All right. I think we're far enough removed from the peak of Ferguson that we can go ahead and do that strange-law article I had to shelf for a bit. Want to go ahead and do that, remembering that we have all rather forcefully seen what a 'stupid law' really looks like? You know, things like 'no bleeding on the uniforms of the officers in Ferguson, Missouri after they waltz into your cell and beat the crap out of you'? That is a truly stupid... ahem... 'law'.
But then there are the more innocuous-sounding ones, like you might have seen in a list of 'strange laws' somewhere years ago. The ones that sound like 'no hopping like a kangaroo in front of a car dealership'. And then you laughed. And so did I because I had a book or two full of them as a kid. We have a website for this kind of thing now because of course we do. In fact, here's another one. The phenomenon even has a Wikipedia page... which will once again take all the fun out of your life like a big old poopyhead. You know. On top of the Ferguson-level perspective we're talking here.
You see, when you see a lot of these stories of government absurdity... well, okay, often that assessment is precisely correct. Which, again, for the third time. But in OTHER cases, what happens is people go looking just a tad too far for it, and confirmation bias takes over. Something that looks merely odd at first glance is perceived to be dumb by someone convinced that the government can't do anything right at all, and it's reported as such. But it's not always quite that simple. There's always a reason somewhere. Sometimes, that reason is dumb, maybe even corrupt, but other times it's actually perfectly reasonable. Or it's a perfectly normal law that's just worded in a way to make it look strange. Or someone just made it up. Or the person just has a different definition of 'dumb' than other people.
That's what we'll do today. We'll look at some of these laws regarded as 'strange' or 'dumb' or whatever term you want to use, and we'll look at what ended up making that law come to pass. All the laws we're looking at come off the site dumblaws.com, and we're only using ones for which they've actually managed to prove it by tracking it down in the lawbooks. (So no 'can't carry an ice cream cone in your back pocket'. Fake.)
LAW: In Pennsylvania, any motorist who sees a team of horses approaching must pull over, cover his car with something that blends into the countryside, and let the horses pass.
REALITY: This is an outdated law, coming from way back when cars were still a new thing. One day, Pennsylvania farmers, annoyed that these newfangled contraptions were scaring their horses, had three laws passed attempting to make it so utterly annoying to legally drive a car that people would just stop bothering, leaving the farmers in peace and quiet. They called themselves the Farmers' Anti-Automobile Society of Pennsylvania. One of the others forced the driver to send up a rocket once every mile, and then wait ten minutes for the road to clear before proceeding. The third required the driver to also take their car apart and hide it in the bushes if they met a horse and it refused to pass the car. At least the first two were passed; I'm not sure on the horse-refusing-to-pass one. In any case, it was already too late. Nobody listened, they kept right on driving, and nobody ever got around to repealing the laws.
LAW: In Georgia, you can't give a goldfish to someone in order to entice them to enter a bingo game.
REALITY: This is an interpretation thing. The law as actually written: "No person in Athens-Clarke County shall give away any live animal, fish,
reptile or bird as a prize for, or as an inducement to enter, any
contest, game, or other competition, or as an inducement to enter a
place of amusement, or offer such animal as an incentive to enter into
any business agreement whereby the offer was for the purpose of
attracting trade." This is something you could also use against, say, cockfighting or dogfighting, and the lawmakers just decided to shut down any possible combination of animal and contest.
LAW: In Prince William County, Virginia, it's illegal to cuss about someone.
REALITY: The full text this comes from shows this as little more than your basic disturbing-the-peace legislation. "If any person shall, in the presence or hearing of another, curse or
abuse such other person, or use any violent abusive language to such
person concerning himself or any of his relations, or otherwise use such
language, under circumstances reasonably calculated to provoke a breach
of the peace, he shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor." Cursing's in there? You mean you can't even swear? IT'S GOVERNMENT RUN AMOK, I TELLS YA!
LAW: In Minnetonka, Minnesota, it's a misdemeanor to convince someone to enter a massage therapist business after 11 PM.
REALITY: ...let me put it this way. You ever hear of Jennifer Love Hewitt? You ever hear of The Client List? How about 'happy endings'? That's what this is about. If it's after 11 PM, and you are at a massage parlor, it probably isn't for the advertised purpose.
(SEX. THE BLOGGER IS REFERRING TO SEX.)
LAW: In Nashville, you must be at least 18 years old to play pinball.
REALITY: This may not make sense now- and Oakland, California just repealed an ordinance banning pinball outright on Friday- but if you were around back when pinball first came into being, you'd understand a lot better. You see, until 1947, pinball machines didn't have flippers. You simply launched the ball into play, and it would bounce around a bunch of pins- hence the name- and hopefully in the process the ball would careen into things that racked up points. And free games. And prizes. As a result, with no real skill involved, pinball machines were classified as gambling devices and regulated as such. Adding flippers did not immediately change the game. Not even close. New York City, for instance, banned pinball in 1942. Even after the flipper introduction five years later, it took until 1972, and a player named Roger Sharpe making a called skill shot inside of a courtroom, for that city's ban to be overturned. Some ordinances still haven't been repealed to this day, with Nashville's among them.
And there is every chance they're even still being enforced, like in Beacon, New York, where an arcade museum was forced to close in 2010 because it had pinball in it.
(THE BLOGGER IS NOT REFERRING TO SEX AT THIS TIME. PLEASE RESUME NORMAL ACTIVITY.)
LAW: In Brookfield, Wisconsin, tattooing is illegal unless it's for medical purposes.
REALITY: Oh yes, tattoos can have medical purposes. This actually came up with my dad after the cancer hit. In order to attack the cancer, of course, the doctors needed to do chemo and radiation treatment. Prior to that, however, they needed to mark off where on the body they were aiming it, because this isn't something you want to do across the entire body and you certainly don't want to miss. So as to tell the doctors where they were aiming the radiation, Dad had to get a tattoo on the spot where the cancer was.
Note that I said 'was'. There's some fantastic news on that front that I haven't gotten around to mentioning here yet: he looks to be in remission. The radiation treatments shrunk the cancer to where they can't even see it anymore, and a follow-up visit as things stand looks to confirm that. There was to be preventative radiation up in his brain, as the exact type of cancer we're talking here- endocrine carcinoma high-grade- was known to migrate into the brain 90% of the time when originating in the lungs. But there were some studies done, or at least reported, between radiation and follow-up. When originating in the esophagus- as this cancer did- the chance of migrating to the brain was found to be only 6-9%. (Not that I have a clue where to link you online, so unfortunately you'll just have to take my word for it.) As his capillaries are already a bit fried, both from radiation and a since-kicked smoking habit, radiation up there is pegged as likely to do more harm than good. So after an MRI, we're looking at one visit every 6-9 months unless events develop.
We're not out of the woods yet, because cancer is a bastard like that. But we've found the old logging road that leads to the highway.