ...

flahoos said...

Maybe it's my fresh, morning perspective (I started DAYSHIFT this week) or the fact that I'm madly in love and the weekend is near, but your blog today was extra delightful.
The Mayberry Mamba band description was especially entertaining. Thanks for explaining the severed cat...I was wondering...more later, BN, gotta punch a clock, you know....

Jason said...

Ya know.... for me to subscribe to a blog is a feat in-and-of-itself (we hyphenate that phrase, right?) but, for me to (and I use this word ironically) religiously read a particular blog is even MORE of a feat... So congratulations! You're *the only* author I read every time something new is published...

Love, Jase
P.S.- Yes, those WERE teenagers, and yes it sucks to have one, because they do dress far too much like adults (although Donnie isn't quite as bad as what you described)...