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Honolulu Lite

CHARLES MEMMINGER

Sunday, December 2, 2001


Brave new world will be safe,
expensive and booooring

Hi, Honey! I'm home!" I said as I stood on the front lanai. Honey, the central home computer, glared at me through its red, blinking eye above the camera lens set underneath the roof eaves. It opened the door -- somewhat begrudgingly, I felt -- and I walked in.

On a table in the hallway, a computer printer had spit out a stack of photos and documents.

"Looks like you've been a bad boy again," Honey snickered from somewhere in the closet or from a speaker under the couch. Her voice never came from the same place twice.

I picked up the usual stack of warnings, violations, mini-indictments, fine notices, forfeiture advisories and quasi-judicial rulings, each covered with logos and advertising for everything from soda pop to hemorrhoid creams. Talk about direct mail marketing! Buying advertising space on State Littering and Obnoxious Public Remarks Court subpoenas is a sure fire way to get your product in the hands of thousands of consumers.

I sat at the kitchen table and began my routine of shuffling through the odious canards, figuring out which, if any, I could successfully challenge. "I'm going to beat one of these," I said.

"Fat chance, fat boy," purred Honey through the toaster.

The first document was a run-of-the-mill speeding ticket. Nice digital photo of me going 50.3934 miles per hour in a 50-mile-per hour zone. Damn it, they had me cold there. That would be a $352 fine.

The second one was a series of photos showing me jaywalking across Queen Street. Ridiculous. Not a car in sight. A completely safe maneuver. But I forgot to cover my face with a newspaper, so they had me on that one, too. Chalk up another $245.

The Littering and Obnoxious Public Remarks subpoena said I had been charged with yelling "dog feces" within hearing distance of several people in Kapiolani Park. Hmmm, I thought. This could be a First Amendment issue. I'd have to check. Does my right to yell "DOG FECES!" in a public park end where someone else's ears begin? Wasn't somebody recently acquitted of yelling "THEATER!" at a crowded fire? Maybe I could argue that I was simply loudly, if not energetically, describing exactly what I had accidentally stepped in?

The next document was a notice that my bus pass was forfeited because I was videotaped refusing to give up a "Reserved for Apparently Decrepit" seat to an apparently decrepit person. OK, I admit I hogged the seat. Although I think Frank Fasi was laying on the old dude act a little thick that day.

By the time I was done, I had run up fines of $2,355, lost my bike, car and bus pass and my insurance payments quadrupled. And every petty offense was caught on camera.

To think that it all started just a few years ago with the installation of computerized cameras to stop people from running red lights and speeding! Sure, now there were fewer accidents, assaults, robberies and the island was neater, quieter and the buses ran on time. I just couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. Exactly what, I couldn't place.

"People," Honey sniffed from the coffee maker. "Without them, Hawaii would run perfectly."




Alo-Ha! Friday compiles odd bits of news from Hawaii
and the world to get your weekend off to an entertaining start.
Charles Memminger also writes Honolulu Lite Mondays,
Wednesdays and Sundays. Send ideas to him at the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210,
Honolulu 96813, phone 235-6490 or e-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com.



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