Suggested Follow-Ups to the 2006 Washington State Smoking Ban

Well everyone knows there's been a big brou-ha-ha about the new WA State smoking ban that went into effect on December 8, 2005. Many non-smokers were against it, and many smokers were for it, but a common theme is that there's talk of it being far too restrictive in its limitations — aspects such as not being able to light up within 25 feet of a doorway or entrance to a public building have ruffled many a smoke-free feather — but the general gist of the bill, as far as this reporter can glean, is that most of the rules imposed were common sense/etiquette in the first place. But when citizens don't conduct themselves with such forethought as far as common sense and etiquette go, that's when we wind up writing a bill to force them into compliance. Sort of like a mandatory Miss Manners, but in this case it's just for smokers. Still, since this seems to be the trend our local legislation is establishing, I thought we might as well get started on some brother and sister bills to move our little Emerald City society right along, with some other ideas I like to call the Forced Etiquette Legislation.

Proposed FEL Bill #1: Cell Phone Etiquette

Sure, why not? At the pace modern technology is evolving, we'll all have iPod arthritis (damn you, Apple!) by the time we're ready to retire and play music instead of listening to it, thus rendering our crippled old fingers unable to handle our instrument(s) of choice. And yet, most people keep using/abusing new technology without a thought to the aftermath, or to the effect on those around them. I mean, NOW we know that cell phones give you brain tumors unless you use the freaky-deaky little headset, and NOW we know that text-messaging can mess up your fingers. PLUS, people are increasingly rude and so dysfunctionally socialized with every new gadget that hits the market these days that we barely know how to respond to a knock-knock joke if it doesn’t contain an emoticon ;) And it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing DogPhones and DogTunes showing up in The Barking Lounge and such. Darn technology. The solution, you ask? Impose harsh and controversial legislation to keep the masses in line! My proposed bill for cell phone etiquette would make shopping, driving, and public transportation vastly more pleasant. Some of the bill's highlights are as follows:

• No talking in enclosed spaces, such as buses, elevators, taxis, janitor’s closets. If you break this rule, you must be willing to answer detailed follow-up questions by those interested and within earshot of your conversation.

• No talking while driving, period.

• No faking tunnel-oops-we-must’ve-got-disconnected anymore. It’s so obvious. I mean, I do it and all, but it’s lame.

• No ringtones with catchy and/or annoying songs. I hate the guy in my building who has me humming “Damn it feels good to be a gangsta” on many a weekday morning.

• No saying “excuse me, I have to take this” unless you are a law enforcement officer and/or medical doctor on call and someone’s life is actually in danger if you refuse to take the call.

• No talking in public spaces, such as cafés, stores, hospitals, airports, churches, city parks, sidewalks, public parking lots or garages, non-residential buildings located within city limits, residential buildings within city limits, front yards, or back yards.

Proposed FEL Bill #2: Pedestrian Etiquette

I’ve always thought that pedestrians should subscribe more or less to the same traffic rules as motor vehicles do. I mean, why do traffic rules really exist, when you get down to it? To make driving safer, more efficient and less annoying. And a lot of high-traffic areas, like airports, have kind of forced pedestrians to adhere to such rules — you know that, when in an airport, the sound of that slow beep beep beep behind you means you gotta pull over to the right as if it were an ambulance and let the Official Giant Airport Bumper Car pass you by. And lately they have signs on those moving walkways informing people to walk on the left, stand on the right, just like when you’re driving — though eerily enough, in British subway stations they have the exact same signs on the escalators. Walk on the left, stand on the right. Except that’s the opposite of how they drive over there. And my poor British mother informs me that it wasn’t always this way — that in her day, one walked on the right and stood on the left. Is this evidence that the Brits are trying to emulate us? God Save the Queen, I hope not. But I digress. Back to idiot pedestrians — my proposed bill would include the following regulations, among others:

• Walk like you drive — on the right side of the road (hopefully)

• Check your blind spot before you shift lanes

• Do not stop without warning, causing massive pileups

• Do not tailgate; simply wait for an appropriate moment to pass

• On that note, only pass when the coast is clear in the oncoming lane

• Merge when appropriate instead of spilling into the oncoming lane

• Indicate when you plan on turning

• Do not turn from the middle lane without at least checking the lane closet to the direction you are turning

• Speed if you must, but do not zip in and out of foot traffic that is moving much slower than you

• Particularly do not stop, set down your purse, rummage through it to find your ringing phone, start yakking loudly in a public place about how you’ve “never seen so much rain in [your] life, and then turn around and head upstream through traffic. You inconsiderate Midwestern tourist bitch.

On a final note, I’d like to provide some suggested amendments to the state’s smoking ban legislation. These would at least cut down on some of the smoking going on, plus make the whole activity more entertaining for the rest of us, thus fostering an atmosphere of tolerance and better smoker-to-non-smoker communication. My amendments are as follows:

Proposed FEL Bill #3: Amendments to Smoking Ban

• No smoking Menthols. Ew.

• No smoking any cigarettes not associated with a charismatic mascot (i.e. Joe Camel, Marlboro Man, etc.) unless they have a cool logo and/or badass reputation such as Lucky Strikes. This is bad news for all you Basics folks, I know.

• No more Virginia Slims billboards with the chick doing the provocative splits (unless they change the name to Vagina Slims).

• No smoking cloves unless you let me waft the smoke in my direction and alternately whimper about how bad they are for you because they make your lungs bleed and oooh/aaah over how good they smell.

• No smoking cigars unless you pretend to fellate them first.

• Must refer to cigarettes as “cancer sticks” in front of children and the disgruntled and/or crotchety elderly.

Okay, I jest — some of these ideas start with a valid seed, yes, but I don’t really believe you can enforce a population to behave politely based on enacting legislation. I think it has to come from a more evolved social consciousness, and that’s a much harder thing to enact, but much more potent once accomplished. And for the record, I do agree that the city was a bit extreme with the whole no-smoking thing as far as infringing on our civil liberties goes, but I must admit my fragile throat reaps the benefit — now I can finally go out to the bars and screw up my liver without my poor lungs being harmed in the process!