Do not bend, twist or mutilate the rules

March 29, 2006 at 7:45 pm (Uncategorized)

I have this wife who gets real uptight about the rules. She counts her items before getting in the express line at the supermarket. She notices signs that say things like “Keep off the grass” or “No swimming.” AW5812321.jpg

On those rare occasions when I roll through a red light that just won’t change, she gives me that look. It’s a disappointed look that tells me that if I was on trial and she was part of the jury, I’d be going back to traffic school. Maybe to prison.

My wife measures her suitcase before taking it on a plane. She believes you really have to stop for stop signs in the Wal-Mart parking lot, even if the entire lot is empty. If a hotel declares that checkout is at noon, we will be out of there by 11:59. Not a minute later, Mister, or you can just stay here all day while I go to the beach.

Signs that say “Don’t cross” mean, in her freaky interpretation of things, that you should not cross. In the earnest opinion of this law-abiding woman, people don’t put up signs for nothing. Rules were meant to be obeyed.

We disagree slightly on this matter.

It’s not that I’m an outlaw. I pay my taxes. I pay my parking tickets as soon as they pile up high enough that the city feels the need to tow my car in order to make room for them. If a sign tells me that a house is guarded by a dinosaur-sized dog, I tend to acknowledge it.It’s simply that I regard most rules as basic guidelines. They are rough estimations of how many products you should carry to the express line, how fast you should drive, whether or not you should let your arms and legs dangle from the amusement park ride.
I don’t park in handicap spaces, I don’t speed through school zones, I don’t smoke around fuel spills. The rules of behavior can mostly be intuited through common sense. Signs are there for those who need step-by-step instructions on how to conduct themselves.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’m one of those irresponsible types who is constantly getting into trouble because he can’t follow simple rules. And you’re right. Almost every time I get caught for something, there is a gigantic sign nearby spelling out exactly what I have done wrong.“Gosh, officer,” I said to a cop when I was busted sitting near Lake Auburn after midnight. “I had no idea I wasn’t supposed to be here.”
The cop gestured with the flashlight to the six-story sign roughly 3 feet to my right. The sign stretched up into the sky, with neon letters announcing that ANYONE CAUGHT NEAR THE LAKE AFTER SUNDOWN WILL BE TOSSED IN.

once got caught smoking under a no-smoking sign. I once got nabbed leaning against a post under a no-trespassing sign. I once reacted with genuine shock when I was lectured for barging through a door that proclaimed “Authorized personnel only.” I mean, define “authorized.”Signs, signs. Everywhere a sign. I got married so I’ll have someone to point out when I’m walking where I shouldn’t walk, loitering where I shouldn’t loiter, going shoeless where I should be shod.

And as I ponder my petty lawlessness, I think about all those repeat criminals who just can’t stay out of jail. I wonder if it’s the same for them, only on a grander, more felonious scale.“Sure, the law says you can’t just take someone else’s car,” an incorrigible crook might think. “But does that mean this specific car?”

And off he goes, with a conscience clouded only by road dirt and burning rubber.Maybe the career bank robber convinces himself before every job that he’s merely making a withdrawal. Maybe the career vandal considers the smashing of windows and bashing of mailboxes one man’s urban renewal. Maybe the con man fancies himself just a really good salesman who occasionally needs to skip town.

Right now I’m squeezing my thumb and pointer finger together. That’s the space my good wife allows for rule breaking. Pull the digits an inch apart and that’s me. The misdeeds of a career felon needs to be measured with hands held far apart. For some, you have to hold your arms out to your sides.We all break the rules at some time and to some degree. Including you, you righteous fool. Maybe you occasionally swipe the newspaper from the apartment across the hall. Maybe you sneak rented movies back to the store after hours and then run away.

Rule-breaking is part economy, part psychology. Bend, twist or mutilate one of them, and it might save you a few nickels or better your life in a meager way. But for some, it is also a small form of control over a world that is increasingly ruled by laws and codes of conduct. Some of us just need to be bad once in a while, even if nobody notices.I could go on at length about this phenomenon, but I’ll stop here. My editor likes me to keep the columns to 850 words. This one is 870.
Mark LaFlamme is the Sun Journal crime reporter. Visit his blog at Or skip that and go to



  1. "The Weasel" said,

    To the female lushes at the Lost Sole.

    I’d kick all your asses in Quarters.

    Funniest F#@king game out there………………….

  2. LaFlamme said,

    What?? Online quarters?? That’s awesome!

  3. Bobbie said,

    Remember Weasel, you no longer have to use the funky things to swear here.

  4. "The Weasel" said,

    I have respect for you ladies…….K2 Included

  5. Mainetarr said,

    I got my ass kicked by a 12 year old at online quarters….not a good thing.

  6. Mainetarr said,

    I did it, I did it!! I got all the way through and beat Van Wilder!!

  7. Bobbie said,

    Someone play a game of online quarters for me tonight. My hands don’t want to work good enough to attempt that particular game. LOL

    • Jody said,

      I recommend you to contact your sponsor or your upline, they should tell you what to do. If you don’t get any help, pls get back to me asap.VN:F [19sl21_1169]p.ea.e wait…VN:F [1.9.21_1169](from 0 votes)

  8. Gil said,

    Ya gotta love the south

  9. K2 said,

    Oh, Weasel, how I missed your less-than-subtle jabs. You give me purpose, and I thank you.

    Mark, that was a great piece. And I think our rebellion is about some semblance of control. I mean, I want to pee where I want to pee; and if that’s in the middle of the town square, so be it.

    Same reason I hate filling out forms. Everything HAS to be put in a certain spot. I freak out doing forms. I’m a formaphobe.

    As Graham Nash sings in Chicago, “Rules and regulations who needs them? Throw ’em out the door.”

  10. Martha said,

    I’m soooooo rebellious.. I’m at work and don’t DARE to follow the posted links for fear of where they might take me. But.. I know most cops allow 5 over, and I generally take it.. sometimes, and then some.

  11. LaFlamme said,

    Martha! We meet again in the pre-dawn hours.

  12. Martha said,

    LOL Mark, yes.. I’m almost always here at this hour… We just gotta stop meeting like this.. people will start to talk…Oh well.. if theyr’e talking about me they’re leaving everyone else alone.. such is life.

  13. Anonymous said,


  14. Anonymous said,

    fake anonymous alert

  15. Jeffrey Coverly said,

    Google is the best search engine

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