I saw something this past weekend that annoyed me.
No, scratch that, it pissed me right the fuck off.
How pissed off? I found myself yelling at an inanimate object. Through a car windshield. I mean, if the inanimate object could HEAR me, then that would be one thing, but the mostly soundproof barrier in between, to say nothing of the traffic and other surrounding white noise, makes it a whole ‘nother level of pissed.
Or maybe I was just being cowardly. “Yeah,” the inanimate object was thinking back, “I bet you wouldn’t say that to my fucking face!”
So now, with that pesky bully of a sign out of earshot once again, I’m letting the vitriol roll. Raising my cowardice by going home and trolling the inanimate object on the interwebs. Yeah, how does that feel, motherfucker? You gonna be checking the comment feed?
But I’m still generally annoyed, because now I’m going to make a blog post that threatens to break a couple of my unwritten rules. I try to never get legitimately upset about anything here. Sure, I play the cranky old guy a lot, but I usually am looking for the humor in the things that annoy me. But I’m a little worried this post won’t have the usual humorous tangents. On the plus side, that means it might clock in at less than 2000 words and you can consume it in one sitting.
The other thing I try not to do here is get political. Because I certainly don’t have the answers. And I like to think of my happy little wombat’s pouch of mirthful passive aggression to be a place of harmony. And the first thing to ruin our little happy place is to say an innocuous little thing like “people who believes <insert sensitive political topic here> is a cocksucking demonspawn whose eyesockets should be skullfucked by Hitler.” Followed, of course, by a “See? Everybody’s afraid to debate me.”
So here I go. You’ve been warned.
The thing that pissed me off was an Amber Alert.
“Really, Wombat? You have a problem with saving kids lives? Somebody call Hitler and tell him we’ve got some ripe sockets coming.”
No, it wasn’t an actual Amber Alert. But, as I’ve written before, here in California, some nimrod in the state government gets bored whenever there hasn’t been a child abduction for more than a few days. So he likes to send us little messages using the Amber Alert system, which I’ve recently discovered is called a Changeable Message Sign. Not to be confused with the digital advertising billboards. The CMS is only yellow type on a black background. For years, I thought it was called Amber Alert based on the color of the text. Nope. It was a girl named Amber. I feel bad for her. I mean, not only did she die, but the law that was named after her is being interpreted as named after a color, not her.
Most of the messages they post are annoying, but innocuous. “Buzzed driving is drunk driving.”Um, I mean, not legally. But okay, sure. “Don’t drive distracted.” Hey, you know what would help me not being distracted? Maybe don’t flash changing messages at me while I’m driving. “Look twice for motorcyclists.” Good message. I remember when I took drivers ed that motorcycles driving between the lanes is “legal but not safe.” They used to say the same thing about seat belts and helmets and riding in the back of trucks. All the rest have since been made illegal. But somehow motorcycles and antivaxxers are the last great bastions of the ability to kill yourself via hutzpah.
I had gotten used to the same 7-10 messages rotating through, but it looks like Mr. Bureaucrat came back from his sabbatical, because they seem to be testing some new messages recently. I saw a message a few weeks ago that told me to watch out for bicyclists. Not sure if it was a typo for the motorcycle one. If it wasn’t a typo, then my response is no, fuck those guys. Bicycles aren’t allowed on the freeway. Enter at your own risk, motherfuckers.
But my current rage spiral isn’t focused on bicyclists or intricacies of DUI law. Even the Antivaxxers get a pass today, despite them single-handedly bringing back measles and smallpox. Good job, asswipes. I saw one Facebook post from a mother who said her kids weren’t vaccinated and she was worried about measles. She asked if there were any “preventative measures” she could take to strengthen them against it. Yeah. It’s called vaccination, you nitwit.
And there go the antivaxxers. Hey, I know WordPress tells me when a new person starts following my blog. Do I get a notice for the unfollows? I bet I’m about to find out.
Okay, so what’s the message that has thrown me into a tizzy?
“The only prevention for littering is you.”
Yes, that’s it.
Am I being petty? Maybe. But seriously, California? Did you just tell me that I’m your littering problem? Well, let me, on behalf of the millions of us who have never once thrown a piece of garbage out of a moving vehicle, tell you to go fuck yourself.
Have I ever driven when I shouldn’t have, in the vein of “buzzed driving is drunk driving”? Yeah, probably. And as a former Catholic, I applaud the subtle guilt of the buzzed driving message. I mock it. But yeah, I take it to heart. Tell me to look twice for a dude on a motorcycle? Fine. Do you see how easy it was to give subtle cues without implying thirty-nine million people are lingering somewhere between being a criminal and a complete piece of shit?
We all know where this rhetorical argument comes from. Smokey the Bear tells us that “Only YOU” can prevent forest fires. And that’s been a powerful message for decades.
But there’s a huge difference between forest fires and littering. Fires are (usually) an act of negligence. So when my drunk and/or tired ass is passing out in front of my campfire and I really just want to go crawl into my tent and pass out, then hopefully the thousand times I’ve seen Smokey Bear will pop up in my head and I’ll put the fire out first. Shouldn’t be tough. I usually have to take a leak after all that light beer, anyway. Sure, I could use water to put out the fire, but then the guy lighting it first in the morning, whose been peacefully sleeping for three hours, won’t get that extra little wake-up whiff in the morning.
