08 February 2007 | Permalink

Last night, I broke the law - or what might become the law - twenty-two times. Had I been caught on each occasion, I could have been liable for more than two thousand dollars in fines. Shocked at my own criminality, I am determined to make a full confession and to name my accomplices, who include Gaetan Roussel, Jon Langford, Laetitia Sadier, Clayson Benally, Talitha MacKenzie, Joseph Porter, Steven P. Jobs and the entire Reptile Palace Orchestra. To the authorities I can only say “Stop me before I offend again” (which will probably happen in less than twenty minutes time).

The nature of my crime, for those of you who might be thinking of turning me in for the reward, was to listen to my iPod while crossing the road. Following a number of recent deaths, New York state senator Carl Kruger has introduced a law banning the use of iPods and cellphones on New York streets. If the good senator gets his way, anyone caught with little white earbuds in their ears on a Manhattan roadway could get slammed with a $100 fine.

This looks to me like an example of what Bernard Woolley once described as the Politician's Syllogism: “Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, this must be done.” As is usual in these cases, no attempt is made to legislate for all the other things that cause people to walk into traffic: alcohol, a fight with your partner, fatigue from late-night partying or working two jobs, huge distracting billboards, a passing pedestrian with a really great ass (note to Sen. Kruger: unisex burqa law could help here) and so on and so forth. Nor is much thought given to whether such a law is really appropriate for New York, the most cheerfully scofflaw city in the Union, where jaywalking is practically a lifestyle statement.

It doesn't even make sense from an accident-prevention point of view. Given the sheer level of ever-present ambient noise, anyone who depends on their ears to detect oncoming traffic in New York is going to be roadkill in a heartbeat. I realize that writing a post like this is like pinning a sign on my butt marked for the attention of the Fates and reading ‘Kick me’, but if I die in traffic it won't be because I was too busy rocking out to notice the eighteen-wheeler bearing down on me. No, it'll be because of one of the many other things that make life hazardous for pedestrians on the streets of the city: Jersey drivers who turn right on red, the idiots who think Houston St is a drag-racing strip, huge SUV-swallowing potholes, delivery people on unlighted bikes riding the wrong way, stretch limos with a turning circle the size of Nebraska and the city administration's apparent determination to make the last walkable city in the USA car-friendly, whatever the cost to those of us who don't go everywhere wrapped up in three tons of Detroit steel.

Senator, you can have my iPod when you pry my ear buds from my cold dead ears. In the meantime, if you want to save lives on the city streets, why don't you think about banning cars instead?