Detecting limits

AS one drives obediently along at 55 m.p.h., one has perhaps noticed that one passes nobody, but that everybody passes one. This is particularly true of this one, me, since I am a slowpoke menace on the highways and still drive with the Model-T awareness that if one exceeds 30 m.p.h., one will go into a shimmy and one will bounce off into some farmer's oat piece. Having gone into such shimmies and remembering vividly how the automobile sidewised like a spring lamb that gambols on the green, and how I arrived in said oat piece greatly unnerved, I have, over the years, found it hard to believe that automotive design has eliminated the shimmy and the newer breeds of vehicle can pass an oat piece without getting involved. So that vivid memory has kept me out of speeding trouble. I don't exceed it, and I approach it with trepidation.

So now I see an advertisement for a detector that a motorist can install in his car, and he can breeze along at, say, 70 m.p.h. and the dingus will give him adequate warning whenever he comes upon a police radar system that is out there to apprehend scofflaws who exceed 55 m.p.h. (Wow! How about scofflaw!) Being, as noted, still under the influence of Model-T prudence, I may be permitted to wonder how this device fits into our philosophies.

What is the present-day morality about electronic evasion of the law? Do these people who slow to 55 m.p.h. when their dingus peeps have something to tell us about aid to the contras and little things like that?

We have a chap here in Maine who wonders. He was out walking his dog on a string, thus conforming to the leash law, and he came upon a steel trap that was baited and set, presumably for some fur animal, and he was glad he found the thing before his dog did. True, the trapping of fur animals is still done in these parts, but in this instance the chap and his dog were walking in a game preserve, duly set apart for the comfort and preservation of nature's friends.

This bothered the man, so he took the trap up and carried it to a warden and reported the details. Then the warden arrested the chap for molesting a trap.

There are variations on this theme. A couple of our local boys were digging clams in a closed area; i.e., they were poaching. Meantime, a brother of one of these boys had gone over into the next town and in complete conformity to the clam laws had dug himself three hods of very fine, and legal, clams which, at the time, would have fetched him some $80 on the hoof.

On his way to sell these clams he came upon a marine warden who was headed for the cove where his brother and friend were poaching. Since blood is thicker than water, he immediately parked his pickup truck, so his three hods of lawful clams were exposed and attainable, and he trotted down through the bushes to have two words with his brother, yonder on the flats. The two words were, ``Run! Run!''

Now he came back to his pickup truck and his three hods of clams were gone.

The warden, upon encountering the parked pickup, assumed the clams in plain sight were connected with the poachers he expected to apprehend shortly, and he confiscated them in the name of the State of Maine and locked them in his official van for purpose of evidence.

The ticklish part of this sad tale, bringing into focus the morality of illegalities, is that the innocent boy who found his three hods of clams missing went at once to the warden to say, ``I'm glad I found you handy - I want to report that somebody just stole three hods of clams from my pickup.''

The warden, I was told, eyed the young man with the practiced stare of a good Maine fish warden, and he told the young man euphemistically to get lost. This engendered some unnecessary ill will. There seems to be a school of thought in this vicinity that those were properly legal clams, taken honestly in an open area, and that the marine warden might have considered the nuances otherwise. This school of thought keeps alive the contention that the fish warden stole three hods of clams, or $80.

So things do seem sometimes to get muddied, and perhaps it's harder and harder to figure things out. Perhaps IBM, or somebody like that, will now contrive an electronic aid that will let the police detect radar detectors before they detect any radar, and thus bring needed sense into the 55 m.p.h. stuff?

We don't want to go back to the simple righteousness of bouncing off into an oat piece, do we?

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