Don’t walk on the grass.
Don’t tip the cows.
Do not ride the manatees.
A woman in Florida has just turned herself in for riding a manatee, which is apparently a second-degree misdemeanor.
Specifically, as NBC News notes, the statute runs: “It is unlawful for any person at any time, by any means, or in any manner intentionally or negligently to annoy, molest, harass, or disturb or attempt to molest, harass, or disturb any manatee.” Now the woman faces a $500 fine. Someone get her a Kickstarter!
As a friend quipped on Twitter, I never wanted to ride a manatee until I discovered it was illegal 45 seconds ago.
This is always how it works. You are perfectly fine not eating fruit from that one tree until someone tells you you can’t. You are perfectly happy to drink beverages at the movies that are smaller than your head until the mayor insists that this is the wrong course to pursue. You had not the slightest desire to read “Ulysses” until someone came up with the brilliant idea of banning it.
You don’t want to ride the manatees until the instant someone says you can’t. Then it’s all you can think about. Then you have to.
“Why would you want to ride a manatee?”
“Because it is there,” you say. “Because it is there, and it is illegal.”
But riding a manatee is not for the faint of heart. And nature experts point out that this is not sort of thing the manatee really wants you to do. Do not mistake their slow-moving, genial-seeming demeanor for consent. It isn’t.
Fortunately, for those of us who lack the intestinal fortitude to ride the sea cow, there are other options. Look at the statute. It is not just riding the manatee that is illegal. You cannot annoy, molest, harass, or disturb the manatee. Or try to.
How hard can it be to annoy a manatee?
You can sidle up to the manatee at parties and say its hair looks “a lot better now, considering.” You can hum very softly behind the manatee as it rides the bus, then stop whenever the manatee turns around to see where the noise is coming from. You can send the manatee a lot of fundraising e-mails, asking for its renewed support this election season. You can send the manatee low-quality video of other manatees mating on the Discovery Channel with the note, “Is this YOU in the video? Looks sad.” You can text the manatee when it is in important meetings. You can get thoughtful birthday gifts from the manatee and leave them in restaurants. You can send the manatee e-mails with too few exclamation marks so the manatee worries that you are upset with it. You can hype the presidential debates to the manatee until both you and the manatee are in a frenzy.
You can do any number of things.
Fortunately, modern life abounds in ways to annoy. And someone has to do it. It’s illegal. And it’s there.