There is a scene in It’s a Wonderful Life in which George Bailey steals Mary away from Freddie, who is telling her a boring story at the school dance. (Freddie is played by Carl Switzer, who was Alfalfa in the Little Rascals (Our Gang) comedies, but that’s another story.)
“Hey, this is my dance!” Freddie cries, to which George dismissively says: “Oh, why don’t you stop annoying people?”
That scene came to mind recently when I read a news story out of Grand Rapids, Mich., whose city commission is discarding part of its city code that, for 38 years, has made it illegal to annoy other people.
The city code is vague and unconstitutional, according to an Associated Press story that was picked up from the Grand Rapids Press.
The commission will give its final approval to the change Tuesday, so if you’re a jerk and living in Grand Rapids (known as “Furniture City” and “River City,” because of its factories and the Grand River it lies on), you have to wait one more day to irritate others.
Wouldn’t it be great if our local governments took up that Michigan city’s slack and adopted anti-annoying codes? Surely it’s not unconstitutional here in the Deep South to make our lives more pleasant.
Just imagine how things would improve if annoying people were fined, arrested, chewed out, deported or, oh, I don’t know, executed.
For instance, annoyers would be prohibited from leaving obnoxious tirades on your telephone just because they are upset and don’t want to spend any time looking up the number of the correct person to call.
Drivers hogging the passing lane could be pulled over, thrown against the car, searched and perhaps even used as target practice for a stun gun. The state House already has approved a “slowpoke bill” that gives these drivers their comeuppance, but perhaps the anti-annoyance law would make them eligible for life in prison without the possibility of parole.
If that driver is talking on his phone, that could open him up to a “three-time annoyer” provision of the law, especially if he is driving along with his phone elbow sticking out at a right angle from his body to make sure you see that he is so special that he was allowed to buy a cellphone. (“You have the right to remain silent, sir,” the officer could tell him, “so to help you out, I’m going to toss your phone across four lanes of traffic.”)
Companies could be cited for telling a different story each time you call, simply because you never get the same person twice.
Political groups that call during suppertime to push a cause or a candidate would be punishable under a “big-time offender” clause of the annoyance law. If we wanted our appetites ruined, we could find better ways than listening to a recorded pack of lies.
So, what do you think? Should we penalize annoyances? Grand Rapids’ loss could be our gain.