Merriam Webster’s online dictionary defines ‘shipshape’ as ‘trim, tidy’, and illustrates usage with: “I like to keep my car shipshape.” From a road safety perspective, this example is eminently praiseworthy. But whether it succeeds in conjuring up an accurate picture in the minds of most word-checkers is not quite so certain. This is not because what it says is completely unusual. Lots of folks really do keep their cars ‘shipshape’. But, generally speaking, the care that is taken with stowing luggage on airplanes or the way most pieces of furniture on a cruise liner are built in or tied on in some fashion more accurately denotes the term.
We tend to toss things into our cars —both on the front and back seats— without much thought. Hatchbacks and SUVS have trunk-like spaces that are open to the rest of the vehicle. Although many of these come with slideable or retractable covers, taking the time to actually use them can seem overly fussy, especially when you are hurrying.
It isn’t. In 2009, Road Rules wrote about a T-bone crash in which one driver’s fatal head injuries were caused by the impact from her laptop computer, which was sitting on the back seat of her car but became a powerful projectile when the crash occurred. This tragic story was a dramatic reminder that anything unsecured inside your vehicle can become a lethal projectile. Road Rules encouraged readers to take the time to make use of the many secure storage options in their vehicles including trunk hooks, mesh envelopes on seat backs and doors, and any number of various holders, tie-downs, cargo-nets, elastic cords and clips that either came with the vehicle or that can be acquired at a modest cost.
Vehicle clutter —stuff floating around on the floor and in open side pockets and trays and loosely tacked onto the dashboard— is also not symptomatic of ‘shipshapeness’. With this in mind, the recent story about Arieh Perecowicz’s court battle to defend his right to decorate his Montreal taxicab with personal mementos and keepsakes including photos, a flag, and a poppy seems miscast as freedom of expression matter. Between 2006 and 2008, Mr. Perecowicz was fined by the Bureau du Taxi $191 four times for decorating his cab contrary to a bylaw banning any “object or inscription that is not required for the taxi to be in service.”
Mr. Perecowicz objected to the fines on the grounds that the bylaw infringed his Charter right to freedom of expression. At the trial before a municipal court judge, a taxi inspector testified that Mr. Perecowicz’s cab was “the messiest she had seen in five years on the job.” Ultimately the court rejected the Charter argument, upheld the bylaw, and ordered Mr. Perecowicz to pay the fines although in a lesser amount and within a year’s time.
Mr. Perecowicz has filed a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission and says he will take his case to the Supreme Court if necessary.
Perhaps some battles just aren’t worth fighting.