Death Of A Thousand "Buts"

I’m a man of simple pleasures and desires and wants. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. A new gadget, for example — it doesn’t have to be the newest and greatest. My computer uses a 2-generation-old CPU (AMD Phenom X4 9850) and older graphics card (GeForce 8300 that runs as an 8500, thanks to onboard graphics and hybrid SLI). I drive a 12-year-old SUV. My latest toy is a very low-end tablet that I got on the cheap.

But of the simple things I like, it seems that over the past few years, the government is conspiring to take those away from me.

I have a lamp that has a bit of sentimental value for me. It cost five bucks, new. It’s perched on the headboard of my bed. I would like to keep using it until it breaks.

But I’ll probably have to retire it soon, because its shade clamps directly to the bulb. The round bulb that has been outlawed. And the shade won’t fit on those stupid curly-fry bulbs that cost several times as much, give off crappy light, shouldn’t be just tossed in the trash, and create a toxic spill should they break.

I don’t care if others like those compact flourescent bulbs. Let them buy and use all they like. All I want is to keep my old bulbs and my old lamp. But that’s not allowed.

I, like most men, enjoy my time in the bathroom. I’ll spare you the details, but I’ll just say this: a key element of that enjoyment is knowing that when I push the little handle, the contents of the toilet will go away in a dramatic whoosh.

Well, I can’t have that much longer, either. The perfectly-working toilets are on the way out, replaced with “low-flow” toilets that are legendary in the need to take two or more flushes to… well, “do their duty.” Further, they’re apparently causing problems for sewer systems not designed for them.

I don’t want them banned. I don’t want to deprive people of them should they prefer them. I just want a toilet that works like a toilet. Consistently. Every time. I don’t want to have to “quality check” one every time I… well, you know.

I drive an old (20th century) SUV. I got Mongo cheap, because it has negligible resale value (who the hell would WANT a 4-door Explorer with a stick shift?) and I intend to run it into the ground. I find I like the confidence of having all-wheel drive and a sturdy frame. But when I do run Mongo into the ground, my choices in replacing him will be limited — as the government keeps jacking up the mileage standards and banning vehicles like Mongo in all but name.

I don’t want to drive a little tin can. I have — I’ve owned an Escort, a Tempo, and a Cavalier — and I didn’t care for them too much. I don’t mind the poor gas mileage; it’s an acceptable tradeoff to me. If you want to drive a small car, or a hybrid, or an electric car, more power to you. I won’t even complain too much about how I am compelled to subsidize your choice, through tax breaks. All I ask is the option to exercise my own choice.

I have a friend who is rather short. She has a car she loves, too. But every time she gets behind the wheel, she has to acknowledge that her beloved car could kill her. She has to sit so close to the steering wheel, it would almost certainly break her neck should it deploy. She’d like to have it deactivated so she will have a better chance of not being killed by her car, but the government says it would be illegal for a mechanic to turn it off. They would rather have her killed than let her take her own chances.

I don’t like taking medication. I’m kind of stubborn that way. But right now I have a rather nasty cough, caused by a postnasal drip (essentially, my nose is running down my throat, irritating the hell out of it.) I’d like to just buy a pill to dry up my nasal passages and stop spending a fortune on cough drops — especially the sugar-free ones that have their own rather unpleasant side effects. (Don’t ask.) But the best pills have been either taken off the market, or demand that I show a pharmacist my ID for a single box of frigging COLD MEDICINE.

In the big picture, these are trivial matters. A lightbulb, a toilet, a vehicle, a cold capsule. None of them really mean much. But added together, they paint a very ugly picture — of a society and a government that denies me the right to make my own choices, to weigh my options and make a decision that I deem in my best interests. I want a round lightbulb that I can clamp my shade to. I want a toilet that doesn’t demand a double-shot or a plunger every other day. I want to drive something that makes me feel secure and safe. I want my friend to not be killed by her car. And I would like to get rid of this goddamned cough with a minimum of fuss.

But I can’t. And just to add insult to injury, the most vocal proponents of these policies to deny me the right to make my own choices are the ones who insist that they are the champions of “choice,” but only in specific areas.

I’m far more attached to flourescent incandescent light bulbs than I am in my right to obtain an abortion, though. I’ll give up that “choice” if I can have it in areas of my life that actually matter to me.

But I don’t get that choice, either.

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