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Kicking Tires in Pierre
Jan 27, 2016
Nobody thinks South Dakota is perfect, but most of us would agree it seems to get along pretty well from day to day. Which makes me wonder what our legislators do in Pierre. Each year, 105 of our best and brightest gather for the session. Most of them are conscientious sorts so they work at least 10 hours a day, if you count the after-hours schmoozing. That's 42,000 woman/man hours doing what? Is our system of laws really so dilapidated it needs that much tweaking? If South Dakota was a car and required almost two months in the shop every year, we'd surely trade it off.
Be that as it may, our lawgivers can surely spare a few hours to consider these suggestions.
AN ACT TO ENSURE THE HAPPINESS OF FOUR-WHEEL DRIVE VEHICLES
I was noodling through the mall parking lot one day when I happened upon an entire row of big, square, ugly vehicles. You know the breed: ponderous sport utilities and crew cab pickups you need a stepladder to enter, all with beefy tires and four-wheel drive. I was struck by the fact that there wasn't a speck of mud or dust on any of them. They were all dripping chrome and showroom shiny. I suspect the closest they ever got to rugged terrain was the speed bumps at HyVee.
Not long afterward I saw a picture in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader of one such vehicle up to its door handles in the waters of Skunk Creek. It was found early in the morning, abandoned, and it's not hard to imagine how it got there. At least two guys. Late. Testosterone and alcohol-fueled bravado/stupidity. Wee-haw. Vroom vroom. I've got four-wheel drive. Bet I can make it across. Vroom vroom. Rrrrrr. Clunk. Click. Click. Let's get out of here before somebody administers a Breathalyzer test.
We can all agree these guys are most likely morons, but think of the favor they did for their vehicle. Most 4X4s these days are forced to live out their lives looking like Tarzan and driving like Jane, never busting through snowdrifts or exploring forests primeval like they were promised when they rolled off the assembly line. This act would require every SUV and vanity truck owner to produce evidence showing they at least drove through a mud puddle in the past year before their vehicle's license could be renewed. We must end the abuse of these machines before they turn on us and crush us like an old car at a monster truck rally.
AN ACT TO REQUIRE THE MANUAL OPENING OF CERTAIN DOORS
While waiting outside my town's wellness center one afternoon, I saw quite a few people enter the building. I was astonished by the number of them, able-bodied one and all, most wearing athletic gear and presumably there to exercise, who pressed the button meant to open the door for handicapped people. Young. Old. Male. Female. All made use of the button. Pushing a door open is just too exhausting, apparently.
Such behavior should be discouraged. By this act, all able-bodied individuals will be required to open their own doors. Those who don't will get a temporary tattoo on the forehead that reads, "Lazy." A week of being so branded seems about right.
If this law works out, follow-up legislation may mandate a "Selfish" tattoo for people who use two parking spaces for one car, and "Pigheaded" for those who get in the express checkout line with more than 10 items and refuse to move, knowing the clerk will give in to get the line moving. Citizens will be encouraged to submit their own ideas; soon there will be a dozen, a hundred, a thousand ways to get tattooed. No longer will we have to suffer in silence. Each of our pet peeves will be elevated to the status of law. Between that and everyone continuously informing on everyone else, the world will be a much happier place.
Some might argue that these penalties run afoul of the Constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Not to worry. Something is "unusual" only if it doesn't happen very often. Once it starts happening all the time then it becomes "usual." Locking people in a room made of iron bars must have seemed pretty curious at some point in history. Now it's normal. Once we have tattooed people walking around here, there and everywhere we won't think twice about it.
AN ACT TO ENSURE FULL DISCLOSURE IN BAKED GOODS
Each and every year the state of South Dakota produces approximately 470 pounds of zucchini for every man, woman and child. This unwelcome bounty is a big problem. Lovers of this foul fruit of the vine, which I most assuredly am not, can only eat so much of it fried, baked or sautéed. This causes them to seek out ways to use it in other recipes. Muffins. Bread. Chocolate cake — an abomination that cries out to the heavens for redress. Each fall I live in fear that I may accidentally ingest some.
This act would make it a felony to use zucchini in baked goods and not inform potential eaters of same. The prison term would be doubled for anyone who encourages consumption of a zucchini-tainted concoction by uttering, "Try some! You'll never even taste it!" or the equivalent.
Since I've already done the heavy lifting by coming up with the Big Ideas, working out the details of these laws should only take a few hours. I have no idea what our legislators will do with the rest of their time. Perhaps a good book.
Editor’s Note: This column is revised from the January/February 2008 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call (800) 456-5117.