I recently strolled into my building and caught site of a freshly printed stack of newspapers, piled high and awaiting distribution. “You can get fined a whopping $109 for driving with a dog on your lap” screamed the headline — the only actual news story to adorn the front page.
Several things should have come to mind: Such as why, in a world immersed in fear, uncertainty and chaos, this particular story rates as front page news. Or why so much physical space is being occupied by such a wordy headline — surely a decent copy editor could have honed this down to something snappier? And the word “whopping” — really? That’s the adjective they chose to describe the fine? Even if I offer blanket amnesty for the use of trite colloquialisms, I still don’t think “whopping” is the word I’d use to describe the enormity of $109 Canadian dollars. That’s less than the cost of the average cable TV bill — yet I guarantee you I’d get more enjoyment cruising around town with a Clumber Spaniel on my lap than I’d ever get from a month’s worth of broadcast television. That’s not whopping. That’s value!
But, curiously, I didn’t think about any of these things. Rather, all I could think about is how unjust, arbitrary, and vague this law really is.
What if your dog’s a better driver than you are? What if you’re blind? Are you telling me a sightless human is better equipped to guide a vehicle through traffic than a service animal? Would such a fine be levied if the human slid over into the passenger seat and relinquished total vehicular control to the pooch? Is the law really about sharing a seat, or is it about whose hands (or paws) are on the wheel? Would I still be fined if I sat on my dog’s lap, rather than he on mine?
And isn’t this whole lap law discriminatory against dogs? I didn’t read anything about it extending to any other sentient beings. If I drive home from the pet store with a goldfish named Rudy swimming in a Ziploc™ bag upon my lap, am I getting the same $109 fine? And if not, what’s so great about Rudy that he’s excluded from the law?
If this legislation really does apply to all living creatures, then what about plants? Would operating a motor vehicle with a 5 cm tall Tillandsia nestled between my thighs cost me $109? What about a 2 meter tall ficus? What about inanimate objects? Will I receive this same fine for driving home from Ikea with a queen size mattress perched on my lap? I’m pretty sure it would impede my ability to drive, but it’s most definitely not a dog. So where’s the line? My seatbelt is on my lap when I’m driving. So are my pants. Yet, were I to remove either, I’d be fined once again. Is there no logic? Is there no consistency?
If the legislators are singling out dogs, then why? Are they suggesting it’s a public safety risk if your beloved Norfolk Terrier rests her head upon your lap as you drive her to the euthanasia appointment? Call me a moron, but I don’t believe this is a greater source of reckless endangerment than taking your pet racoon for a joy ride — lap or no lap.
Frankly, I’m sick and tired of seeing dogs bear the brunt of such senseless discrimination. My building allows cats, but not dogs. What’s the rationale here? Siegfried & Roy can live next door in an apartment full of lions and tigers, but the nice young couple down the hall can’t have a happy little pug?
Most buildings that do allow dogs will limit their size and weight to only the smallest breeds. Many of these possess the very qualities that neighbours find the most irritating — barking constantly or racing around the hardwood floors as if it had a pair of Energizer batteries up its butt. But an Irish Wolfhound? Most buildings will ban those outright, yet they never bark, don’t shed, and are guaranteed to sleep for at least 23 hours/day. Plus, their back legs are long enough to easily reach the clutch.
The depth of banality behind this law is incomprehensible. What if you drive an autonomous vehicle? Will you still be fined? Seems to me that it doesn’t much matter who or what is in your lap when you’re tooling around town in a car that’s guided by satellite. And speaking of satellites, I bet you $10 they don’t let dogs ride in those either.
It’s a silly world, chock full of silly people making silly laws, and writing silly articles about them in silly newspapers. Fortunately, you can always count on me to see past the daftness, and provide a counter-argument both sensible and wise. Maybe it’s time I run for mayor.
©2020 grEGORy simpson
ABOUT THIS ARTICLE: Like most people in the world, the bulk of my media consumption this past month has been dominated by COVID-19 news. The virus’ toll is staggering, and the prognoses devastating. Worldwide demand for fresh content from irreverent wordsmiths, cheeky photographers and experimental musicians is currently rather low (in contrast to our vast importance during normal times). Consequently, I see no benefit to penning an article that encourages hand washing and social distancing — you all know this already. It’s not like anyone visits the ULTRAsomething site for news and public health alerts. In light of this site’s current irrelevancy, I flirted with the idea of shutting it down for a couple of months — before remembering that it’s irrelevant even in the best of times. So I decided that the best thing I could do is to continue doing what I do: publishing total frivolity for the enjoyment of those who seek it. Whether that decision makes me a welcome distraction or a “covidiot” is up to the judge and jury of social media. So stay safe. Stay vigilant. And whatever you do, don’t drive around town with a dog on your lap.
REMINDER: If you find these photos enjoyable or the articles beneficial, please consider making a DONATION to this site’s continuing evolution. As you’ve likely realized, ULTRAsomething is not an aggregator site — serious time and effort go into developing the original content contained within these virtual walls.