Letter from California

An archive of the weekly "Letter from Calfornia", written by Jim McCarthy.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Letter from California-June 22, 2004

As some of you may recall, California’s State Assembly is semi-seriously considering a bill that would give partial votes in statewide elections to children under 18 years old. I say semi-seriously because the legislators who are in favor of this preposterous idea cannot be taken seriously at all whereas the other legislators for all we know could still be people that we can call by their honorific title without cracking up. Them, I would have to judge on a crackpot-by-crackpot basis. That’s what I mean by semi-serious.
A few weeks ago, Governor Schwarzenegger shocked this Assembly by suggesting that the body be returned to the part-time status it held until the 1970s. Arnold said that with enough time on its hands, the Assembly would simply sit around and dream up a bunch of crazy laws. The Assembly responded by saying that only professional legislators could understand the ins and outs of good government and that if you made them part-time, they’d have to get real jobs.
Good point. These aren’t the kind of people you’d want as co-workers. Best to keep them locked up in the state capital. That way, you don’t have to listen to their tireless whining about their 7-step plan to streamline your shipping department or listen to their speech about how the vending machine in the lunch room should have apples and oranges in it instead of candy bars and potato chips.
So leave it to the same people who’d replace your mesquite bar-b-que chips with some mealy, vending machine apple to come up with a rule so pointless that I’m offended my tax dollars are being spent on it. In fact, I’m even a little ticked that I’m taking the time to write a column about it, but the horse is out of the barn on that one, so I’m just going to go with it.
California has about 1,500 artificial tanning salons. These are the places where you go into a dark room and climb into what looks like a giant clam so that you can look as though you’ve been in the great outdoors, playing ball, swimming at the beach. Maybe fishing for giant clams. Who knows?
Currently, if you are between the ages of 15 and 18 years old in California, you need your parents’ permission to go to an artificial tanning salon. This doesn’t seem completely outrageous. Parents have to give their permission for many of the choices that teenagers make. After all, teenagers generally exercise the judgment of a person who’s had a couple of strong drinks with dinner: not completely out of control, but definitely a little goofy.
The proposed law (whose sponsor, Assemblyman Joe Nation, has one of the best politician names going) would tighten up the standard. No longer would parental permission be enough, but instead, teenagers would need written permission from a doctor to enter a tanning bed.
Wait a second! What kind of a doctor would prescribe artificial tanning? In California? The whole darn state is practically a gigantic outdoor tanning salon about 280 days a year. What kind of quack would actually prescribe an extra-strength, super-concentrated dose of solar energy? Probably the same kind of doctor as that fifth dentist who doesn’t recommend sugarless gum for his patients that chew gum.
Of course, if your mother or father is already a doctor, you might be all set. No, Doctor of Mixology doesn’t count, and neither does that phony baloney Doctor of Divinity in the Church of Universal Life that you can get by sending $40 to the address in the back of those magazines.
Look, nobody’s in favor of teenagers crisping themselves to a golden brown for the prom, only to turn into Leatherface by the time they’re 30. And heaven knows, not all California parents are responsible enough to make good decisions on behalf of their children. Madonna, for example.
Still, many of the same people who believe that teenagers should be able to get abortions without parental consent think that the same kids shouldn’t be able to drop in for ten minutes under the UV lamp without the illegible signature of the family doctor. There’s a word for that, I think. It’s on the tip of my tongue.
On the bright side, some legislators spoke out against the bill. Assemblyman Ed Haynes said it this way: “If this bill passes, it proves there’s no part of somebody’s life that this Legislature won’t stick its nose into.”
Probably true, but if they’re smart, they’ll make sure that nose is covered with at least SPF 30 sunblock.


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