Sunday, March 01, 2009

Bending the Rules

     Everywhere in our lives we are surrounded by an all-encompassing bird's nest of rules and regulations, which is just an official-sounding word for more rules.  These rules provide the guidelines and structure for everything from an orderly society to going through the drive-thru at McDonalds.  Many times, there are rules are the not down on paper, they are social norms or ideas instilled by our parents that govern how we act and behave.  But it's the paper rules with well-defined consequences that we are talking about today.  Laws, sports regulations, union regulations, that sort of thing.  Recently, and by that I mean within the last day or so, I have seen a lot of examples of a time when literal enforcement of the rules is not reasonable or pertinent.  These incidents have been as simple as a foul called in a basketball game that was within the rules but inappropriate (The intentional foul called on California's Theo Robertson with 3:04 left in the first half of Saturday's game against UCLA.  Sure it was an intentional or flagrant foul as the rules define it but the sinister intent certainly was not there) or as farcical as a Tennessee sheriff attempting to serve an 80-year old warrant for a bad check.  But the one incident that speaks the most to the fact that it's okay to bend the rules is something that happened in Denver, Colorado last week.
     Bus Driver Jim Moffett was issued a $22 ticket for jaywalking after he was struck and seriously injured after pushing three people out of the way of an oncoming vehicle.  Basically this is what went down: two elderly women got off Moffett's bus in the middle of a snowstorm in downtown Denver on Feb 20.  Moffett and an unidentified male who was also riding the bus began to help the women cross the busy street.  Somewhere during the crossing it became apparent that a vehicle was about to strike the foursome, and Moffett pushed the other three out of the way before being struck by the aforementioned pickup truck.  So, while Moffett was lying in a friendly local hospital with the following injuries: bleeding in the brains, broken bones, a dislocated shoulder, and a possible ruptured spleen, he and the three people he pushed out of the way were served with tickets for jaywalking.  This is one of the most ridiculous things that I have ever heard.  The Colorado State Patrol officer who issued the tickets (whose name we know but I am not going to spill here) noted that the tickets were warranted because jaywalking contributed to the incident.  Not like it was the middle of a blizzard or anything.  Now, the CSP has reversed the tickets for all four of the pedestrians but not the driver of the truck.  Well, it's about time.
     Now, I have not been able to find exactly which on the many Colorado laws pertaining to pedestrians the four were cited for violating, but I would wager all of Little Jeffy's paycheck that it was one of the following two from the Colorado State Statues:
     42-4-803 (1) Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk  or      within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the              roadway.
     42-4-803 (3) Between adjacent intersections at which traffic control signals are in operation, pedestrians shall not cross at any place except a marked crosswalk.
For those of you who do not speak legalese, please allow me to translate for you.  1.) If you aren't in a crosswalk or at a corner the car doesn't have to stop for you. 2.) If you are in the middle of the block and there is a stoplight at either end of the block, walk to the end of the block to cross the street you lazy sack of crap.  Being that this was the downtown area of a major American city, I am thinking that it was the second of these two laws that our group were violating.  But let's get real here people.  There were a lot of extenuating circumstances that were in play in this situation.  First of all, it was a snowstorm, actually it has been described as a blizzard.  And I don't know if you've ever lived through a true, bona fide blizzard, but for the most part all traffic rules get thrown out of the window during a blizzard.  You turn where you want to, you can drive down the middle of the street, what have you.  Pretty much the only two rules are to not get stuck and to not hit anything.  And for pedestrians the same is true.  When nature turns your city into a reasonable facsimile of the North Slope of Alaska, you don't worry about walking to the end of the block to cross the street.  You go wherever the snow is the shallowest.  And it is definitely okay as a pedestrian in a blizzard to make a bee-line from Point A to Point B, especially if you are an elderly lady getting off the bus. Secondly, if the roads were covered with snow how can one be expected to see the crosswalk anyway?  Crosswalks are usually painted in white on the pavement, and snow is white.  Plus, it lies on everything like a blanket.  Third, Moffett pushed the other people out of the way and spared them the same fate as himself, which is noble and affords him a little wiggle room when it comes to Colorado Statute 42-4-803 (3), don't you think?
     I do too.  And so did the CSP once they thought about it.  The point here is not that everyone involved broke the law.  The point is that sometimes you have to look past that.  This world is not black and white, there are an unlimited amount of shades of gray, and no rule could ever govern every situation.  That's why people are blessed with a brain and a sense of reason (or at least should be), so they can look at the way things are and make a sensible decision.  The decision to issue the citations to Jim Moffett, the two old ladies, and the other Good Samaritan was not a sensible decision, even though it was a technically legal one.  Sometimes one can bend a rule, or allow a rule to be bent if you are on the enforcement end, in a way that hurts no one and is acceptable.  I am not saying that we should do this on a regular and consistent basis, but always be open to unique circumstances and alternate interpretations.  It makes life a lot easier and more fluid.  Way to go Colorado State Patrol, I am glad you agree with me.

1 comment:

KingBobb said...

Hey you bastard, stop wagering my paycheck on various things. Wager Egypt's. I'm sure he has some pop cans you can return or something...