An International Life of Crime

The State of New Jersey just passed a new law requiring pet owners to restrain their pets in the car.  It’s become known as the Seamus law, after Mitt Romney’s dog Seamus who famously rode to Canada on the roof of Mitt’s car.

Now I have mixed feelings about this law.  It was designed to keep primarily dogs from distracting the driver.  Which is a good thing.  But I’m worried that it will lead to a crime wave.

Because restraining my dog led me to bribe an official of the French government.  Somehow I eluded authorities and remain a free woman.  But there is a lesson here.  And that lesson is this:

Restraint results in a loss of freedom

Yes, it’s true.  I am profound.  And awesome.  And a hardened criminal.

So what happened, Elyse? you say, wondering if you really want to know about my life of crime.  And you know I’m going to tell you.

*   *   *

When we got Cooper in 1998, we owned a Toyota Picnic, a little six seat van not available in the U.S.  It was kind of a vomit van, actually, because it was well known to induce vomiting by anyone who traveled with us.  We kept a large supply of cleaning supplies with us at all times.

Anyway, I read an article about how, if you stop suddenly, while traveling at 60 mph, a 50 lb Springer Spaniel dog will be traveling significantly faster as he flies through the car.  He will, in fact, become a projectile and might end up killing your kid.

Now I liked the dog a lot even at that early stage.  But I didn’t really relish the idea of the dog killing my kid to whom I was quite attached.  So, to scorn and jeers from John, I bought Cooper a special doggie seat belt that attached to the seatbelt of the seat behind the driver’s.

Cooper, however, did not approve of this new restraint.  I presume I hadn’t adequately educated him on the importance of self-restraint.  Because he ate his restraint.  And he had started eating the seatbelt too when I realized what was happening and released the rebel.  Who then happily sat wherever he wanted in the back of the vomit van.

Fortunately, Cooper hadn’t really done much damage to the seatbelt.  There were only a few bites taken out of it; it worked perfectly well and was not a safety hazard.

But when we moved across the border into France a couple of years later, well, we had to have the car inspected.  And the French car inspectors are famous for flunking Americans.  According to my husband, anyway.  And so I faced the villains alone.

Now, before you jump all over my husband for sending me into the lion’s den, well there is something you should know.  My husband cannot lie.  He cannot stretch the truth.  He cannot exaggerate.  Worse in this case, he would not have been able to restrain himself from explaining to the inspector that it really was not a safety issue.

Me, well, I’m different.  I grew up getting away with high crimes and misdemeanors.  I rarely got caught, and when I did, well, I got out of it. I’ve had practice.

So whenever we needed to deal with the French government, well, it was all up to me.

I drove to wherever it was, produced my paperwork, and waited my turn.  Truthfully, I was nervous.  I didn’t want to have to spend $1 zillion replacing a seat belt (car repairs in Switzerland/France are tres cher).  So I fidgeted with the container of mints in my pocket.  Tic Tacs.

When my turn came, I was outside with the inspector, chatting to him.  He was a young guy, and was nice and helpful as I tried to have a chatty conversation with him in my pigeon French. In fact, he couldn’t have been nicer to me.

Plus, the car was in great shape, clean and nearly perfectly maintained.  He found nothing wrong on the outside.  Then he opened the front passenger side, and tested the seat belt.  He closed the door and went to the rear passenger seat, and tested that one.

I started to sweat.  The chewed one was next.

He went around and opened the rear driver’s side door.  And that’s when I did it.

“Tic Tac?” I asked him, holding out the container.

“Oui, merci, madame,” he responded, closing that door without looking at the damaged seat belt.  He took a Tic Tac, and proceeded to inspect the driver’s seat belt.

My car passed inspection with flying colors.

And I continued to live a life of crime in France, just outside of Geneva for two years.

*   *   *

So, if you are going to be driving through New Jersey with your dog you have two choices:

Restrain him or buy yourself a three-pack of Tic Tacs.


Filed under Cooper, Criminal Activity, Driving, Fashion, Geneva Stories, Humor, Law

83 responses to “An International Life of Crime

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  3. Very clever…..very clever.


  4. cooper

    As a Jersey-ite, i can safely say my dog will not be harnessed in the car. He/she would just chew through the straps anyway…and then gnaw on the cop’s arm if I got stopped…


  5. Oh, Elyse, great distraction and timing! Timing is the key isn’t it?


  6. GOF

    I’ve heard many stories about the various things women use to distract Officials of all sorts….but this is the first time I’ve heard about Tic Tacs.
    Good story… restrains will no doubt be legislated in due course…..I’ll have to find a harness for my pet mouse.


