"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Going Too Fast?

After intense and instructive debate, the boating speed limit bill on Lake Winnipesaukee passed in the House, 236-111. This legislation imposes a 45 mph. limit during the day and 25 mph. at night, and the law sunsets after two years. Similar bills have, I believe, previously passed in the House but never made it out of the Senate--but there's a very different Senate now.

Never, in my experience, has a bill inspired such volumes of email, in favour and in opposition.

The competing interests, as expressed in emails, are the speed demon boaters who like zipping about the lake at extreme speeds in their high-powered cigarette boats, bass boats, etc. with no regard for anybody else, pitted against the old-timers, the owners of waterfront properties who have been on the lake for generations (guilty!) and hate all the noisy boat traffic and wish the lake could be peaceful and pleasant as it is in their memories, from childhood, or in grandpa's (great- or great-great grandpa's) day.

While there is truth and (perhaps) distortion in the tales told by both sides, the situation has got worse, and at times is quite dangerous. Other states in the Northeast have boating speed limits, have had for quite some time...that's at least partly why all the fast boat people converge on our Big Lake.

As for my instensely personal connection to the lake in question...of course it informs my own vote. That said, I didn't speak in favour, nor did I lobby my colleagues, and I rarely talked about it with anyone. I lived in silent hope. Because during my many years on our narrow, heavily-trafficked Bay, I've witnessed and experienced all the problems that the opposition claim rarely occur. As well as a few truly appalling scenarios that were never even voiced by the bill's supporters.

However, I have a fairly low tolerance for the personal anecdote/personal experience style of debating. At times it can be extremely effective (and indeed it was today, regarding a bill on end-of-life medical directives) but usually it carries very little weight. So I kept my mouth shut.

At the start of the debate, I will confess, there came a moment when I was bursting with--well, amused indignation. My good (and brave) neighbour on the Bay, Mr. Minority Leader, was the first to rise in opposition to the bill. He expressed himself quite effectively and though we feel very differently about a speed limit I respect his position and I well know we share a deep love of that lake and lakeside living.

When discounting any dangers to canoeists, kayakers, and swimmers, he mentioned the fact that he's a rower, and goes out on the waters daily, at all seasons, when ice is out, to scull.

It was that remark that nearly sent me to the podium. I'm too polite to interject a "Gotcha!" question. But here's what I would've asked the honourable gentleman:

"Is it not true, sir, that you do your sculling at five o'clock in the morning? When there's absolutely no motor- or powerboat traffic in the Bay? And thus no hazard to life and limb?"

How do I know this? One day last spring or summer, he came up to me in the Reps Hall anteroom or a corridor and commented, "I never see you out on your dock when I row past."

"If I'm not here, I'm there. When do pass by our place?"

"Five a.m."

I believe him, though I never had visible proof. I did sometimes emerge from the cottage at that hour (though more usually at 6 a.m.), to lead my trio of canines outside for their early morning squat.

I know for sure that I've never seen the honorable gentleman sculling on weekends in July and August. When the boat noise is so loud it makes my dogs bark and the shoreline wake disturbs the (very large) rocks holding the hillside in place and I fret over the neighbour kids on their floats or inner tubes if they venture to far out in the "shipping lanes" and I fume to see show-offs on jet skis deliberately over-running my beloved loon. We definitely have laws against harassing wildlife, but how can you report somebody who isn't even there within a minute of committing the offence?

Sorry. End of my NIMFY (Not in My Front Yard) rant. Clearly I've been keeping my mouth shut too long!

Anyway, the bill next goes to the Senators and I wish them joy of it. They'll get an avalanche of emails, that much I know. Maybe even from me.

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