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We're all choked up over saving 10 dollars

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By MARY JO MELONE

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 2, 2000


Those emissions tests sure were a pain. You had a month to get the mission accomplished, but the month was over before you knew it. I once had to beg and smile my way out of a ticket for driving with an expired tag because I had forgotten to have the test done.

I hadn't gotten the test done because when I drove to the testing place, which was on the other side of town, in a not-so-great neighborhood, the testing place was closed. The nerve of them. Another time, the line of cars waiting to be tested wrapped around the block. And wouldn't you know it, every year I managed to get into the slowest line.

The great minds of Florida government heard my pain over this outrageous inconvenience. Because they did, and because they think government is an evil on the order of an infectious disease raging through a Third World country, they did away with the emission tests in Tampa Bay.

As of Saturday, when the testing ended, I saved a whole 10 bucks, the cost of the test. More importantly, though, I had more freedom from government intrusion.

Yeeha!

It may be the freedom to wheeze, gag, cough, choke on mucous, gasp for air and go into a heart-pounding panic on the way to the doctor's because I think I'm about to die.

I have asthma.

Thousands of Floridians do. For reasons nobody has a handle on, asthma is increasing at epidemic rates.

The people who suffer the most are the very old and the very young, the poor and the non-white, but they need their freedom, too, whether or not they appreciate it.

My own suspicion is that some of them won't. That compassionate conservative in Tallahassee and his followers in the Legislature will be stunned at this ingratitude. Poor dears. How can they be expected to understand? Their health insurance is gold plated.

They also won't understand why some of us think decisions could be made more wisely by bags of vegetables placed in chairs around a conference table in the Capitol.

First Jeb Bush and friends killed the emissions testing.

Then they admitted the critics who said Tampa Bay has some of the state's dirtiest air were right.

Then they asked EPA to give Tampa Bay a year to make the air hunky-dory. The truth can now be told: Jeb has a secret plan to pull Mighty Joe Young out of retirement and have him huff and puff and blow away all the ozone.

Surely a gorilla could not do any worse than a Republican.

The GOP must be a mighty sick crowd. They take excessive pleasure out of being jeered at. What else would lead them to stand up against cleaner air?

The only other possibility is that the rest of us will never have enough personal responsibility to suit them so they have to keep rubbing our noses in it any way they can. Why not make the condition of the air we breathe a learning opportunity?

The child so severely asthmatic he's afraid to play sports will just have to toughen up and learn to cope with his illness, even if it is worse than it would be if the air were cleaner.

The elderly person with respiratory problems in a city without emissions tests who will end up in the hospital more often must accept that we all kick the bucket sooner or later -- some of us sooner.

And people like me who contracted their asthma from smoking must recognize that our illness is just punishment for our bad choices.

Bad?

I loved smoking so much I still dream about it. In my dreams, I have it both ways. I smoke but still say with complete accuracy that I don't.

Freud would have a field day messing with me.

Instead it's Jeb.

Praise the Lord. And pass me my oxygen tank.

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