    • Wait. I’m not the first woman to distract an official? Damn. But I probably did it with the least damage to my saintly reputation, so that’s something.

      Glad you liked the story, GOF. And I bet you could restrain your pet mouse pretty effectively with a hair scrunchie!


  7. You, an international criminal master-mind? – I buy that. But a tic-tac as an effective bribe? Doesn’t seem possible. You’d think it would take at least Godiva chocolates to distract the jaded palate of a Frenchman.


  8. Tic Tac? Hahaha, classic! I enjoyed your post and your site is great!


  9. Y’know, I can’t say as I’m surprised at this. It’s always the quiet, reserved, mild-mannered types we have to keep an eye out for.


    • How did I miss this comment? Or did I reply to it in a reply bubble only to have it vanish to, ummmmm, blogspot maybe?

      But Darla, no one has accused me of being quiet, reserved OR mild mannered in many years (which reminds me of another post I’ve been thinking of writing). It us loud mouths that get away with stuff because everybody wants to get rid of us!


  10. Freedom to Dogs Worldwide!:)


  11. They just call it Seamus because of the story about Mitt, who stuck his dog on the roof many years ago. Seamus, however, was restrained.

    The law is actually the result of actions taken by the family of a man who was killed when he was hit by an oncoming car whose driver was distracted when his dog jumped into his lap.

    But you’re right. I don’t think anybody uses common sense any more.


  12. Why do we keep passing laws because someone – some individual – has no common sense? A dog on the roof? Slap the driver on the roof and put the dog back inside the car. Nuff said!


  13. It is the little things in life that get you through. That and a masterful criminal mind!

    Love the new gravitar, Susan!


  14. Wow, Elyse. You know just about everything worth knowing. I am impressed!


  15. the curtain raiser

    Maybe Cooper can get a job as a restraint product tester. And Tic Tacs could be the new Amex, never leave home without one :). Great story and diversion skills!


    • Poor old Cooper is well past retirement age — he is 14 (100 in dog years) :(. And he doesn’t have many teeth left!

      As for Tic Tacs, yes, never, never do battle without them!


  16. John Erickson

    So what you’re saying is, your dog has no restraint when it comes to eating restraints. (Rimshot.)
    I’m surprised they never used the public-service message of “Belt your dog”. I’ve had a few that I would be VERY willing to comply with that message! 😉 (I’m kidding, I would never hit my dog – unless he hit me first. Seriously. I have bitten dogs in the past. And one even got rabies. Okay, that’s not true – he just got REALLY pissed! 😀 )


    • My dog has no restraint. He is actually an incredibly passive resistant type, except when it comes to chewing himself out of situations he doesn’t like.

      Poor Cooper is now on his last legs, so I am enjoying thinking of him as the young whippersnapper he once was.


      • John Erickson

        Gimme a yell on that sad, future day. We can commiserate over beloved pets and get properly sappy, and I can try to ease your pain with tales of tree-climbing Dingoes and Border Collies terrified of sheep. 😀


  17. Careful. It may lead to a life of crime.


  18. And to think. All this time you’ve been my writing mentor. You. A hardened criminal. I gotta go drink now…


  19. I’m going to try this at my next inspections since they typically cost me $800 to get that check engine light turned off.


    • It might work. Or, here’s another story for you.

      We actually had that problem with a VW Passat while we were in Europe. We took it over with us, and the check engine light went on. They didn’t know what to do about it. It was on for 4 years. We brought it back to the US and the mechanic reached under the seat and removed a fuse. Light’s out!


  20. You are an evil genius.


  21. John-Paul

    Are you being paid by Tic Tac to start some kind of viral web campaign? Is Tic Tac trying to be cool now? Street?


    • Do you know, I’ve actually tried to find out how to tell the Tic Tac folks about what happened for years. But like most companies, they don’t want to hear from customers. Their loss! Wouldn’t this story make a great TV commercial?


  22. Good move, Cooper – few things make me happier than spying dogs having the time of their lives watching the world from car windows! And even better move, Elyse – I bet your name is recorded somewhere for being the only American not to have flunked inspection 🙂


    • You know, you’re right. I am undoubtedly the only American to have ever passed that inspection. But it was all because of the Tic Tacs.


  23. Elyse, the Tic Tac distraction was a master stroke of sheer brilliance, and makes me smile from ear to ear! 😀

    But as a life long dog lover, I’m glad that I don’t live in the State of New Jersey, because I’d hate that law and I’d constantly break it, and probably end up getting strip searched by the police.

    This is the kind of law that gives government regulation a bad name, and is just more fodder for the “deregulate everything!” fanatics, so they can run wild and cause another Wall Street meltdown and global economic banking crisis.

