We have become a nation of finks, or whistle-blowers, or informants, or rats, or concerned citizens if you prefer. Call us what you want. We are it.
Thanks to economic problems, the fuel crisis, and the general mistrust of government everybody nowadays is a cop. Or acting like the snoopy neighbor who keeps tabs on things with spyglass and notebook. Everybody is tattling on somebody. Or so it seems. And our government loves and encourages it all. It takes a lot of heat off the government and gives taxpayers something to do.
Today we move a step further down the road. Take your thermometers.
For some time now, with the blessings of Uncle Sam, it has been possible, indeed downright patriotic, to blow the whistle on friend, foe or stranger for committing some real or imagined crime against society.
Thanks to government programs and funds, any man, woman or child in America can now grab the telephone and - toll-free, yet - tell all. Somebody on the other end, usually a paid U.S. state or local government worker, is waiting to hear your confession of somebody else's transgressions. And we haven't seen anything yet.
For instance, Uncle Sam now wants to know if you know somebody who is:
Using regular gas in a car built to take the more expensive, and often unavailable, unleaded gas.
Pretending to be "even" when the state has decreed you are really "odd"
Smoking something other than tobacco.
Smoking or smoldering in an elevator.
Tearing the "do not remove" labels from pillows.
Anxious to buy or sell a sawed-off shotgun.
Reusing uncancelled postage stamps.
And now, using hot water that is too hot!!
Yes, fellow crimestoppers, add to the list of federally approved no-nos. There is a new hotline where we can report friends, relatives and neighbors who knowingly and without regard for the Constitution or the American Way Of Life keep their hot water heaters at settings over 105 degrees.
The new federal policy, which will save us barrels of oil, is to keep everybody hot in summer and cold in winter. Department of Energy officials first considered doing it the other way round until it was pointed out that would represent no change. So it is to be hot in sumer, cold in winter.
Under the new federal guidelines, we informants can have somebody stuck with a $10,000 fine if they use water that is too hot (above 105 degrees); or set their air-conditioners lower than 78 degrees. This winter, the heater maximum will be 65 degrees which citizen-watchers and federal inspectors also will be required to uphold.
Like all such broad-encompassing federal programs, there are exceptions to the heat-cool regulations. Health officials say that water should be heated to around 140-160 degrees for sanitary reasons, so restaurants and home owners can use those temperatures to wash dishes.
Also, since people go to hospitals in the hope of living to come out of them, places like that can cool to below 78 degrees. However, Federal judges, who have demanded exemptions for courtrooms (on grounds that juries-in-heat will hang everybody) are still awaiting a ruling.
For common folk, swimming pools have also been exempted from the federal temperatures controls. Since it is well known that many poor people have indoor swimming pools, the government says they may be allowed to use higher air and water temperatures during winter.
There are other exemptions to the program. But enough things and people are covered so that it should take the government years to run down all violators and arrest them, even if each head-of-household informs once a day on somebody. To make sure the program is a success the goverment will pour lots of money into it. Seed funds, so far, total only $7 million. It will distributed to state and local governments since Uncle Sam doesn't have enough people on the payroll to take all the anticipated tips about water temperatures exceeding 105 degrees.
Let us all pledge not to sheath our thermometers until the oil crisis has been licked, the Arabs have been brought to their knees and a man is no longer judge by whether his tags are odd or even. Until that happy day returns to America, keep your water lukewarm.