Signs of the Times

© 2005 Joan-Marie Moss

The signs went up today. “No breathing in this establishment!” They were posted in all public restaurants, libraries and public offices in direct response to the law enacted by Congress that clearly stated breathing second-hand air is forthwith banned and all offenders will forthwith be punished to the full extent of the law.

I suspect these establishments’ bottom lines will see a dramatic change in the very near future.

Now, I know you’re wondering how this happened. I can tell you; it was inevitable.

It began with the turn of the century and entertainment gatherings in major cities across the country. Thousands of people attended mega festivals to eat, drink and be merry in those days. Those outdoor gatherings were hugely successful events, I guess. I didn’t attend. But I surmise someone found them to be highly successful because the events got bigger and bigger each year.

One such event held in Chicago in 2008 caused the entire lakefront to be blocked off to all but foot traffic between Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue and between North Avenue and Cermak. While all vehicles were diverted, walkers followed a pre-designated path past countless displays of food and commodities that they were expected to purchase. Newspapers and radio reports said no one was allowed to bring their own food or water. I guess you can understand why I didn’t go.

The only water allowed that year had to be purchased from vendors. It was the middle of a heat wave, 112 degrees in the shade. There had been some talk about suspending that rule but the talk didn’t go anywhere. The vendors wouldn’t hear of it. They were selling bottles of water for $10 a piece. They’d lose too much. Politicians agreed. They couldn’t justify the lost tax revenue. And so, the city’s funeral homes scheduled 46 additional funerals for the unfortunates who died of dehydration at that event.

That same year, the ban against smoking got ugly. Police had closed down all establishments selling the contraband and were hot in pursuit of anyone who dared to purchase online. Marketers who sold chewing gum, coke and heroin enjoyed a thriving trade — as did anyone employed to clean discarded gum from shoes, carpets and floors or responsible for righting the havoc of drug use and the resulting crimes.

With converted non-smokers guaranteed to live years longer, doctors and pharmacies were counting on a sure income. All those aging people would be looking for medication. Of course, Social Security had already been disbanded.

It just couldn’t keep up with all those pesky elders. Someone would have to do something about all those grunges who couldn’t keep up the pace and didn’t have family and loved ones able and willing to support their need for food and housing. But, that was just a minor inconvenience – and a whole ‘nother story. It would be just a matter of time before that imbalance would right itself once the limitations on procreation were firmly in place and withholding life support mechanisms had proven marvelously effective in getting rid of such nuisances. We were told the future would be bright indeed.

Oh, you wondered about the signs!

Well, once it was established that second-hand smoke was killing everyone off, it really was quite easy to take the next step. You’re breathing my oxygen and exhaling poisonous carbon dioxide and other toxins … not to mention the germs you’re spreading – inexcusable! I have a right to pollution-free life, you know….

What about the pollution caused by all the gas-guzzling vehicles?

Hmm. I guess we’re going to have to hide and watch. One thing at a time, they tell us.