Friday, January 8, 2010

On mini-dictatorships

JAN On the BBC yesterday morning, I heard that the city of Guanzghou, one of the largest and most prosperous of Chinese cities, is developing a new penalty system for icky behavior.

Icky is not the term they use. They call it anti-social behavior, but compared to American anti-social behavior, like Bernie Madoff bilking billions from investors and charitable institutions, I'd say its really more along the lines of just icky.

We're talking about spitting,which is apparently a big problem in China. Urinating in public. Drying your laundry on a fence, and littering and throwing trash out the balcony.

Accrue enough penalty points, which could simply be one incident of each, and you get thrown out of your public housing. (remember this is China we are talking about. Public housing applies to most people.)

Of course, here in the land of the free, you can't impose these kind of regulations, but wouldn't you love to??

I, for one, would love to see anyone caught more than three times using their cell phone while driving,lose his or her car for at least twelve months. Get caught texting ONCE and you not only lose the car, you never, ever get it back.

Rude to a waiter or waitress? You lose your right to go out to dinner with your friends, who have been embarrassed for years by your behavior.

Men who leave the toilet seat up have to pee sitting down like a girl for at least six months. Okay, that one might be a bit harsh, especially from someone who grew up with all brothers and didn't even know they were SUPPOSED to put it down until she was in her thirties. But this is fantasy we're talking about.

I've just handed you an imaginary minit-dictatorship to stamp out any behavior you find detrimental to society, or just slightly irritating to you, personally. Tell us, what is it?? And what's the punishment??

HALLIE: China is SO CROWDED I can completely understand the need for rules like that. The thing that makes me so crazy (is this just Boston drivers?) is drivers who use the far right lane as a passing lane. Everyone is going 60 or 70 and these cowboys come zipping up the right lane doing 85 or 90.

Incidentally, they do this in China, too, and it's terrifying. Punishment: a bullet between the eyes, so appropriate for cowboys. Or maybe a good helping of mud in their gas tank.

HANK: Having more that 10 items in the 10 or fewer express checkout. Jaywalking, slowly, without acknowledging that you're doing something selfish. Ordering a HUGE list of complicated stuff at the coffee place. (And the toilet thing. Hey. JUST LOOK and see if you've left anything behind. I mean--I can't stand it.) Doctors who keep you waiting as if their time is more important than yours. Credit card companies who shorten the billing cycle so you can't possibly pay on time unless you send the check instantly and who does that.

Punishment? Ah. Eating not-done pasta. Drinking flat diet coke. Getting aged tuna salad in your sandwich. Being next in line when the person in front of you gets the last one, whatever it is.

JAN - I can't believe I left out those right lane passers -- they make me crazy on Route 128. And I once wrote a column about doctors who keep you waiting. I was lucky that my doctor at the time wound up reading the column and was appropriately sheepish.

Okay, here's your chance to make the rules; Tell us what you'd do:


  1. Oh, Hallie! Those drivers scared the crap out of me when I drove to Crime Bake.
    I stayed as far away as possible.

    Hank, I like getting real close to those slow jaywalkers...

    Jan, I love your one about waitresses. I've always thought everyone should have to wait tables for at least one week and learn a thing or two!

  2. Tailgating. I like to imagine I have a giant zapper in my car and can give the bad drivers a good jolt--what is the point of riding on someone's bumper? Don't they realize we could all be killed in an instant?

    And from spending time in my dad's nursing facility, hired help who are mean to the old people.

    I think I'll leave the punishments up to Hank--so creative!

  3. Definitely driving too slowly in the fast line--just suffered this as we drove to Phoenix yesterday. A car in the car pool lane ahead of us was doing 65. We couldn't get around and had to grit our teeth for about ten miles. not good for the blood pressure.
    Also when I hold a door open for someone and they walk through as if I'm invisible without saying thankyou.
    A prison term for that at least.
    But having read The Vagrants, about real punishments in China, we should kiss the ground every morning that we live in a country where we don't constantly have to walk on egg shells and live in fear.

  4. I get annoyed when people park in the fire lane (or worse, handicapped spots). Just schlub from the parking lot like the rest of us already.

    Writers are bad, too, apparently. I just read submission info from a literary magazine: "Send us 3-5 poems. And, no, 6 does not fall into the 3-5 range." LOL. The punishment for that is probably a form rejection.

