News Flash(ed)


“Flasher.” What does this term mean to you? I grew up in the Chicago area, and back there, in the 1960’s, your “flasher” was your turn signal. That blinky light on the corner of your car that tells people you’re about to turn. The drivers-ed teacher, during your lesson, would point to that little stick — I mean the little stick sticking out of that bigger stick, the stick that your steering wheel was sitting on the end of — and he would say to you, “OK, now it’s time to turn on your flasher.”

Today, I guess, such language might be considered inappropriate. You probably want to refer to your turn signal as a “turn signal,” or possibly a “blinker.” You probably don’t want to claim that you know, let alone have, a “flasher.” And in any event, you probably don’t want anyone to suggest that it’s time to turn your flasher on. The 60’s seem so innocent today. Flashers were helpful back then, and turning them on was a good thing.

But now, I guess, it’s different. On a recent Friday, my online newsfeed flashed — er, uh, I mean, displayed — this headline: “Alleged Flasher Arrested Downtown.”

I knew immediately that this had nothing to do with an illegally turned-on turn signal.

Reading on, I learned that a man “described as 25 to 30 years old” did something which I hesitate to retype, for fear of getting cooties. But this much I can tell you: he did it at the train station. At around 4 pm.

A simple look at the weather report told me the rest of the story. That February day was unseasonably warm. By the time the police call went out, it had been over 70 for more than two full hours. Plus, the wind was from the south, and you know what a south wind can do to a man. The humidity was a soft, silky 49%, and the barometric pressure was perfect — I mean perfect. Most significantly, visibility was 10 miles. If you have something you want to flash, and you have the potential to show people a full 10 miles away, wouldn’t you go for it? You could reach people at the Newburyport train station. Newburyport commuters wouldn’t even need their own flasher. They could use ours. I love to see North Shore towns working together for the common good.

There were, unfortunately, conflicting details in the news flash, er, uh, report. On one hand, the man in question was reported to be “dressed all in white.” On the other hand, the police dispatcher reportedly indicated that “he had his pants around his ankles.” I don’t mean to get too technical, but if his pants were down around his ankles, was he really “dressed all in white”? I think not. It might have been more accurate to say he was “dressed, to the extent that he was dressed, all in white.” In this age of fake news, it’s important to be entirely accurate.

The alleged flasher was eventually charged with “open and gross lewdness,” among other wrongdoings. I have not lived in Ipswich long, so I guess I don’t understand the finer points of the law here. Is there some other form of lewdness, besides the “open and gross” variety? Perhaps most importantly, if there’s a “closed and refined” lewdness, what does it look like?

And would it be legal to just take a peek?




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