You know what Smokey doesn’t say? He doesn’t say “Only YOU can prevent arson.” And why doesn’t Smokey say that? Because most of us aren’t arsonists. Arson requires someone taking a deliberate, criminal action. Kinda like rolling down the window of a car and throwing out your empty McDonald’s wrapper. Littering is not an accident, so those of us who don’t litter can’t solve the problem by ourselves.
But the good old Golden State government seems to think we’re all litterers. And probably arsonists, too. And they’ve chosen to furrow their digitized amber brow at all of us for succumbing to our baser instincts.
Hey seriously, Governor Newsom, if you want to count the number of fast food wrappers in my back seat to know where all of my car-created litter ends up, feel free. I drive by the Capitol building every damn day because, despite having the highest tax rates in the country, we can’t bother to have halfway decent public transportation. BART was supposed to have expanded to Sacramento by now, but it hasn’t even made it to San Jose yet because it’s tied up in fifty years of “environmental impact studies.” Want to know what’s impacting the environment more than ten miles of track? Ten million people commuting along Interstate 680 at an approximate speed of five miles per hour for three hours every morning and evening.
And in the meantime, our roads are about as shitty as they come. I’ve had to replace my windshield once a year for the past five years because of all the shit kicked up on Highway 99. When I ask for a quote from Safelite to fill in a chip, they give a price and say “unless you’re in Sacramento, California.” I say I am, in fact, in Sacramento, California, and the person on the phone chuckles and says, “Oh, then you’re paying twice as much as the going rate.” Because while Sacramento might try to gloss itself as a “City of Trees” or a “Farm-to-Fork Capital,” it should really just opt for “Region of Potholes.”
Last time I went to Safelite to fill in a chip, I had a bona fide crack within a week. So fifty bucks to “fix” the windshield, followed less than a month later by five hundred bucks to replace it.
But hey, at least the traffic (sometimes) moves in Sacramento. The only reason the Bay Area or Los Angeles don’t have more windshield chips is because cars need to go faster than ten to kick up pebbles.
But yeah, you’re right, California. Littering is the real problem. And it’s all my fucking fault.
No, they didn’t tell me I caused the holocaust or assassinated JFK or anything. But that’s part of what pissed me off about the message. It wasn’t a “Please don’t litter.” It was a passive aggressive. “Hey, fuckface, we know you’re the problem.” If you’re going to call me an asshole, then call me an asshole. All of us Californians are quite accustomed to our government’s scorn.
We live in that nanniest of the nanny states. Every action requires seventeen different waivers accompanied by eighteen different fees. We have to ensure that the toilet-paper that we’re dropping into our fluoride water and flushing down our low-flow toilets are biodegradable and dolphin friendly. During the drought, they told us to stop “wasting” water, and we complied like the domestic violence victims we are. Then they complained that we weren’t paying as much for water as we used to. All the Water Boards had employees that they had to pay, even if those employees didn’t have as much to keep track of. If we didn’t start paying more for water we weren’t using, then those people would be out of jobs and we would be responsible for tanking the economy.
They raised the gas tax to discourage us from buying gas-guzzlers, so we bought more eco-friendly cars, which means they aren’t getting as much gas tax revenue, so now they want to force us to have GPS in our cars and charge us by the mile, even though the money raised won’t go toward fixing roads or improving public transportation. Then they also raised the gas tax again.
No, scratch that. WE raised our own gas tax, because the state government has been so good at chastising us and ridiculing us and explaining that they are better than us that we are the only population that actually votes, on a regular basis, yes on propositions to raise our own taxes! And now they want to pay for an investigation into why our gas prices are so high.
And I’m used to the disdain from my government. I know the elected officials think they’re better than us. I love when people describe a presidential candidate as “humble.” Humble people tend to not think they have better ideas than three hundred million citizens. That’s a pretty egotistical act. And that stretches down to the lowest city councilperson. I’m not saying people don’t get into politics for altruistic reasons. But everyone gets into politics because they think they have better ideas than other people.
But I always just assumed that this dismissiveness was based on their assumption that we’re all idiots. All of us unwashed masses that have trouble distinguishing right from wrong and are completely incapable of managing our own finances or driving or, I don’t know, washing our hands before going back to work. And whatever, I’m a teacher, so I’m used to people who I know more than rolling their eyes at me, assuming I have no concept of the myriad of things they think they know.
But now, thanks to my trip on the freeway this past weekend, I think that maybe I’ve been giving these politicians too much benefit of the doubt. They don’t think we’re stupid. They think we’re criminals. We are all on the verge of rape, murder, and mayhem.
I mean, props to them for reading their Rousseau. Or maybe their Thomas Hobbes. Life is nasty, brutish, and short, huh, guys? What? All you politicians aren’t up on your Enlightenment philosophers? You just want to make sure we’ve taught it to the next generation? Awesome. Wouldn’t want to know how many of y’all would fail that high school exit exam that you used to make our students pass.
But don’t mind me. I’m on the verge of robbing this liquor store. I’m surprised they haven’t made ski masks illegal.
But the nice thing about my new realization is how much clearer it makes all their actions so much clearer. They’re not coddling us. They’re preemptively punishing us. Since we no longer enforce the death penalty, maybe they can accomplish the same goal by pothole-caused car crashes. Or maybe we’ll just die of starvation because our gas is too expensive for us to get to the grocery store.
Although, now that I think of it, maybe they aren’t punishing us preemptively. They’re punishing us after the fact. After all, we’re all already criminals.
Because the only prevention to littering is YOU.