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Janis Jaquith
janis@radioessays.com
653 words

LIGHTS OUT, EVERYBODY

My mother's a night owl. Every night, not only does she make it all the way through Jay Leno, but by the time Conan O'Brien comes on, her eyes are sparkling and she's ready to break out the Coke and snacks. Mum comes alive late in the day - she blossoms in the dark.

And, surprise, surprise, she doesn't exactly get up with the chickens every morning. Ten o'clock is more like it.

You're thinking: Who cares? I'll tell you who - her neighbors. These ladies are tucked in for the night by nine o'clock. So, of course, they're up before dawn, and they cluck among themselves about my mother, because her curtains are still drawn, and her porch light stays on past ten in the morning. Scandalous!

Let's face it. Early risers are unbearably self-righteous - I bet they invented self-righteousness. I suppose morning people had a right to be sanctimonious before the invention of electric lights, back when daylight farm labor was essential to survival. No sense burning candle wax when there are seeds to be planted and cows to be milked when the sun comes up.

The thing is, now that farming isn't exactly the most popular way to earn a living, some of us can't seem to quit feeling smug about sticking to this ingrained schedule.

And it makes us uneasy to think that while we're off-guard and sleeping, someone could be tiptoeing around, doing God-knows-what.

This is why people are clamoring for curfew laws. In Charlottesville, Virginia, we have a curfew, and the police enforce it. And lots of people think it's a good idea. Of course, they're probably all early-risers, so naturally they think it's reasonable to pass a law requiring that everyone under seventeen be confined within their houses between midnight and five a.m. After all, why should these kids be out after midnight?

Well, maybe they've been ice skating at the rink that closes at midnight and want to stop somewhere for a Coke and a snack.

Maybe they want to walk to the clearing at the end of their street and have a look at the stars.

That's just too bad. Good kids, with good parents, are home long before midnight, tucked in their beds. Right? I don't know about that - most crimes committed by juveniles happen between three and six in the afternoon. Does that mean we should keep them locked up twenty-four hours a day?

Thanks to this law, anyone who looks younger than seventeen had better be prepared to show identity papers to any police officer whose path they cross after curfew.

Are you a baby-faced twenty-five-year old? Don't get caught without your valid ID. You could be stopped for questioning and detained until you can prove your date of birth.

You don't even have to do anything wrong. To be young and visible after midnight is a crime in Charlottesville, unless you can prove that you meet the criteria for one of the exceptions, such as an emergency errand for a parent.

Even then, every single police officer that you encounter in the course of your errand has the right to stop you and haul you off to the police station for questioning.

Is this the kind of country we want to live in?

If we allow laws to be passed that require us to be off the street by a certain hour, then what's next? Bed-checks by the city police? If so, my mother's in for big trouble. If breaking out the Coke and snacks after midnight becomes a crime, then slap the handcuffs on her. This is one liberty that she's unlikely to give up without a fight.


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