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The Seatbelt Scam

When I was sixteen I oinked every time a cop drove by. The other kids laughed, and I was, for the moment, super cool. Of course, in those days I would have hung myself for approval.

Over time the police became my friends. I felt comfortable around them. I knew they were here to investigate stuff and shush people, give me a hug if I needed one. I even donated money over the phone.

Yesterday I turned sixteen again.

I was driving home from the house of ill repute (K-Mart) when I saw a web stretching across the street. It was the kind of web that traps you only if you drive too fast. I slowed down and nodded to the cops beside the road. I had donated over the phone.

Squad lights came on, the spiders leapt out, and I was dead meat. Two officers approached, one veteran and one pimple-headed-monster-in-training who only got into law enforcement to stop punching people in the face.

He said, "May I see your license, registration, and proof that you fear me."

Okay, he didn't say that last thing, but he meant it. I fumbled through the glove compartment -- where no one ever stores gloves -- and the kid inspected for guns or drugs or some other reason to punch me in the face.

Producing the paper, I asked, "What's the problem, Officers?" Notice how I used a capital O.

The grown-up answered. "State law requires that you wear a seatbelt at all times while operating a motor vehicle."

With all the killing and thieving and cheating, they're worried about my seatbelt?! And the F-word has been on my lips ever since.

This was, in fact, my second seatbelt crime, so traffic school was out. I should know better, too. Years ago I learned that drivers emit a pheromone while driving illegally. When tags expire, for instance, a cop can smell that for miles.

But something inside me won't accept the seatbelt law, which was written by insurance-bots. It is packaged to protect our health but in truth curbs the expense of cleaning our guts off the streets. Insurance and medical, our unelected government.

If I want to risk my life for a loaf of bread, it should be my knuckleheaded right. It's like the ban against suicide, another State Farm masterpiece. What is the punishment for killing ourselves anyway? The rebirth sentence? My body, my choice.

Later a bill arrived from the court: Dear Mr. Love, enclosed is a ticket in the amount of... Insert screeching tires, speaker feedback, and crows swearing madly in Latin.

Could a ticket really cost that much? Was it legal? Could Visa charge 88% APR? The long arm of the law was touching me where my bathing suit didn't cover. Who set this price, and did they also determine the cost of popcorn at the movies?

I stopped, dropped, and rolled to smother the flames. My wife finally doused them with vodka. Then she endured a sermon from hell on this police business. And that is what it is -- a business. Like insurance. The police find clients at every turn and issue Bizarro tickets to overpay pimple-headed punks who would rather punch me in the face. So it goes.

It's worse when you come to a stop. Meter maids roam the streets robbing the misparked. Machines demand change like cranky bums and don't even shout when someone breaks your windshield. And all this while I'm inside K-Mart being pinched for 8% on the dollar to PAY THE POLICE!

The ticket industry has grown so big that cameras now bill us automatically. Big Brother is watching, and Robocop is on the way.

Don't get me wrong: I value the rules of the road, as I have driven in countries without them. I also appreciate that officers -- even the bullies -- risk their lives every day to protect me from the other animals. I want the best for the police: the best cars, the best weapons, the fastest runners. But when laws go corporate, I must revolt like my forefathers.

And the next time the police call for a donation, I'll just send a copy of my ticket.

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