December 2016 - Still Another Modest Proposal

by Justice William W. Bedsworth

The petty indignities of the aging process have been well catalogued. While we should be grateful to have avoided the alternative, we boomers never tire of lamenting the first world nuisances of the golden years. So I was prepared for my own arthritic knees, failing hearing, wonky back—even the fact my sleep patterns have devolved into a nightly progression of seriatim two-hour naps.

But no one warned me about the most embarrassing consequence of my advancing years. No one told me I would start watching Home and Garden TV. 1

This was, of course, embarrassing to me. I am a red-blooded, meat-eating, baseball-addicted, card-carrying2 member of the male gender. I wear cowboy boots and a Stanley Cup ring. As would any self-respecting male boomer, I recoiled when I found myself watching House Hunters and Lake Front Bargain Hunt night after night—especially since I was no longer watching Monday Night Football.

I went straight to my doctor, assuming she3 would put me on a regular regimen of testosterone injections, and sign me up for a rugby team. Instead, she shared with me her favorite HGTV shows and suggested a glass of wine now and then.

I provide this history of my battle against metrosexuality to explain how it is that I know who Jonathan Scott is. When you’re going to propose an addition to the Penal Code—however modest—you need to establish your bona fides as completely as possible.

Jonathan Scott is a co-host, with his twin brother, of a home decorating/renovation show on HGTV. 4 He is a tall, good-looking man, whose remodeling and decorating is a key to the show.

He is also a guy who got thrown out of a North Dakota bar when he refused to leave. When asked to hand over his drink, he demanded, “Do you know who I am?” While the answer to his question has not been reported, he was in fact physically removed. 5

When my wife read me this story, 6 my reaction was simple. I had no problem with the guy getting thrown out of a bar. Many of my friends have been thrown out of bars. 7 I myself was once 86’d for ordering a third chocolate malt from an overworked waitress at Polly’s Pies.

But to paraphrase Jerry Maguire, he lost me at “Do you know who I am?”

I cannot imagine a collection of six words without profanity or references to the New York Yankees that antagonizes me more than “Do you know who I am?”

What could you possibly say that could more succinctly express a sense of entitlement and privilege? How could you more clearly set forth your conviction that you are too important to be constrained by the rules that apply to mere mortals? You can insult my God, my flag, my family, or my manhood and escape unscathed. But “Do you know who I am,” is liable to get you decked. 8

I don’t want to get sued for battery, so I propose an addition to the California Penal Code. I propose it be expanded to include Section 34371: Implied Threats of the Use of Influence to Cause Unimaginable Harm.

I chose Section 34371 because the code presently ends at 34370. It is my sincere hope that somewhere along the legislative journey some legislator will look at this and say, “Wait a minute. We’re up to section 34,371? We got 34,370 laws already? Whoa, boys; back that puppy up. I think we’ve overshot the runway here.”

Maybe then they’ll go back through the Penal Code with a scythe and a blowtorch and cut it down to a size that does not make ownership of a forklift a prerequisite to non-electronic research.

That would go down in my book as a “W,” even if my Implied Threats of the Use of Influence to Cause Unimaginable Harm statute is never enacted.

The statute itself would provide:

(a) Any person who uses the phrase, “Do you know who I am?” to try to evade responsibility for boorish behavior shall be subject to fine, imprisonment or fine and imprisonment, not to mention shame, dishonor, disgrace, opprobrium, and the well-deserved censure of decent people everywhere.

The punishment provision would explain:

(b)(1) Violation of this statute shall be an infraction for anyone who is a productive member of society but has had too much to drink, is under the influence of drugs, or has been provoked by a Yankees fan.

(b)(2) Violation of this statute shall be a misdemeanor if committed by such a person without a similar excuse.

(b)(3) Violation of this statute shall be a felony if the offender is a reality television host, member of Congress, CEO, movie producer, or anyone else who really believes he is better than the victim because his shoes cost more than the victim’s car.

And finally, the statute would include this disclaimer:

This statute shall not apply to teachers, high school coaches, caregivers, oncologists, hospice nurses, special ed aides, scientists, ministers of congregations smaller than the attendance at a high school volleyball game, or anyone who uses the phrase as a sarcastic rejoinder to one of the groups outlined in (b) (1) (2) or (3) supra. 9 They actually have a right to feel superior.

That should take care of the problem. It won’t disappear immediately because so many of the people it will apply to cannot be bothered to count to 34,370. They have “people” to do that for them. 10

But eventually people will stop saying this. And I will be able to delete from my fantasy vocabulary the phrase, “Yeah, I know exactly who you are. You’re the guy whose jaw I’m about to break.”

Wow, that sounded pretty manly. I think the new diet is working.


  1. (1) aka, HGTV.
  2. (2) My driver’s license.
  3. (3) Another sign of my declining maleness: my doctor is a woman.
  4. (4) Actually, I think he may host more than one show, but now that I’ve added buffalo meat, ashwagandha root, and catuaba bark to my diet, I’m not keeping up with HGTV’s programming changes.
  5. (5) Twice, actually. He came back in after the first ejection.
  6. (6) I was, at the time, scarfing down my third plate of oysters, damiana, and Yoshimbe root.
  7. (7) I hang out with a very manly, almost absurdly masculine bunch of guys.
  8. (8) And now that I’ve added asparagus and velvet bean potentuators to my diet, you’re liable to be down beyond the mandatory eight count.
  9. (9) “Supra” doesn’t usually show up in statutes, but the people of the State of California paid a lot of money to educate me and I don’t want them to think it was wasted.
  10. (10) “Have your people contact my people to arrange a meeting.”

William W. Bedsworth is an Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal. He writes this column to get it out of his system. He can be contacted at william.bedsworth@jud.ca.gov. And look for his new book, Lawyers, Gubs, and Monkeys, through Amazon and Vandeplas Publishing.