2006-11-08 / Editorials

Op-ed

One Guy's View Of The Trans Fat Controversy
BY JOHN J. COX

I was having a cold beer at the Shillelagh Tavern here in Queens when my good friend, Vernon Jackson, entered and sat on the stool beside me. He looked haggard after a hard day's work, so I bought him a beer. "Thanks," he said. "I guess we should enjoy this while we still can."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Well," he said, "I've been reading in the papers that the city now wants to force restaurants to cook food a certain way."

"You mean," I said, "the controversy over the use of trans fat?"

"That's right, said Vernon. "The way I see it, it won't be long before they ban beer, too."

I could see he was irritated, so I tried to calm him down. "It's not so bad, Vernon. The city is just concerned about people's health, that's all."

Vernon became more agitated. He gulped down his beer and placed the glass on the bar for a refill. "Listen," he said, "it's the principle. I know fat is no good

for you, just like cigarettes are no good for you, and beer is no good for you, and lots of other things are no good for you. But the point is, who are these people to be telling me what I can eat? I like fast food just the way it is, and if it kills me, fine. And if it doesn't kill me, then something else will, anyway."

The bartender poured us another round. Vernon took a long sip and continued: "It's really a matter of philosophy," he said. "I want to experience the fullness of life. I'm not going to live forever, so if I enjoy something why can't I have it? If I want to eat three Big Macs a day, wash them down with a case of beer and smoke big fat cigars all day long, what's so wrong about that? I like those things. They make me happy. And now some stuffed shirt in city government wants to deprive me of them. I ask you, what is the purpose of government anyway, to make you happy or unhappy? They ought to call this country the Stalinist States of America." Vernon finished the beer and slid the glass across the bar for another refill.

"I don't know what you're so upset about," I said. "After all, there are all kinds of laws that prohibit people from doing things that make them happy. Suppose you like to murder people. Does that mean you ought to have the right to do it?"

"Look," said Vernon, "they also have a law that makes suicide a crime. But if you kill yourself, who are they going to prosecute?" I had to admit he had a point.

Vernon withdrew a pack of Camels from his shirt pocket.

"Not in here!" warned the bartender. "Take the smoking outside."

"See what I mean?" Vernon asked.

I joined Vernon outside the bar while he finished his cigarette. As we turned to go back inside Vernon flicked his butt into the gutter. He failed to notice that a Sanitation cop was across the street. Vernon was issued a summons.

John J. Cox is a resident of Woodside.

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