    If people didn’t drive like distracted and passive aggressive idiots, we wouldn’t have to worry so much about dogs flying into children when a vehicle crashes. But so often today, the obvious is so elusive, and common sense is all but nonexistent.

    A wise man once said to a bunch of idiots from 2,000 years ago. “Ye strain out the gnat and swallow the camel”. But 2,000 years later, the idiots still aren’t listening.


    • I’m glad the story made you smile, Chris. So is Cooper.

      There seems to be both an absence of common sense and an inability to accept consequence in our society. And people do so many dumb things. Including, I must admit, trying to put a seat belt on a dog. In my defense, Cooper is a 50 lb English Springer Spaniel, the subject of the doggie projectile in the article. John still teases me about the incident.


  24. I usually travel with Einsteins Skeleton, a left over Halloween Car decoration, who is restrained by a working seatbelt in the passenger seat. He would make a fantastic projectile, though, shooting through the air over traffic and crashing thru some poor Vomit Van drivers window, landing in her lap. What to think, what to think?

    Your crime wave is impressive. Have you kept up the good work since then? I wonder if using TicTacs to bribe Toll Booth workers would get me out of paying these excessive NJ tolls?


    • Spectra, I’m pretty sure that when I get pulled over in New Jersey and tell the police “I’m sorry officer. I was just looking around at the folks in the other cars, trying to find Spectra and Einstein’s Skeleton” that I will need much more than Tic Tacs.

      As for the tolls, I fear Tic Tacs simply won’t due. Unless you can put a package into an EasyPass holder and point to it as you wiz through the tolls, as if there is something wrong with your transponder.

      Oh dear. I think I just solidified my reputation as an international criminal.


  25. Better hope no one at Interpol is reading.


    • I hope so too, Bry. But it has been 12 years and I’m pretty sure that the statute of limitations has expired by now. And I’m quite sure that any evidence that was once in the system of the bribe’s recipient has long since, ummm, passed.


  26. Michelle Gillies

    Do you think Altoids or Mentos would work? Perhaps it is the unassuming nature of Tic Tacs?


    • I’m sorry to break this to you, Michelle, but I’m pretty sure it is just Tic Tacs/ Only Tic Tacs have that the opening with the “hair trigger;” you can just whip them out without interrupting the flow of the conversation.


  27. I usually carry Tic Tacs in my purse, but now that I know they have another use, I’ll buy them in bulk.


  28. bigsheepcommunications

    Fascinating glimpse into the mind of hardened criminal.


  29. You’re bravery and defiance in the face of duly appointed representatives of law and order is inspiring!
    I only hope the prosecutor doesn’t read this post.


    • Thanks, Guap. Yes, I am an impressive international criminal, hiding behind the facade of a normal working woman. It is a great disguise!

      And I hope the prosecutor doesn’t read it too. You’ll notice I didn’t include a French version!


  30. Doggy restraints! What next?

    No more heads out the window, ears and jowls flapping in the wind. Strings of spittle flying into the window of the car next to you as they wave at the nice doggy 🙂

    I knew there was something I adored about you (beyond your most excellent writing), international criminal extraordinaire! Mistress of the conversational flirt and distract. Skilled in the art talking your way out of government silliness. I am so impressed, really.


    • It is tyranny, plain and simple. I guess when I drive through NJ later this summer I will have to put Cooper on the roof. Because nobody knows better how to avoid being tyrants than the GOP and their standard dog bearer, Mitt.

      I’m so glad you approve of my life of crime.


  31. Hi,
    Loved the story, and how lucky you were that you had the Tic Tacs. 😀
    We don’t restrain our dog in the car, if it is a long drive, she happily lays along the back seat and sleeps all the way home, a bit hard for her to do that if she is restrained. 🙂


    • Thanks, Mags.

      I always come prepared to do battle whenever dealing with government entities. I dress nicely, wear nice shoes and carry Tic Tacs. This, in fact, is the secret to my success.

      Cooper rides in the back of our SUV and doesn’t cross the barrier. There may be people whose dogs would cooperate with a seat belt, but I’m pretty sure they are not real, live dogs!


  32. And I’m wondering what your husband said after you told him the news of passing! Meanwhile, NJ’s GOP governor signed this law? The governor of the party that says we have too many laws?


    • Isn’t it an amazing thing that the GOP is so consistently inconsistent?

      As for what John said, well, he encouraged me. I always dealt with the French authorities (another story for another day). But I think all marriages should have one spouse who can get away with stuff, and another who can’t. As long as I am never the one who can’t!


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