Jewish World Review July 1, 2002 / 21 Tamuz, 5762

David Grimes

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Consumer Reports

These laws were made to be broken | If you're thinking of traveling this summer -- and I'm certainly not recommending that you do -- you might want to familiarize yourself with the local laws.

I'm not just talking about whether you can turn right on red or order a glass of wine with dinner. I'm talking about whether it's legal to tie your pet alligator to a fire hydrant or whether you need a note from your mom to play a game of pool.

A partial list of unusual local laws can be found in the new book, "You May Not Tie an Alligator to a Fire Hydrant: 101 Real Dumb Laws" by Jeff Koon and Andy Powell. Both seniors in high school, Koon and Powell have been collecting dumb laws since they were 14, which is when they launched their Web site

The young men inform us that it is illegal in Washington, D.C., to sell a bar of soap that you've wrapped with or attached to an American flag. In fact, it is illegal in D.C. to affix an American flag to anything you intend to sell, including, presumably, alligators and elephants.

Which brings us, after a very long drive, to California where it is illegal to keep a clam, elephant or sloth as a pet. Pigs, however, are OK as are, presumably, hippos, hissing cockroaches and small, neutered celebrities who have had all their shots.

Also on the subject of animals, it is illegal in Alabama to train a bear to wrestle, plus you lose your bear. This is unfortunate because we are quickly running out of topics for reality TV shows. "Survivor of Wrestling-Bear Island" would certainly be more captivating than watching a naked guy poke around in the dirt for bugs.

Purchasing this book
-- linked in 3rd paragraph --
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In what must surely be a triumph for OSHA, it is illegal to keep a mule on the second floor of a building in Massachusetts unless there are a minimum of two exits. No word on whether the walls can or cannot be painted with lead-based paint or whether the insulation can contain asbestos.

If you're looking for a less restrictive place to visit, you might consider Tennessee, where there are no laws restricting the killing of a "proud bitch that is running at large." However, if the proud bitch is just sitting there, minding her own business (not likely), you have to leave her alone.

Speaking of immobility, if you are the kind of person who just can't sit still, you might want to rethink your decision to visit Fairfax County, Va., where it is illegal to bounce on a pogo stick while riding a city bus. The law, however, appears to say that it's OK to jump around on a pogo stick while riding a school bus, so it's unlikely many people will be inconvenienced by this law.

Some dumb laws actually make a good deal of sense. Like the law in Illinois making it a felony, punishable by up to three years in prison, to eavesdrop on your own conversation. There is enough noise pollution in the world today, what with people yakking on their cell phones in restaurants and movie theaters, young people jacking up the bass on their car stereos to the point that pedestrians and people in nearby cars involuntarily lose control of their bowels, talk radio, etc., without people holding conversations with themselves just because they enjoy the sound of their own voice. In this context, three years in prison sounds quite reasonable.

If you are the church-going type, you might want to check ahead before attending services in an unfamiliar place of worship. For example, in Nevada it is illegal to burp in church. Burping falls under the category of "noisy, rude or indecent behavior," leading me to think that it is probably also illegal to spit, break wind or stick your hand under your shirt and make armpit noises. Snoring, however, is perfectly OK.

In what could be dubbed the Charlton Heston Law, it is illegal in Kennesaw, Ga., to NOT own a gun. This law was adopted to "provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants," the thinking presumably being that if enough lead is flying, you're sure to hit a criminal eventually.

It is discouraged, but not (yet) illegal, in Arkansas to pronounce the state's name any way other than Ar-kan-SAW. It is, however, still perfectly fine to pronounce Illinois Il-eh-NOISE.

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JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


06/18/02 Watching enough commercials?
06/03/02 Throwing your vote to the dogs
05/08/02 Hey, Mom, could you spare a dime?: Parents' obligations unending

© 2002, Sarasota Herald Tribune