These darn transgressive Tacomas and these cockamamie high beams!

By Mabel Doge Luhan

My Easter was splendid, thanks for asking! In fact, just as soon as I’d beaten my face, the wheelman fired up the Packard Twelve just for the trip to Low Saturday’s evening mass!

That joyous night, from the back seat of my beloved tin lizzie, I suddenly saw something! A luminous apparition. A vision. A light. Was I receiving a supernatural message this Holy Week? 

I IMMEDIATELY CHECKED MY PILL BOX AND NO, I HAD NOT DOUBLE-DIPPED ON MY MIRTAZAPINE THAT MORNING. This was the blinding light promised by Prophet Tesfaye! In the back seat of the motor-car, I fell to my knees, and had to explain to my wheelman that it’s not yet time for his birthday gift and I’m just being worshipful!

As the light neared, I noticed that it was actually two lights. And between them was a symbol: an oval, with two ovals inside it. It passed by us, and the light disappeared. I could only see its parting message: TACOMA.

That was when it hit me. Disappointingly, I was not receiving an invitation to sainthood. I was not even having an LSD flashback. It was just headlamps. Damned headlamps. 

In Saipan, people often drive around with their high beams on all the time. Even worse, some people have aftermarket headlamps or headlamp bulbs that outright blind oncoming traffic.

Did you guys know that there are federal regulations for headlamps? And it’s outright illegal to replace your car’s headlamps with a different design of headlamps or bulbs. Meaning that if your car came with standard halogen headlamps, it’s illegal to put in HID or LED or blue-tinted or any other kind of headlamps. 

Besides the federal ban, there are CNMI regulations prohibiting driving with bright lights blinding traffic, or in general being a Dutch canoe about your illumination. 

And the amazing thing is DPS does absolutely nothing about clear violations of the federal and CNMI regulations. Officers drive right past clearly illegal, blinding headlamps. 

But should we expect any different, when there is federally illegal cockfighting out in the open in Saipan, and no one will do anything about it?

Like cockfighting, being a headlamp cock is no victimless crime. Other ladies’ wheelmen are blinded!  Those who cannot afford to employ wheelmen to operate motor-cars on their behalf are, dare I say it, themselves blinded! It’s unpleasant at the least, and causes accidents at the worst. Who knows how many of our traffic fatalities (including pedestrian fatalities) were caused by drivers who couldn’t see? Even after the lights pass, your eyes are still overwhelmed and adjusting — you can’t see right for a good thirty seconds.

Meanwhile, we continue hassling every car owner in the CNMI with the “annual safety inspection.” We all know why they have the annual safety inspection. In fact, BOOST took that principle to its logical conclusion: taking the people’s money and giving it to business cronies. Fine. We’ve gotten used to that in Saipan. 

The problem with the “safety inspection” though is it’s a lot worse than just requiring everyone to give $10 a year to cronies. It also requires people to spend time and gas to chase down those cronies, which often operate at unreliable hours — hours that tend to coincide with when those who need to work (pobrecitos!) are doing so. If you want to make everyone give $10 a year to cronies, do it more efficiently, and just add it to the car registration fee or tax bill. Because right now, the average person spends let’s say $5 in gas and $10 in lost wages to go through the entirely meaningless “safety inspection” ritual.

Does anyone believe there is any goal to this “safety inspection” other than a steady source of easy money for connected businesses? Has anyone ever heard of a car being failed by this safety inspection? Or of anyone fixing their car because of the safety inspection? 

Meanwhile, we have cops out on the streets, collecting salaries and burning fuel we paid for. They could be enforcing the important regulations: about blinding headlights, or ridiculously unsafe cars, or kids in the backs of pickup trucks. But they aren’t enforcing them. At all. And we put it upon a ridiculous once-a-year “safety inspection” to fix it all.

It’s a bit like our business regulation, isn’t it? We have zero enforcement of tax regulations or consumer protections or anti-trust. Zero. But we sure do have to go to a ton of different offices and pay a lot of fees/bribes/both to do business in the CNMI, don’t we? 

And yet once those businesses are up and running, they can just shine their blinding headlamps in all our eyes, can’t they? IPI case in point. And nobody does anything about it. CCC case in point.

Those headlamps aren’t just a metaphor. It really is important to get those dangerous, illegal headlamps off the roads. Just yesterday, my wheelman’s glass eye nearly caught fire, and it wasn’t even caused by my new strapless sundress! Not entirely, anyway.


Mabel Doge Luhan is a woman of loose morals. She resides in Kagman V, where she pursues her passions of crocheting, beatboxing, and falconry.

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