In the spirit of Click and Clack, I offer the following conundrum. Consider first this letter to the editor from today’s paper:
Stupid blue laws thwart purchase
Government is the only source of such stupidity. Or at least with the authority to enforce such ignorance.
After church, my wife, Mary, and I went to Wal-Mart for a new sports watch for her. She decided on one and told the clerk to ring it up. The clerk said, “I can’t ring it up until 1:30, and it’s only 1:15. Why don’t you shop around and come back in 15 minutes?”
We wandered around for about 10 minutes and saw folks were checking out with bananas, potato chips and, yes, even beer, but you can’t purchase a watch until 1:30. I said I’ll have a beer while I wait till 1:30 to buy the watch.
Woe unto you who think government is the answer. When are we going to vote these nitwits out?
Bruce G. Kelly
This is an interesting letter on several levels, but the most immediate question that arises is this: Where in the Midlands do you find a jurisdiction where it would be illegal to buy the watch before 1:30, yet legal to buy beer on Sunday?
The simple answer is that there isn’t one. Poor Mr. Kelly would be hard-pressed to find the "nitwits" that he wants to "vote out," since there is no jurisdiction that has made those two decisions that he finds so maddeningly inconsistent.
Give up? I had, but then Warren proposed a potential answer — while there is no one such jurisdiction, this Wal-Mart was in an anomalous location that was both in the city of Columbia and in Lexington County. It’s not a thought that would have immediately occurred to me, but of course there are such places.
My first guess was that we’re talking about the new Wal-Mart on Bush River Road, right next to Malfunction Junction. The map on my wall in the editorial dept. shows it as in Lexington County. It does NOT show it as being in Columbia, but it’s an old map, and I have the advantage of private intelligence in this case: I recently tried to buy beer there on a Sunday, and succeeded. Ipso facto, to wit, etc….
But that’s not where this happened. When Randle, who edits our letters, got back to the office, I asked her to call Mr. Kelly and get to the bottom of the mystery.
The answer: This incident occurred at the Harbison Wal-Mart, which is certainly in Lexington County, and — while I couldn’t find confirmation of the fact on any map readily at hand, the odds are that if it’s in that area and developed, it’s in the city.
Of course, Mr. Kelly still can’t find anyone to vote out of office for creating this situation. Even if he lives in both the city and Lexington County, it’s beyond the power of any local elected official to solve his problem. A Columbia city council member, for instance, might change the beer-sale ordinance, but could do nothing about Lexington’s blue law — and vice versa, if you follow me.
His problem is similar to one we’ve pointed out many times before, in somewhat different contexts. It’s not a matter of too MUCH government, but of too MANY governments.
He can vote against EVERY incumbent if he chooses (the Doug Ross solution), just as a sort of universal, howl-at-the-moon sort of protest, but that wouldn’t solve his problem. That is, if you consider not being able to buy a sports watch for 15 minutes a problem. And I’m sure many of you would. So commiserate with poor Mr. Kelly, a man without recourse to redress.