The Florida Senate voted 37-1 in favor of a bill to legalize no-hands bike riding. The measure now goes to the state House of Representatives.
The Wall Street Journal
As I printed out the text of my prepared remarks–probably the most important speech I would ever give as a member of the Florida legislature–I noticed that the paper curled immediately from the sweat on my hands. As the co-author of the Look-Ma-No-Hands Bike Riders Relief Act, I couldn’t let my friend and Senate counterpart Hadley “Biff” Brown down. Not after all we’d been through.
We’d gone down slides headfirst, we’d eaten mud pies made by Maddie Durley and Mary Beth Schroenke on a dare, we’d done “suicide” dives–face-down, flat-as-a-board splats–from the ten-meter springboard into the municipal pool in Ft. Myers. That’s how crazy we were in our all-American boyhood while the naysayers, the Goody Two-Shoes and the schoolmarms had stood by scowling with disapproval.
Little did we know that, when it came to riding our bikes with no hands–the birthright of every son of Tom Sawyer–we were committing a crime. Not until Lloyd Duben, who would grow up to be president of the Florida Bar Association, pointed it out to us.
“I’m serious, guys,” he said nervously as he flipped through the pages of his dad’s law book. “Florida Statutes 288.799(a)(1)(B)(ii) says ‘It shall be a misdemeanor moving traffic violation to operate a bicycle or any two (2) wheeled vehicle without both hands on the handlebars, except by an amputee. A first violation of this statute shall be punishable by a fine of five (5) baseball cards and two (2) cat’s eye marbles. A subsequent violation shall result in loss of the operator’s bicycle license.’”
We scoffed at him, but a week later when Tony Souza was pulled over leaving Mercury Morris Consolidated Middle School and given a warning, we were scared straight.
“How we gonna get around without a bike?” Biff asked–this was in the days before mothers drove their kids everywhere due to the explosion in the number of child molesters fueled by the World Wide Web.
“We’re being safe–’cause you’re watching.”
“It’d be impossible,” I said glumly. “I guess from now on, it’s two hands on the bars–or else.”
And so we finished out our childhoods, submissive to the demands of Big Sister, the precursors to the oh-so-careful legislators who wanted to mandate helmets with facemasks for boy-girl tap dancing lessons.
But that was then, and this is now. Before the long dark night of fascism settles over America, before we’ve lost the precious freedoms our forefathers fought for–and try saying that five times fast–Biff and I decided to do something about it.
“You know,” said the grand old man of the legislature, Florian Withers, III, “I don’t know whether you guys are crazy or just naive” when we told him our plan.
“What?” we exclaimed simultaneously, and with disbelief.
“Do you have any idea who you’re up against?”
“No–who?” I asked.
“The Motherhood-Industrial Complex,” he said ominously, swirling his swivel chair around to gaze off into the distance, frustrated at the ability of a powerless few to change the hidebound rules that kept kids in boring bondage.
“You’re under arrest!”
“The same coalition that defeated the Right to Fireworks Act of 2014?” Biff asked.
“And the Omnibus You’re-Getting-a-BB-Gun-Over-My-Dead-Body-Young-Man Reform Act of 2011,” Withers said, turning back around to face us with a dejected look on his face.
We sat there for a moment, by turns fuming at his cynicism and struggling to come up with something–anything–to rekindle our dashed hopes.
“Make sure the safety’s off before you shoot at the kids next door who disturbed my nap.”
“What if we filibuster?” I suggested. “Jimmy Stewart did that in ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.’”
“This is a state legislature, where the grimy work of democracy gets done,” Withers said with a snarl, “not some Hollywood sound stage.”
“I don’t care,” I’d said. “I’m going to go out there and speak truth to power. It’s part of being an American boy, like Huck Finn lighting out for the territories.”
“It’s your funeral,” Withers said. “Don’t expect any help from the leadership.”
And that was that. Now it was just Biff and me against the odds, against the well-heeled–usually Nike, but sometimes Addidas–soccer moms in sneakers who threatened the American Boy Way of Life; taking the risks that fueled our capitalist society, preparing us for lives as bond traders, investment bankers and used car salesman. Biff got the bill through the Senate, now it was time for me to push the ball across the goal line.
“Mr. Speaker,” I intoned after I’d made my way to the podium, “distinguished brother and sister legislators, and to Boy Scout Troop 158 of Tampa Gardens, our guests today in this distinguished chamber.”
“Mr. Lozina,” the Speaker replied.
“I stand before you here today on behalf of every boy who’s ever ridden his bike with no hands to impress his mother, or a girl who naughtily dropped her Kleenex in the aisle of a third-grade classroom to seduce him into sending her one of those little candy hearts on Valentine’s Day.”
“Point of order,” a voice called from the majority side of the aisle. It was safety-nut Ellen Dowiniac, who made all her staff put lids on their coffee cups–in their own cubicles! I could just imagine what kind of cockamamie objection she was going to raise.
“The Chair recognizes the Lady from West Palm, although the Chair didn’t at first because the Chair believes the Lady from West Palm has a new frost job.”
“The chair recognizes the hair of the Lady from the 4th District.”
“The Chair is correct,” Dowinic said.
“The Chair believes it looks very nice on the Lady . . . ”
“Can we cut out all the third-person references,” I snapped in exasperation.
The question was laid on the table and referred to the House Parliamentarian. “Members of either House may address others as ‘you’ or by their actual names, and may refer to themselves as ‘I’ for purposes of fictional proceedings that occur in stupid blog posts in order to save typing.”
“Go ahead, Ellen,” said the Chair.
“I believe the Senate Bill is defective and requires a second reading and needs to be engrossed,” she said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because it’s totally icky and gross and as a boy’s bill it probably has cooties on it.”
That’s the kind of transvaluation of values/reverse sexism you have to deal with in this day and age.
“What say you?” the Speaker said to me gruffly–probably hoping for an all-night bill mark-up session with my adversary.
“I will not be intimidated by procedural fooforaw, Mr. Speaker,” I said.
“This is a severe breach of decorum,” the Speaker said. “I urge you to withdraw your remarks.”
“I will not, and I won’t kowtow to you either, Mr. Speaker!”
There was an audible gasp in the chamber, and the Speaker glared at me with rage suppressed only because Robert’s Rules of Order required him to. “You think you’re man enough to take me on?” he seethed.
“Yeah,” I snapped right back at him. “Ya know why?”
“I’m a guy–I had bigger speakers than you when I was in college!”