John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Also, New York City cancels the livestream of a rebellious Rubber Room teacher, and Rhode Island pours grass killer on America's Lawn of Freedom.
Welcome back to our weekly look at what's been outlawed in cities across the world (past editions here):
LOUD SEX, IN RUSSIA
Somebody get St. Petersburg some Ambien. The citizens of Russia's second-largest city are so peeved with nocturnal noises that they've gotten the government to consider banning anything that could conceivably smash, crash, squeak, yell, howl, moan, honk or rustle. St. Pete's legislative assembly has approved a reading of a bill that defines just what should be muffled at night – including neighbors "making too much noise during sex," an issue that has generated "numerous letters" to the government, according to RT. (Perhaps the complainers shouldn't be listening so hard?) Also on the list: moving furniture, knocking on walls, snoring loudly and – because people in Russia do strange things after dark – the "stomping of cats." Squashing felines will still be legal in daytime, presumably. (UPDATE: A couple readers have suggested that the cat-stomp thing is a bad translation on RT's part, and that the actual meaning is more like "the sound of cats walking." Makes a little more sense that way.)
But back to the sex. The proposed gag on raunchy, noisy lovemaking drew an unusual protest from the youth branch of the social-liberal Yabloko party. RT describes how it went down:
The activists wanted to put a bed near the office of the legislative assembly so that a man and a woman could get into it and “imitate the movements that could potentially make noise“ thus demonstrating the absurdity of the initiative.
However, the protest remained only a promise, for at least two reasons – the failure to deliver the bed and a warning by the police who said that there is a ban on installing “architectural forms” in the historical city and promised to detain those concerned.
NIGHTMOWING, IN RHODE ISLAND
One of the tautest thrills around for lawn lovers is, without a doubt, taking the mower for a spin at night. The throaty roar of the two-stroke echoing off vinyl siding as you perform a wild dance among moonlit fescue – if you haven't tried it yet, kid, you ain't living. But in Smithfield, Rhode Island, joyless paper pushers have just poured a gallon of freedomicide on America's front yard of democracy. The Valley Breeze reports that the town council has voted to prohibit the use of gas-powered mowers after dark because, in the words of council VP Richard Poerier, “it's not unreasonable for people to expect peace and quiet after a certain time.”
Poerier, who probably owns one of those feckless reel mowers, said that police will respond to complaints about nightmowing that exceeds 60 decibels; those found guilty shall be fined $100. Opposing this regulation was brave Republican councilor Ronald Manni, who noted that it discriminates against people who work late hours and must mow in the evening. The mow-ban stinks of “too much government,” Manni said, adding: "What's next? Snow blowers, outdoor concerts and night school activities?"
EXPOSING ONE'S LACK OF PRODUCTIVITY, IN NEW YORK
The world's most boring webcam – that which monitored Francesco Portelos as he sat doing nothing in one of New York City's infamous “Rubber Rooms” – has been banned. The city's Department of Education shut down Portelos' live feed inside his temporary prison in Queens and instead gave him a load of lesson plans about science to complete, reports the New York Post. Since April, the teacher has spent his days idly tapping at his laptop in the Rubber Room, a holding pen for educators accused of misconduct. Like many of his 218 coworkers in similar straights throughout NYC, he still collects a full salary – in this case, $75,000. “I’m told not to bring any computer equipment into the reassignment facility, so I guess that’s it,” Portelos said in his final broadcast. “Stay tuned.”