Friday, September 29, 2006

Moving violations

It occurred to me the other day, as yet another Range Rover (or was it an Expedition?) breezed through yet another four way intersection, that there must be a new traffic law in force on Nantucket. The idea of this one is simple: any vehicle whose MSRP exceeds forty thousand dollars can ignore all traffic laws. It explains a lot – The BMW SUV roaring through the cross walk scattering dogs and children in its wake while bemused rent-a-cops look on; The Lexus SUV casually double parked, blocking the street for half an hour at a time; the Mercedes SUV cruising the wrong way on orange Street, ignoring the screams of pedestrians and the horns of other drivers (How could they be expected to hear anything over the twelve speaker sound system blaring out I Did It My Way into the climate controlled leather interior?)

At first I didn’t think much of the new rules; they were roughly comparable to our new legal system where the litigant with the most money wins the case. But recent developments in the larger world have given a sinister connotation to the antics of our Humvee and Suburban owners. A number of the corporate criminals responsible for the collapse of trust in the stock market, bandits who sold out their worthless stocks and escaped the economic catastrophes that followed, leaving their shareholders and workers to face ruin and bankruptcy, own houses right here on Nantucket. Many of them are driving the gas gulping behemoths that wreak terror and havoc on our narrow roads. It makes sense. The same attitude of entitlement and superiority, of oblivious greed and patrician contempt for the lower classes, inform both the corporate behavior and the driving habits of the nouveau royal. Despoil the retirement hopes of a whole generation? Force a moped off Hummock Pond Road? Who cares - as long as you exercised your stock options in time and you get to Bartlett’s before the cilantro runs out.

My private fantasy is that some disgruntled cop who has just watched his 401 k retirement fund disappear will pull over one of these trophy cars with the “I got mine - up yours” bumper sticker and do some vigilante economic re-education. Until then – put your money under a mattress and look both ways when you cross the street.

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