The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Monday, July 19, 2004

THE STOP SIGN: I like stop signs.  Stop signs are forceful, direct, imperative, impatient with this sort of philosophical blathering, and will not traffic in the existential angst of Yield or in the situational wishy-washiness of Slippery When Wet.  They mean what they say and say what they mean.  They are a directive from an unseen higher authority made red and octagonal, the incarnation of the law itself, a stern transportation director ordering the lowly motorist to cease, to desist, to halt, to put your damn foot on the brake already and stop the car.  Why then, one must ask, do so many people simply ignore stop signs altogether and keep going?
Once upon a great time ago in America, motorists paid a deep and abiding respect to stop signs, even if they didn’t mean it; you never knew if there was a motorcycle cop up ahead just waiting for you to run past the sign without stopping.  And so you stopped, if only for fear of getting a ticket.  But nowadays people do not fear the police and do not stop, running the stop signs whenever they choose.  This failure to stop at stop signs was once a sign that the offending driver was a dangerous radical, a condition to avoided like the plague or athlete’s foot in this our Great Republic.  Radicals who refused to stop at stop signs were seen as malignant underminers of the very fabric of modern American society.  But no more. First comes the disrespect for stop signs, followed close on by refusing to stop at red lights and then ignoring the directions of traffic officers.   Such a breakdown in automotive morality can only lead to accidents and general mayhem replacing General Motors on the nation’s highways.  Anarchy will rear its ugly head, as the struggle to get to the supermarket to buy a gallon of milk becomes a hellish Hobbesian highway battle of everyman against his fellow man.  I don’t even want to think about what it’ll be like on the roads if there’s a sale at Shop-Rite.  Driver education classes throughout the land will be permanently cancelled, replaced by a good luck card from the state, a set of keys, and a complete set of The Road Warrior movies as instructional videos.
What brought on this massive surge of disrespect for the fundamental decencies of motoristical behavior?  Conspiracy theorists abound, as they are perhaps wont to do, but I think the basic mistake was the introduction of the right turn on a red light.  Once the states abandoned the basic formula of red=stop in favor of the right turn concept it was only a matter of time before the inevitable shaving of the law’s parameters began.  Stop became stop, please, and then stop, but only if you want to, and finally stop, why?  Once the pattern was set the long slide into chaos ensued, as any observer with half a brain could have figured out for themselves. Now the very authorities that approved the right on red abomination wonder why their transportation dicta are ignored by the great mass of motorists; it is evidently too hard for these dolts to understand that by diluting the power of the stop sign they were also diluting their ability to effect what occurred on American roads.  Only a return to red=stop, backed up by a intense police effort and a blizzard of tickets, will return the stop sign to the honored position it once held in American life, a position that was needlessly sacrificed to a silly fashion.


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