No crime in punishment

Kevin Cowherd

October 14, 1992|By Kevin Cowherd

To give you an idea where I stand on law and order, let me say this:

It was a dark day in this country's history when public flogging was outlawed.

Swift and commensurate justice, that's what we're talking about here.

Take this scenario, OK? A man breaks into a flower shop and steals a bouquet of baby's breath and an inexpensive box of plant food.

While making his getaway through a back window, he accidentally shatters a pane of glass. The sound alerts a pair of Tactical Squad patrolmen nearby. After a harrowing chase through back alleys, the cops catch the thief, who turns out to be surly and combative, with remarkably strong wrists from a lifetime of rooting around in tough, loamy soil.

Now here's the good part.

As the two cops lay in a sweaty, exhausted heap after subduing the crook, there is no talk of Miranda warnings.

There is no talk of arraignments, or the setting of bail, or trial by judge or jury.

Instead, the thief is simply dragged to the nearest public gathering place (a busy intersection, popular saloon, etc.) and thrown up against a wall.

One of the cops then shouts: "Hear ye, hear ye. My man here was just caught climbing out of Flowers N' Things with a bouquet of baby's breath and a $2.99 box of Grow-Rite for perennials.

"His punishment will now be carried out."

And with that, the "defendant" is given 20 lashes across his bare back with a fierce-looking bullwhip while the crowd cheers wildly and vendors circulate selling hot dogs and Italian ices.

There. You don't think that thief will think twice about breaking into another flower shop to feed his baby's breath habit? I assure you he will.

The same method could clear up the ongoing national disgrace that has become our supermarket checkout lines.

I was reminded the other day of how far things have deteriorated as I waited in the express lane at my local food store.

A sign over our heads said the lane was for purchases of 10 items or less.

But apparently the large woman in front of me couldn't read. Or maybe she just didn't care what the sign said, because she had 16 items in her shopping basket.

I know because I counted them. This is what I do when I get stuck behind these people.

Which happens all the time.

Anyway, the store was very busy and the line was long. Maybe that's why the man directly behind me gently pointed out to the large woman that the lane was for purchases of 10 items or less.

Well. Snapping her head around, the woman unleashed a torrent of abusive language at the poor man that would make a stevedore blush.

Right away, the rest of us in line were thinking: psycho.

Me, I kept waiting for her to pull a large butcher knife from her handbag, or to rip open her raincoat to reveal a dozen sticks of dynamite strapped to her body.

I've said it a thousand times, but it bears repeating: There are more psychos roaming around in supermarkets than just about anywhere else. Don't ask me why that is, but it's true.

Anyway, the bottom line to the whole incident was this: The large woman paid for her purchases with no trouble at all.

Oh, yeah, the cashier gave her a look, but that was about it. After getting her change, the large woman even went so far as to turn around and flash a malevolent stare at the rest of us.

At this point, I was about ready to hit the floor, convinced she was going to lob a hand grenade our way.

The point is, if the supermarkets really want to stop this kind of nonsense, here's what they do:

When the large woman plops down her 16 items in front of the express lane cashier, the cashier doesn't say a word.

Instead, she leans over and pushes a silent alarm button marked: Code Red. Within seconds, several burly security guards materialize out of nowhere and haul the large woman away.

A few seconds later, an announcement is made over the public address system that a flogging is about to take place in the front of the store, directly across from the Matchlight charcoal display.

The flogging is then carried out expeditiously, as an example to others that this kind of rude behavior is not tolerated.

As for the exact punishment itself, well, it doesn't have to be 20 lashes like the flower thief received. After all, the large woman wasn't stealing anything.

On the other hand, her offense was far more annoying.

Ten lashes sounds about right -- unless she's done this sort of thing before.

Then you throw the book away and go with whatever feels right.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.