Town legislates against “jaytexting” and other “mindless” infractions

Officials in the small Portland, Oregon, suburb of Samadee passed a by-law in late March that listed a series of minor but punishable new infractions. The city’s so-called “Citizen Awareness” campaign is designed to stem the rising tide of what court documents describe as “public mindlessness.”

Since police began enforcing the by-law last Monday, seventeed Samadee residents have received tickets for the six different offenses it lists:

  • texting in a crosswalk;
  • falling off the curb while on the phone;
  • speaking loudly on the phone in an enclosed public space;
  • blocking entry by standing in the doorway of a public building;
  • knocking people over by not watching where you’re going, and
  • jaytexting or jaytalking (wandering into the street while using your phone).

The by-law is currently applicable only in city-held, public spaces, but proprietors like Sherman Oaks, who operates the Samadee Duplex, would like to be able to enforce it against patrons who don’t turn off their smartphones at the start of his theater’s films. “How many screens can you look at the same time anyway?” he asks. “Kids.”

The penalty for each mindless infraction is $10 per, though violators can opt to instead making a public apology at City Hall. These apologies are broadcast to town via local cable and a dedicated website:

Councilman Jared Miller, who proposed the by-law, says that he was “just fed up with people’s behavior on the streets. They’re bumping into each other, making it difficult for people to get in and out of our buildings, causing traffic problems, and making it difficult to hear yourself think when they’re gabbing in the line at the post office.”

Several Samadee citizens, gathered outside of City Hall, indicated the clear town-wide division on these new tickets. Sally McCready, a 45-year resident of the town, opined: “I’m all for it if it means the idiots around here are going to grow up and watch where they’re going.”

Tim Whittaker, who received a ticket for jaytexting last Friday, chimed in for the opposition. “Whatever. What I do with my mind is my own business. I’m not paying this,” he said, crumpling his ticket and throwing it on the ground.

Happy April Fools’ Day!