Fighter pilot, Royal Navy 1945, Hydrographer Iraq 1947-52 India 1952-53, Canadian Hydrographic Arctic explorer 1953-1960, Writer-producer Canadian National Film Board 1961-72, Freelance journalist, audio-visual producer 1972-2009, National Press Club of Canada 1961 - 2006

Friday, December 25, 2009

Charles Dickens was so right...

Oxford dictionary:

ass — donkey, stupid person


How utterly ridiculous laws can be seriously and ridiculously enforced is blindingly highlighted by the ridiculous policemen who pulled over a transport truck driver who, alone in his cab, was smoking a cigarette as he drove along in serenely-innocent solitude.

The charge:

Smoking (a legal substance) in the workplace.

He was subsequently fined more than $300 dollars.

He wasn’t driving a crowded school bus.

He was a solo haulage truck driver.

This Monty-Pythonesque comedy opens up a vista of further inane possibilities, including the prosecution of such hitherto-unfettered, freedom-loving citizens as the following:

1) The pastoral corn-cob-smoking writer of cultural masterpieces scribbling away in his lonely Thoreau-style woodland shack.

2) The landscape artist gazing out from his camping tent on a hilltop while capturing the perfect colours of a wilderness sunset.

3) The composer of poetry or music musing to herself in the remote upstairs garret of her private abode.

4) The philosopher meditatively puffing on his comforting pipe in his hermit’s hillside cave while pondering the mystical secrets of the universe.

5) The village blacksmith hammering red-hot metal by the open door of his roaring furnace.

6) The cod-jigging fisherperson resting in the draughty cabin of his/her rickety boat as s/he waits out the blow of a fierce wintry squall.

7) A solitary charcoal maker tending his fires.

8) The farmer in his tractor cab while plowing up his sixty-acre corn field.

9) A sexton digging a grave under the shelter of a tarpaulin rigged against the rain of a blustery day.

10) An Inuit skinning a seal in his igloo on Loks Land.

11) An egg farmer closeted away in her hen house tending a sick chicken during the long dark hours of an anxious night.

The list just goes on and on and on and on — affecting one of the most vital, most economically-and-culturally rich, and overall valuable segments of Canadian society.

Such an idiotic law as this may make all these dedicated and honest toilers forsake their satisfying creative careers and force them to reluctantly take the easy way out. Maybe even switching over to becoming politicians, lawyers, social activists, dreary public servants, television anchor persons, or grief counsellors.


Look here, I have to add, for the sake of any overly gullible readers, that my cartoon heading this item is purely fantasy. I’m sure all farmers are free to ride about in their tractor cabs totally free of harassment at all times so long as they constitute no danger to others on the Queen’s highways.

In my limited dealings with the police I have always found them to be the true protectors and friends of the public which we were rightly told they were eighty years ago as children in elementary school. That is basic to our civilization.

So I have a feeling that the truck driver incident must have another nuance we are missing. It has to be more the obtuseness of the law as laid down by loopy governmental zealots that is at fault rather than our uniformed finest.

In fact, for a very brief period as a Regulatory Petty Officer in charge of the Royal Navy Shore Patrol, I was some sort of overly benign policeman myself many decades ago. Never had the slightest iota of trouble with farmers on tractors.

In fact I had no trouble at all. All I did was lead my squad of four or five men, clad in parade-ground gaiters, webbing belts with their attachments, and wearing our official armbands, on a wandering leisurely evening patrol of my designated area. This mostly meant just going from pub to pub and having an unobtrusive peek in each at odd intervals until closing time. It was all very casual. There was nothing to do. I remember no incidents. Even the roughest of British pubs in 1946 were generally very peaceful places.

Then after closing time, as all the sailors seemed headed back towards their ships or the barrack blocks of their various shore establishments in good order, I would take my crew on one final patrol — to two or three of the pubs for ‘a final overview’.

This involved being invited inside by the publicans for a relaxing final inspection of the empty premises while watching the pub staff clearing and cleaning up in readiness for the following morning’s opening time, meanwhile accepting the ‘complimentary’ pints of ale proffered by the publican concerned.

Around midnight I’d lead my squad back to our main gate, report “All’s well” to the officer-of-the-watch, and dismiss the men.

A not too arduous, even quite pleasant duty, was over.

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