When I was a high-school teacher, I had a student who smoked a lot of dope. His parents were puritanical but distracted, so on any given night in his sprawling house, he simply shut his bedroom door, opened the window and fired up a joint.
Most days he was soporific, but occasionally the fog would lift and he would hang around at lunchtime to talk about psychedelic music. He was a Pink Floyd fan. One day, he explained in some detail how
of the Moon was produced as a deliberate counterpoint to the 1939 movie,
The Wizard of Oz. To get the full effect, he said, you silenced the movie and started the CD after the opening credits. I assumed you also had to be stoned.
One day, he talked about an unpleasant little dust-up the night before when his father had paid an unexpected visit to his room. By the time the dust had settled, the bedroom and adjacent bathroom doors had been deliberately removed, hinges and all.
Not a perfect solution by any means, but a bold one.
I got to thinking about those empty doorframes as I read the section of the new SugarHouse Park master plan about dogs and leashes. The rules of the park require all dogs to be leashed, and as the park authority gathered public comment on its plan to improve the 110-acre green space, it received overwhelming support for the leash rule. Only 18 percent disagreed with the policy.
Of course, it is no secret that most dog owners ignore the leash rule. Because unleashed dogs aren’t ticketed, they frolic, sniff and wade in the creek while their scofflaw owners watch from a distance.
The master plan does respond to “persistent, but limited, requests” for an off-leash area by identifying two places within the park that could be set aside for free-range dogs. But then the plan lamely concludes “that this issue should receive consideration separate and apart from the current master plan due to the polarizing nature of the topic within our community”—a finesse only a Washington mugwump could love.
I’m for a take-off-the-doors approach: Either eliminate the rule or ban dogs altogether. I favor the former. I like dogs.
Carry-on luggage on airplanes is a similar case. Who among us has not endured the numbing lecture from gate attendants about the limitations on carry-ons even as passengers laden like pack mules file into the plane? Consider how much time and effort are invested in that baggage and how much time and money would be saved if the duffels, rollers, backpacks and garment bags were simply banned from the cabin. If it doesn’t fit under the seat, it doesn’t come on board—period. Sure, there would be pushback from those who routinely ignore the rules, multitaskers too self-important to wait a few minutes for checked luggage. But they would eventually get used to standing around the carousels with the hoi polloi. They could blab on their cell phones while they waited.
They could blab
unless some techno-vigilante—pushed to the edge by intrusive, cell-phone boors—surreptitiously fingered the jammer in his pocket and zapped the connection. Now there’s a take-off-the-doors solution that makes you laugh out loud! However, like Edward Abbey’s monkeywrenching brand of sabotage, cell-phone jamming is illegal. So make short-range jammers legal! Why not? The boors would soon learn manners; thereupon, the market for jamming devices would shrink.
It seems to me that there are a lot of problems for which a bold solution would be as welcome as a blue sky after weeks of smog. They are the weeds in the public garden. It’s easier to overlook them than to get down on our knees and yank them up by the roots.
Petroleum is a prime example. Because Americans believe cheap gas is a birthright, we use more oil than any other country—most of which is burned in cars. Our profligacy is evident in the yellow smog that blankets the Salt Lake Valley and in the fat purses of the Islamist radicals who plot to kill us.
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman for the bold solution: a dollar-a-gallon “Patriot Tax” on gasoline. The benefits spool out in a cause-and-effect chain. Consumption of gasoline would decline followed by oil prices in the commodity markets. Renewable energy sources would become attractive investments. Patrons of bomb makers would have less disposable income, and at home, the gas-tax dollars could retire our $10 trillion deficit and re-fit the military.
The same economic logic seems apropos of water after years of drought. Can Salt Lakers afford to continue their love affair with green, manicured lawns? The answer is probably no, considering the law of supply and demand. If you can’t increase snowfall in the mountains commensurate with development in the valley, then you must curtail demand for water by increasing the price. The logic is irrefutable. The age of Xeriscape is upon us. Let’s hope it’s not too late.
I must say that the bold option grows more appealing by the day. I am weary of the safe, the predictable, the conventional, the politically correct, the blue-ribbon panel, the business-as-usual. I feel a real kinship with Howard Beale in
Network and his famous rant: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” I say we take down a few doors and see what happens.
Private Eye will return next week.