Back in junior high a particularly ambitious math teacher once used a 100-metre running race allegory as a basic introduction to the Theory of Relativity.
Imagine, he said, you have run the first 50 metres of the race. You then have half the distance between the start and the finish line left to run.
It was a concept that was relatively easy for us to wrap our junior-high heads around. Our eyes not yet glazed with confusion, he kept going.
That second half of the race, in turn, can also be halved.
That distance, in turn, can also be halved. And so on, down to micro-miniscule distances that can technically still be halved to infinity, meaning the finish line can never truly be reached.
But the thing is, youve still crossed the finish line, you might have even won the race. Broken the tape.
How can that be? Is it that the finish line is not fixed, but is relative to its surroundings, and to you, for that matter?
Tout est relative.
Its all relative.
Try explaining that to the officer that saw fit to pull me over at cash cow junction just west of McKeevers in Alpine Meadows recently.
At 7 a.m. on a sunny weekday morning I had brought my car to what I thought was a relatively appropriate stop for the time, place and situation. The officer did not concur, and snapped me out of my morning drive reverie by emerging from his roadside thicket and chasing me down with lights flashing. Shaken from the adrenaline combined with my de rigueur morning caffeine that I was in the process of consuming, I pulled my humble hatchback over just before the turnoff going south on Highway 99, produced my drivers license and registration and waited.
Waited. Waited some more.
Was there a problem, officer?
Oh most definitely.
Seems my chronic lack of attention to detail had resulted in the grievous error of forgetting to notify ICBC about my change in address, which resulted in me not getting a warning regarding my license expiry. I was overdue by three weeks.
There were three fines due for three infractions: the unsatisfactory stop, the expired license and the old address on the license. I got em all.
Lets just say that Im now out close to one weeks pay.
Now, lets just get something straight here in no way am I pleading exoneration. But relative to the infractions, the fines dont seem to fit the "crime." Did I cruise through the stop sign at busy midday, narrowly missing a boy scout guiding a senior citizen through the crosswalk while headbanging along to Guns N Roses Welcome to the Jungle ? If that was the case, throw the book at me. Fine my ass to the moon.
Does a quiet rolling stop in the deserted early hours deserve the same fine? And in terms of the license debacle, once its been established that one infraction bred the other, is it entirely necessary to apply the redundant fine, just because you can?
The law, at its core, is relative. All crimes are relative to motive. Kill your husband simply because hes late for dinner? Evil and punishable. Kill your husband because hes been beating the crap out of you all your married life? Deserving of empathy and possible acquittal. No one would argue the relativity of the situation, its arguing the amount that earns lawyers and judges their keep. In other words, how wrong is this in light of the situation?
There can be degrees of "wrongness" even down at the laws lowest levels.
Last week a 19-year-old Subway employee was fined $350 plus a $50 impound fee and threatened by RCMP with a Taser stun gun a potentially deadly weapon that pumps debilitating electric current into the body through wire barbs for riding his skateboard in Whistler Village just after 1 a.m.
I know you should never judge a book by its cover, but I think its fair to say if hes a 19-year-old fast-food employee he wasnt on his skateboard because his BMW was in the shop.
The cops say their Taser threat was due to his resisting arrest by picking up the skateboard and trying to run away possibly because of the cold sweat that broke out when he realized he could be down up to $2,000. How many club combos would a sandwich artist need to create to work that one off?
Skateboarding in the village can be dangerous. Blatantly grinding a handrail in the busy midday while an expectant mother is trying to get up the stairs to her condo? Fine the callous shredders ass to the moon. Burly Hells Angels hopped up on crystal meth resisting arrest? Brandish your Taser.
Some kid on his way home after a late night shift?
Let it roll.