bad moods can stain, part I

n the city where i was born, it is believed that bad moods are a kind of pollution. they say that dank, shadowy places are breeding grounds for ill will, like still pools of water that encourage mosquitos to lay their eggs. arguments are said to leave traces of soot long after the hurt has been forgiven.

the city’s mayor came to power on what she called a “clean” platform, promising improved environmental care, safer streets, and a crack-down on corruption in the local government. she signed a host of new laws regulating trash disposal, water treatment, dog walking areas. the crux of the “clean laws,” however, was the “well-being act,” which forbade bad moods in public places. vicious arguments had to happen indoors, as did any cruel comments or excessive scowling. people were generally very good about slinking away when they felt a foul humor coming on. the policemen who directed traffic noted the license plate number of anyone screaming or cursing at other drivers, and they mailed a heavy fine to the owner.

a few months after the well-being act became law, you could sense that the air was fresher. it was a relief knowing you’d meet no angry words on your way to work or to the grocery store. but when winter came along, it was clear that there needed to be some modifications to the law. with the cold and snow, you couldn’t go outside to escape bad moods, you had to go on sitting at the cafe while the couple at the table next to yours quarreled. a new amendment to the law enforced designated bad-mood areas within public buildings. stores had a bad-mood checkout line, bars reserved booths for anyone in a bad mood, the last two rows of seats on any bus were for bad moods.

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