I heard a funny bit last week on my favorite Saturday morning radio show, NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me.” It seems that several cities in the country — no surprise that NYC is one — are experimenting with using citizen volunteers to report on parking, illegal idling and other vehicle-related violations.
Programs vary from city to city, but the gist was you use a phone app to provide the information to the proper authorities, and then you can receive a percentage of collected fines.
Great incentive, right?
Of course, the folks on “Wait Wait” had a great time envisioning what sorts of things people might decide to report. Shoes and clothing that annoy others (I can completely empathize with that), and what one panelist described as her neighbor’s “feral children,” were high on the list.
I don’t have any phone apps, but there are activities and situations I would convey to some appropriate authority if I could. The accompanying fines — maybe directed to a favorite charity — would be a plus. Here are a few.
- Running over turtles. Turtles can move faster than you might think, but they’re not gazelles, so, if you’re paying attention to the road as you’re driving, how hard is it to avoid them? I’m especially puzzled when I see smashed turtles on the shoulder of the road. What sort of person would take special pains to drive on the shoulder and run over a turtle? One who needs to be reported.
- Obsessing over lawns. I’ve shared my thoughts on lawns in the past, so you know I believe their existence is, for the most part, a huge waste, but I do understand not everyone feels that way. Perhaps there is something Freudian about large, mowed expanses of grass? We haven’t had the dry spells yet that make the grass get all brown and crunchy, but I would, however, report those who insist on mowing when the grass is, like, half an inch high, those who run their mowers down that no-man’s-land strip of grass along the side of the road that they may or may not own, and the ones who indiscriminately chop, hack and whack the wildflowers, milkweed and other habitat/food sources. Oh, yeah, and the ones who resort to poisoning the plants and the ground. Round ‘em up!
- Pushing the cross-the-street button. You’ve probably seen this. There’s a group standing at the corner of Main Street and East Avenue, and there’s no traffic in any direction, yet there they are, pushing the button to make the light change in their favor, waiting for the device to tell them it’s OK to cross (personally, I’ve never seen that thing tell me it’s OK to cross). Put your phones away, folks, and look around. If there’s nothing coming, go ahead and walk. Or someone will report you.
- Being careless with your diplomatic cables. Shame on you, Sir Kim Darroch, for not being smarter in the way you shared your perceptions of Donald Trump and his administration. There will be no fine (other than your loss of your job, and, who knows, maybe you consider that to be a blessing), however, and you will, instead, get a big gold star for your insightful comments about the emperor and his lack of clothing.