Lawbook or Lawman?

Lucille tootled along I5, radio tuned to 91.5, the soothing voice of Terry Gross washing over her like honey on a warm buttered piece of bread. Her left hand held the steering wheel in a gentle grasp at the 6 o’clock position, right hand draped casually over the gearshift of her 2012 maroon Toyota Camry. It was a Saturday morning, a Saturday that made her want to giggle with delight–the leaves just turning color and occasionally drifting casually in the whirling eddies behind the semi-trucks, the midday sun just barely warming the crisp mornings beyond comfort when wearing sweatshirt, and loose clouds that spoke to her of hot-air balloons and the future. Her boyfriend was back to visit her and his parents, and she was looking forward to it; she had gotten a 93 on her first Macro Economics test; she had gotten paid; life was just fine.

Lucille was also going 86 miles per hour. And Officer Newman knew it.

As her car crested the rise, she saw the police cruiser sitting almost out of sight near the overpass, and she automatically took her foot off the pedal and glanced down to see her speed. “Blathering boisterous blisters!” she swore softly. Officer Newman turned on his lights.

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Not for the first time, Justin felt like punching the machine he had just fed his money into. The indicator light said that he would be “tasting the feeling” of a fizzy Cherry Coke soon after feeding his crinkled 1-dollar bill into the black maw of the vending machine. But Cherry Coke was out. As was the standard Coke. And the Coke Life, though he only selected it out of desperation, since he hated the fact that his little sister drank Coke Life because she thought it would make her skinny, despite his repeated attempts to get her to read the ingredient list. 

He briefly considered shaking the vending machine, before punching the “return my money you stupid machine” button beside the black dollar-feeder.

His dollar didn’t come out; instead, coins dropped into the tray. Justin shook his head and reached down to take his money, but before he could, the machine spit out more coins, then more. Quarters filled the cup, and a few even spilled out onto the floor.

In astonishment, Justin straightened up, looking down at the small pile of money. It had to be 25 dollars sitting there in coins, only one of which was his. He looked around–nobody was in sight in the brightly-lit hallway, nobody had seen. He could take the money and go. But there, just under the coin tray, was a little sign that said: “For problems With this vending Machine, please call Vinney’s Vending Machine Service At 1-800-222-7654.” The odd capitalization bugged him almost as much as the fact that the machine was out of Cherry Coke, but he knew there was a way to get the money back to Vinney (or his lackeys), so he couldn’t just take it. He wondered briefly what Vinney looked like, and what he would do if Vinney were standing beside the machine.

His iPhone buzzed in his pocket, reminding him that he had 10 minutes to get to the client’s office, which was conveniently 15 minutes away. Justin grabbed four quarters and walked away quickly.

Just before he turned the corner, he saw a tall red-haired man stop in front of the machine and pocket the money.

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Zozo laughed again at the look on the case officer’s face at the Vancouver office of the Department of Revenue. She glanced over her shoulder at the flat-pack boxes neatly stacked in the back of her Subaru, a stack that had cost 254.22 at IKEA in Portland. Oregon, of course, has no sales tax, but Washington, the dear ol’ state Zozo calls home, does. And by the arcane laws that she’s privy to because of her job at a local CPA’s office, she knows she’s required to pay use tax on any purchases made in Oregon that are intended for use in her home in Washington. It doesn’t seem, however, that many people take the time to do this.

She managed to pay $21.35 after an hour in the office, and it was worth every penny to watch them turn in circles. But she might not stop there next time she runs to IKEA–especially if she gets that big sofa she’s been eyeing.

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Rachael clicked “I acknowledge that I have read and understood the above Terms and Conditions.” Without reading it. Without batting an eyelash.

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What about you, my dear reader?

  • When you know the rules, do you always obey them?
  • Do you only obey the rules when somebody is watching?
  • Perhaps you obey the rules occasionally when the risk outweighs the reward?
  • Or you interpret the rules your way and decide, according to your personal ethics, which need to be followed and which do not?
  • Do you obey the rules? or do you obey the person who made the rules? or perhaps you obey the perceived intent of the person who made the rules?

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