On January 14th, 1993, then St. Louis Post-Dispatch staff reporter, Virgil Tipton, wrote a story about smoking employees faced with curbs on smoking in the County Government Center in Clayton, an effort spearheaded by former St. Louis County Councilman Kurt Odenwald. I thought the tone was overly sympathetic to the smokers, and wrote to Mr. Tipton expressing my concerns, to which he was good enough to reply. Subsequently, I wrote a parody, substituting alcohol for cigarettes, and sent it to him.
While tidying up recently, which I do every decade or so, I discovered both the original story on page 3A and the (unpublished) parody in my letter to Mr. Tipton. I reproduce both below for your enjoyment, preceded by part of my letter to him.
Excerpt from Martin Pion’s letter to Virgil Tipton:
“Before you read on, I should say that I don’t think you handled the story any differently from the average reporter, but that’s the problem.
Suppose instead you were doing a story on drunken drivers, and a new county law proposing stiffer regulations. But instead of seeking out the survivors of collisions with drunken drivers, or the families of deceased victims, you instead went into bars looking for drunken drivers, or stopped a drunk about to get into a car and drive off, and interviewed those individuals to gauge the effect of the new law. And the picture you ran was not of the victims of drunken drivers, but drunken drivers themselves knocking back beers in a bar. In fact, the story would more or less focus on drunken drivers, and show them as the victims. It might run something like this:” (Please see below newspaper article.)
County’s Plan To Curb Smoking Burns Some Workers
County Plan Means Trouble Brewing for Drunken Drivers
By Virgin O. N. Tipsy*
Of the Post-Dispatch staff
Two things were coming to a head in the county bar Wednesday. One was Caverne Burpp’s beer. The other was Caverne Burpp because of further restrictions proposed by the county council on drunken driving. Burpp claimed the proposals were nothing short of discriminatory. Burpp said trucks and speeders caused more deaths and accidents than drunken drivers. “All they get is a slap on the hand – and that’s the end of it,” Burpp said. “What will be our next right taken away?”
The proposal, expected to be introduced at today’s council meeting, would ban drunken drivers on county roads, including those around the airport, except on specially designated roads with guard rails to separate them from non-drunken drivers.
Under the county’s current ordinance, drunken drivers can drive only in the outside lane of all county roads, except when passing.
The backdrop to this measure is a report issued last week by the Department of Transportation. The report says that drunken driving is responsible for almost 20,000 road deaths a year.
The idea of the measure is obvious – to keep drunken drivers away from sober drivers, said Councilman Curt S. See, who is proposing the measure.
“When drunken drivers drive on public highways, they are a hazard to those who don’t drive drunk and who don’t want their lives endangered,” said See.
See said drunken drivers would not lose out entirely because the measure allows for some designated drunken driver lanes with guard rails.
“I do think that people who drive drunk have some rights, at least, that’s how I see it” See said.
But if setting up separate lanes for drunken drivers proves impossible, See said he would move ahead with the measure anyway. In that case, drunken drivers would still be permitted to drive drunk, provided they didn’t do it on county roads.
During the happy hour at a tavern near the St. Louis County Council Government Center on Wednesday, drunken drivers put away pints of draught while vowing to put away See’s proposal.
“It’s not fair,” said Tipsy Todd of Florissant. “I don’t tell people not to pass me because I don’t like being passed. If I didn’t drive drunk I’d feel the same way.”
Across from the The Drunken Drivers’ Tavern, in a hospital emergency room, Bev E. Rage quietly celebrated on a soda.
Rage, who quit drunken driving three years ago after being involved in a near-fatal collision, recently ended up in the hospital again after being hit by a drunken driver that morning. She said she had her car reinforced front and back but was hit broadside at a stop light.
“I think they should have a place to drive drunk – but I think it should be separated by a guard rail,” Rage said. “They can drive stoned 200 miles a day if they want, but I don’t want them coming at me.”
*A parody, by Martin Pion