We’re talking about assault, really – assault with a tasteless weapon.
When someone uses obscenities and profanities, it can feel like punches to the gut. I nearly always flinch when I hear God’s name taken in vain.
Yes, people may say just about whatever they like, but the rest of us should have a right not to hear curse words flying behind us in line at the movies, being spit into cellphones at restaurants or ricocheting across crowded sidewalks.
It’s a right that Middleborough, Mass., residents recently recognized, voting to make those who unleash unwanted curse words on the ears of others face consequences. Police officers now can fine the foul-mouthed $20 for each instance of public profanity.
Critics, of course, have raised First Amendment issues, but the new ordinance actually decriminalizes public profanity, allowing police officers to write tickets as they would for traffic violations so that cursing cases don’t clog up the courts.
Bow chicka wow wow
Oh, the fun we could have thinking about all of the other assaults on our senses and sensibilities that deserve to be slapped with citations.
Officer, ticket these, please:
• Drivers sitting at red lights who have their bass lines booming so loudly that the office windows three stories up are shaking.
• Gas pumpers who stream “bow chicka wow wow” lyrics to raunchy rap songs from their open windows, drowning out the tame tunes about tractors and turnip greens playing inside our closed-up cars.
• Motorcyclists with mysteriously ridiculous mufflers who leave block after block of pedestrians holding bloody ears in their wake.
• Moviegoers who pull out 500-watt cellphones during the sad part to check their texts.
• Grocery shoppers who appear to be talking trash to the cantaloupe or to you only to flash the Bluetooth headset after you’ve said, “Excuse me?” four times.
• Fathers who loudly floss their teeth in the middle of a college orientation presentation on why our children don’t listen to us. (This is not a hypothetical horror. Ask me who I sat behind last weekend.)
• Apartment dwellers who choose 1 a.m. on a Tuesday to pound a Christmas tree into its metal stand with a metal hammer.
• Graduation attendees who have been implored not to whoop but do it anyway, drowning out the names of other people’s hard-working children.
• People who wear so much perfume or cologne that you smell them before you see them.
• Drivers who insist upon traveling up the interstate on-ramp at 35 mph, forcing all those behind them into near-death experiences trying to merge into 70 mph traffic.
But, dear officer, how about a fine and jail time for the parents who recently decided that it would be a fine idea to take four children under the age of 3 to a 9 p.m. movie outside the N.C. Museum of Art?
Not to an outdoor showing of “Finding Nemo” or “Madagascar,” mind you, at which you would deserve the fine if you hadn’t expected to encounter chattering children among the blankets and lawn chairs. We’re talking about a curse word-dotted PG-13 movie about, wait for it, baseball statistics.
Little girls exclaiming repeatedly about airplanes in the sky at night when everyone else around them is trying to catch tricky adult dialogue about On Base Percentages and Wins Above Replacement? A crying infant fighting sleep while a parent pats him on the rear for 20 minutes instead of walking away with him?
Actually, officer, we wouldn’t need you at all if we were only better at policing ourselves.