Thursday, November 29, 2001

The health police in Montgomery County are trying to keep hope alive, possibly in honor of former Friendship Heights Mayor Alfred Muller, the nation’s leading anti-tobacco zealot until he couldn’t resist checking out the private parts of a 14-year-old boy at the Washington National Cathedral.
The health police want to improve your quality of life, starting with the tobacco-filled air in your vicinity. This might seem incongruent to those who inhale vast amounts of carbon monoxide while stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic each day.
But the health police have a point.
It is not nice to subject your neighbors to your tobacco habit. It also is not nice to have a government official checking out the air quality and wind currents in your living room.
So here you have secondhand smoke in one dwelling and Doppler radar in the other.
Fortunately, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan vetoed the council’s measure this week, mostly to keep unhappy neighbors from grabbing each other around the throat if one told on another and it resulted in a $500 fine.
Two hands pressed against the windpipe is not good for a person’s health, either.
They are so progressive in Montgomery County.
They know what’s best for you, and they are inclined to do what it takes to help you reach your full potential, even if you find the help intrusive.
Being stupid is not against the law in America, and a few Americans take a certain pride in the fact. They smoke what they want, eat what they want and drink what they want. Some even mate when they want, and they are not too particular with whom they do it.
None of these actions occurs in a vacuum; their costs, like it or not, are passed along to society as a whole. The insurance industry is not in business to lose money. The same goes for the medical community.
Americans believe in the pursuit of happiness, however it may be defined by one person or the other.
Managing everyone’s happiness is tricky stuff, and secondhand smoke is sometimes the least of it.
Some lovesick couples park at ‘Whites Ferry’ after it shuts down at night.
At least one couple ended up in the Potomac River back in the winter of 2000 after the driver of the vehicle became unnerved by a police deputy patrolling the area and hit the accelerator.
The couple, reportedly just talking, plunged into the cold river, which necessitated a rescue mission.
As it turned out, theirs was an expensive talk, what with the costs incurred by the taxpayers on the Virginia side of the river. News reports at the time did not reveal if the couple were smoking in the vehicle.
Hopefully, theirs was a smoke-free vehicle.
People should not smoke, of course, even those who go swimming in the river in the dead of winter.
People also should not pass gas or belch in your presence, and since we’re on the subject of stupid human tricks, we might as well try to be inclusive.
People should not wear sinus-draining perfume or have garlic on their breath.
They should not bathe only once a month or do their makeup while driving in the lane next to you. They should not have 20 items in the 10-item grocery aisle because of the harm it does to your mental well-being.
They should not spend all their pocket money on lottery tickets, especially if you are next in line and only waiting to buy a newspaper.
People should not be so rude, so myopic, so full of themselves. People, in other words, should not be people, some dumber than others, but all dumb in their own idiosyncratic way.
Members of the Montgomery County Council probably are studying other ways to satisfy their do-good proclivities. Each one is planning to live to be 100 years old and would like it very much if you were around to share in the festivities.
It is a sweet, hopeful concept, but not a legislative one.
The slope is too slippery and at odds with America’s celebration of the individual.

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