The great Amerindian civilizations - the Maya, Aztec and Inca - built huge cities, magnificent buildings and fine road systemsbut they never had the wheel.
And lucky them, since they never had to deal with wheeled-vehicle hassles. Recently, however, we have, and we've got some real doozies.
One took place a couple of weeks ago in my second-favorite town, Tupper Lake. It was the ticketfest that followed their annual motorcycle rally's parade.
The capsule summary: During the parade the bikers rode in violation of state laws (no helmets or helmets not approved by DOT, illegal exhausts and so forth) and weren't interfered with by the village police. This was no biggie, since that's what's happened over the past 20 years.
But the biggie was that outside the village, state police had set up a roadblock where bikers were stopped and tickets o'plenty were issued for the same violations that'd been ignored as they cruised through town.
Suffice it to say, this sparked all kinds of reactions - from the bikers and their friends, from libertarians, naturists and gold standard advocates, from rebels with or without causes, and from folks with no agendas whatsoever. It also resulted in letters to the editor of the Tupper Lake Free Press and the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, as well as on-line comments to those letters.
It should come as no surprise that most of the comments were sympathetic to the bikers. Many of the writers said the rally brought much-needed money into Tupper and expressed fears that bikers, disgusted with their treatment, wouldn't return next year and our merchants would suffer. Whether the fear is valid remains to be seen, but as of now it's a village-wide (if not area-wide) sore point.
Some of the letter writers labeled the roadblock "harassment" and "entrapment." Although those terms can be decided only through legal action, I don't think the roadblock was either. However, it takes no court of law to see what the roadblock was -a lousy example of community relations.
What was its purpose? I don't know, but I doubt I'll hear an official statement that it was to write a whole bunch of tickets with the ease of shooting fish in a barrel. Nor would I like to think it was just punishment for the sake of punishment.
I'd like to assume the roadblock was there so the bikers got a clear message from the troopers that any illegal gear would not be tolerated. But even then, it could've been done just as effectively and far more diplomatically. In advance of the rally, state police could've sent letters to the all the event organizers and overseers, stating that all motorcycle regulations would be strictly enforced. Then, anyone either ignorant or thickheaded enough to ignore the notice could've been busted, and amen to that.
I think most people view law and law enforcement the way I do - it's there to protect us. With all the ticketing at the motorcycle rally roadblock, the only people protected were merchants. Unfortunately, what they're getting protected from is possible future profits.
parking ain't easy
But don't think Tupper Lake has a monopoly on vehicular travesty and outrage. Saranac Lake has managed nicely to be a burr in the butt of both locals and visitors with our draconian parking policies.
In summer, giving parking tickets becomes a village-wide sport, and due to its focal location, it's especially noticeable in the Sears parking lot. Yessiree, on a sunny day the yellow tickets on the windshields seem to have sprouted like black-eyed susans in a verdant pasture.
I understand how after seven months of parking tickets not being issued, locals would seethe with outrage at the "injustice" of it all. But I'm not all that sympathetic to it. I mean, come on, the signs are posted, and more importantly, we know it happens every summer. It should be a source of local pride that we're clever enough to avoid the tickets and instead give tourists the honor of filling the village coffers.
I have, however, noticed a twist in our ticketing process that may make Saranac Lake unique - and uniquely annoying.
Catch this: In the Sears lot, you not only get ticketed for going over the two-hour limit, you get nailed for multiples of it as well. Everywhere I've ever been, if there's a parking limit, say an hour, and you go over it, you get a ticket. But everything after that hour is a freebie. You've paid your debt to society and as far as the law's concerned, your slate is clean. But not in my hometown.
You go over two hours in the Sears lot and you get a ticket. Then, if after another two hours you haven't moved the car, you get another ticket. Sentences in that hell-hole are like those for serial killers - consecutive, not concurrent.
According to my observation, the record for consecutive tickets was set this past Tuesday. Some poor sod had three - count 'em, three - tickets on his windshield - all dated July 1.
I'd like to think the problems mentioned in this column won't recur, but it's a sure bet that as long as we have wheeled vehicles, we'll have problems of some sort. And, certainly, we're never going to get rid of the wheel.
But if you think about it, that's probably a good thing. The Aztecs, Incas and Maya, didn't have wheelbut they did have human sacrifice. Do away with the wheel and there's not telling what kinds of laws the powers-that-be would think up.