  5. Ramona,

    I love it!!

    I know 65 mph is slow for the fast lane, but just fast do you go??


  6. I get really annoyed at people who leave their trays, trash and spills all over the tables and counters in places like Starbucks, Brew Ha Ha! and Panera's for somebody else to clean up when there are clearly trash and recycling containers for that purpose all around the place.

    And ditto on the rudeness of people who act as if you are invisible when you hold a door for them and just walk through without a word!

  7. JM,
    I think they are the same people who don't wave when you let them go in traffic.


  8. Paula,
    I agree -- maybe even six months!!

  9. Rhys? Definitely those slowpokes in the left lane, especially when they camp out there for miles and miles and miles! As long as I'm on traffic, the idiots who whip in and out with no turn signal, and who sit through left turn signals.

    Other pet peeves...oh so many to count. Clerks and wait staff who ignore you, which is tied with clerks and wait staff who pester you constantly. Yeah, yeah. I know. Picky picky.

    And I agree with the 20+ items in the 10 and Under "express" lane. I've been known to say loudly to the person behind me, "You know, it's really said our educational system is so bad it can't teach people to count to ten."

    Punishment? Hank, go for it, girl! You're firing on all cylinders so far!

  10. Heh! It's really "said" that I can't type the word "sad" and proofread, speaking of education. *headdesk*


    Um, about the doctor thing? You do know there's a shortage, right? I worked summers in my dad's office and here's my complaint:

    Patients who insist they have to see the doctor this week and it has to be the first appointment in the morning or the last one of the day or over lunch hour. Then they complain about the wait to the receptionist who squeezed them into an already over-filled day. When they get, as they should, the doctor's full attention for more than the 7-1/2 minutes the appointment book says they should have (after squeezing, we ended up averaging 8 patients an hour), they complain to the receptionist about not being able to get a follow-up appointment soon enough.
    If you can't get in to see your doctor when you need to or your doctor doesn't give you the time and attention you need, switch--and find out just how long you have to wait to do that. Otherwise, be thankful you have a responsive, attentive doctor and bring a good book or your Blackberry or a notebook and pen.

    Being nasty to the receptionist? I'm not sure, but it involves a suppository.

    Whew. That felt good.

  12. People who talk on their cell phones in public bathrooms get a laxative in one end and the cell phone applied as cork in the other.

    -=Susannah, tetchy

    (Thinking of that line from Chicago: You know how some people have those habits that get you down? Like Bernie. Bernie liked to chew gum. No, not chew. POP. So I come home from work one night and I'm real irritated, and I'm looking for a little sympathy. And there's Bernie, lying on the couch, drinking a beer and chewin'. No, not chewin'. POPPIN'. So I said "If you pop that gum one more time..." And he did. So I took the shotgun off the wall and fired two warning shots... in…to…his….head.”)

    -=Susannah, not THAT tetchy

  13. Oh, Mo, my consciousness is raised!! xoox

  14. Mo -
    I have a different reaction when I have to wait for an appointment long scheduled, and when the doctor has squeezed me in. If he's squeezed me at the last minute, I'm very understanding.

    I LOVE your punishment. So visual!!!


  15. People who race you to get to the shortest check-out line. I try to take the high road and deliberately slow my pace and let my silent dignity speak for me. Don't think they notice...

  16. To all of the above, I'd add people who get in the left hand lane to pass when it's clear that the lane is ending soon (fine, you're one car length ahead of me, big wow.) People getting on the highway who expect you to slow down instead of waiting until it's safe for them to enter the flow of traffic (that must be a phrase that was in the driving manual and has been lodged in my brain for decades.) People who wear jeans to the opera. I don't know why I care but I do - it's the Met not the multiplex! And people who yell "You suck" at sports events, whoever they're yelling at. Professional athletes are not all nice people but they are all more athletically gifted than any fat drunk in the stands.

  17. Bobbi,
    You are making the world -- esp. the check out line -- a better place!!

    Ro -
    I'm with you all the way on everything except the Opera. Since I never go... I can't really get annoyed!


  18. If you leave your shopping cart in a parking space aren't you saying that you're more important than whoever comes after you? Maybe you are, but it's still impolite. People caught doing that should have their cars loaded with wet dogs who need to shake.

  19. Gene,

    Just picturing that.... actually smelling it, too!!

    Maybe we can get it legislated!!


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