Wednesday, February 25, 2004


I've been driving around now for about 3 years with the EZ-Pass plastic plate pasted on my windshield, right behind my rear view mirror. The badge/plate floats there on the windshield, awaiting signals from traffic command & control. My paranoia of having my comings and goings being tracked by "the Man" has subsided. Where I used to suspect that any overflying helicopter was keeping an eye on me, I now shake my head and laugh, knowing that it's YOU they're keeping a tab on. And, honestly, after 9/11, I thought those old feelings of government overseeing were going to return. Instead, I just have that vibrating feeling (What!??! You don't feel it?) whenever I pass smoothly through the tollbooths in Jersey, PA, and Delaware, without having to stop and deal with the manned toll booths. I don't miss those days of stopping and paying, usually.
Dante's updated version of "The Inferno" has distinguished folks like Mr. Kenneth Lay of Enron fame, Mr. Dennis Kozlowski of Tyco noteriety, and Mr. Bernie Ebbers of the Worldcom meltdown, upon their respective deaths, confined to the Second Circle of the new and improved Hell. There, they will, for eternity, be forced to collect coinage and tattered bills from the new arrivals to Down Under. They will suffer eternal diesel combustion engine fumes, blown directly into the 3 ft by 3ft by 6 ft booths they are to be confined in. They will have to stand, for all time, in those booths, stooped (and not because they're conquering). They will have to make change and deal with "fine level of clientele" making their way into permanent painful exile. Then, all that filthy lucre will have to be handed over to someone other than themselves. No $6,000 gold-plated umbrella stands for these guys Down There.

In the pre EZ-Pass days, driving on the NJ Turnpike, PA Turnpike, and even the DE Tpke, one had to deal with quite a few toll booth collectors that seemed to be in intense pursuit of this Second Circle. Monetary dealings tended to be less than pleasant. Sometimes, I just bypassed certain exits on the NJ Turnpike. Why deal with Mr. Beelzebub at exit #13; he may puncture my tires as I go by....just 'cuz he didn't like the Secretary of the Treasurer's signature on the $10 bill I gave him?

But, then one summer, I drove out west, through Ohio, on the Ohio Turnpike. I stopped at the first toll booth, after crossing over from Pennsylvania, in pre-cringe mode, expecting the usual paint-peeling breath to emanate from the booth, followed by the mal occhia, and then the extended paw searching for loot. Instead, Aunt Bea from Mayberry smiled at me, asked how I was doing, did I need a tissue?, and, oh by the way, have a nice trip.
What happened? Was this an aberration? As I found out later, at other stops along the way, no, this was normal..this was Ohio. Satan's spawn was still relegated to the East Coast...and Republican National Headquarters.

So, when college days rolled around for my son, when it came time to make the Final Choice, Aunt Bea of the Toll Booth was in the back of our minds. In at least a sub-conscious way, the goodness and purity of her character affected the Choice to go to an Ohio college. It seemed a more logical method of determination than a coin flip, tea leaf readings, or the US & World News Report ratings.

And then..this. In the Feb. 24, 2003 Newark Advocate article on Licking County Dad, not only was it evident that our black & white picture of Ohio moral character had been tinted by the "Michael Jackson"-ification (9th Circle of the New & Revised Inferno) of the parental units in Ohio, but even the Judicial branch of the state (granted, only at the county level, in this case) had gone in search of one of Dante's Circles.

Here's a direct quote from the article:
"Moments before handing down the sentence, Judge Robert Hoover of the Licking County Juvenile Court said: "I do not recall any situation in the last 28 years, a situation of an adult providing alcoholic beverages to 11- and 12-year-old children. What even compounds this case is that you engaged in a conspiracy of silence to cover this up." "

Look, I'm not even touching the issue of what this "Dad' did. He's either in need of mental defibrillating or a Howard Stern fan who'd been listening a "bit" too intensely, or both. It's the judge I have a problem with, since his error is hopefully correctable. From the article, I gathered that "Dad" was completely, fully, & solely responsible for the justly condemned acts he was accused and found guilty of. How can a conspiracy of silence then occur? Conspiracy, in any dictionary, needs an involvement of two or more individuals. Was the judge so angry that he was seeing double? Was he visiting the Schizophrenic Cafe (Waiter to customer: "Your order, Sir?", Customer(glancing over to an empty seat): "I'll have what I'm having.") before court that day?

My, guess? The judge's got an EZ-pass tag. I just know it's those mind rays streaming forth from that little white box that hit him that day. Watch out for the helicopters....

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