After my fiancée forced the kids, dogs and me to watch “The Bachelor” Monday night, my once-reasonably good brain was turned practically to mush.
Somewhere around the 15th time one of the 50 women making out with “The Bachelor” described his lips as “pillowy,” the 10th time a woman described herself as a “smitten kitten” and the 20th time I tried explaining to my teenage son that making out with 30 people in one evening isn’t a dating norm, I could feel what used to be nice, firm gray matter beginning to pool at the back of my head.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m as interested as the next person in seeing this poor, lonesome gentleman find “true love” while concurrently dating more than 10 women, but the emotional rollercoaster of it all left me feeling like I might need something more boring and political to dig into before hitting the hay. With the Alabama Legislature just cranking up a new session, I thought to myself, “Man, wouldn’t it be fun to read through some pre-filed bills?”
Oddly enough, it wasn’t. Pretty lame stuff for the most part, I must admit. But there was one bill that caught my eye. Rep. Tommy Hanes from the bustling town of Bryant has pre-filed a bill that says, “Motor vehicles, commercial vehicles with three or more axles, interstate highways and four-lane highways, outside of municipal corporate limits, required to use right lanes under certain conditions, exception for passing.”
To the untrained mind that bill might seem like a very esoteric law that will only apply to three-axle horse trailers on Sunday afternoons, but after letting “The Bachelor” rot my brain, it all made a little more sense. My guess is Rep. Hanes, like the rest of us who actually know how to drive a car, is sick and tired of heading out on the highway and getting behind a big truck or giant car going the actual speed limit in the left lane and clogging traffic.
The practical interstate speed limit is now 87.5 mph. If you’re in the right lane going 70 or — Lord help us — having some kind of flashback to when the speed limit was 65, your car is like a huge arterial clog blocking what should be an orderly flow of blood/vehicles. Now if you’re driving that slowly in the LEFT LANE, you’re way more like a massive coronary.
I have a family member who looks a lot like my father, and he drives just below 70 mph on the interstate. He does everyone the courtesy of staying in the right lane, but that still generally makes him the slowest vehicle on the road. This means there’s generally a steady line of cars waiting to pass him in the left lane.
A couple of years ago I was in the car when he tried to get into the left lane because a cop had someone pulled over on the side of the road. Naturally the left lane drivers immediately sped up to block him because they didn’t want a bunch of cholesterol in their lane. This very close relative who strongly resembles my father became upset. When I looked over he was shooting “the finger” at a headphone-wearing 10-year-old sitting in the passenger seat. Not the intended recipient, just collateral damage.
“What are you doing!?” I said.
“That S.O.B. cut me off!” he replied.
“Of course he did! You’re driving so slow we’re going backwards in time! They don’t want you over there!” I explained.
I offer this touching story as an example of what I’m sure was at the heart of Rep. Hanes’ bill. Slower traffic should stay in the right lane where it belongs. If Hanes’ bill passes, instead of shooting slow drivers the bird or dangerously tailgating in order to intimidate them back into the right lane, perhaps we faster drivers might have the power to conduct a citizen’s arrest or even just run them off the road.
Honestly, this is the kind of legislation we need more of in Alabama — laws that tackle day-to-day annoyances. We’re never going to get property tax reform or a lottery, so why not use the law to attack relatively petty irritations?
For instance, I could absolutely get behind a law banning stick figure family stickers from vehicles’ bumpers and back windshields. Frankly, a law against vehicle decals that tell us anything about your politics, your family, where you go to church, your kids’ grades, what kind of dogs you have and what football team you support wouldn’t hurt my feelings. Ban lame or self-aggrandizing personalized license plates while we’re at it. Truly funny bumper stickers and personal license plates can stay, if you can find some.
Another irritation-based law could be making it illegal for the governor to declare a state of emergency for “unusual” weather. As I write this, Gov. Kay Ivey has declared a state of emergency and schools are closing, leaving frantic parents wondering what they’ll do with the kids on a workday. Sure, it makes sense to close schools if there are serious travel issues, but we come off looking all panicky and goofy to the rest of the nation when we do.
How about a law that says when the state government wants to freak out about weather the rest of the country would laugh at, instead of declaring a state of emergency, the governor shall announce a sudden new holiday honoring any member of the country group Alabama, the Commodores, George “Goober” Lindsey, Nick Saban, Jimmy Buffett or Truman Capote? I just don’t want to year the Yankees making fun of us for being afraid of the snow.
So maybe this legislative session is starting off on the right foot and in the right lane. If we can just legislate away a few things that drive me crazy each year, in a few decades Alabama will practically be heaven on Earth, or at least heaven in the left lane.