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Jewish World Review May 18, 2000 / 13 Iyar, 5760

Bob Greene

Bob Greene
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Consumer Reports


A problem of suds but no duds -- A SIGN THAT THE CORPORATE EXECUTIVES who gave America "casual Fridays" may not necessarily have been doing the country a favor:

In Evansville, Ind., recently, police arrested a man who, according to news reports, had been accused by multiple witnesses of washing his auto at a self-service car wash while nude.

The witnesses, according to the news reports, had complained over the course of the last two months that the man would come to the car wash and, naked, scrub his vehicle.

When police arrested him, though, they noted that he technically was not naked--he was wearing a G-string.

However, because of the amount of the man--Jymm Thomas Schneider, 49, of Owensboro, Ky.--that was exposed, it was understandable how people who saw him from more than a few feet away thought he was naked. According to the police, the G-string was so small that it did not cover. ...

Oh, never mind. The G-string on the man at the car wash was very small. Schneider was apprehended at the Southern Pride Car Wash in Evansville and charged with indecent exposure.

Apparently this kind of problem is not limited to men. In another part of Indiana last month--in the city of Lafayette--there was a civic debate concerning what to do about an exotic dancer who insisted on practicing her routines in her front yard.

The woman, according to her neighbors, would go out into the yard to rehearse her exotic dances. "Exotic dancing," of course, is a euphemism that has come into favor in recent years to describe what is performed by strippers and lap dancers; usually it is done in dark nightclubs with adults-only entrance policies. But in Lafayette, according to the reports, the woman practiced her dances in broad daylight, often timing the dances for when school buses drove past her yard.

What made Tippecanoe County officials realize they would have to come up with some plan of action was the woman's most recent addition to her rehearsal routine: She allegedly had a 10-foot-high pole installed in her front yard, so not only was she writhing in full view of her neighbors and the street--she was wrapping herself around the pole as she did it.

The construction of the pole made word of the woman's front-yard dancing spread so far that, according to what neighbors told police, she began drawing audiences of "curious high school kids and beer-drinking gawkers...obnoxious men who leave beer cans strewn in the driveway."

The dilemma for county officials and law enforcement officers, according to the reports, was that the woman was not completely nude--like the fellow at the car wash, she had a little bit of clothing on. County Commissioner John Knochel told reporters: "Conversations I've had with law enforcement people indicate that she's just right on the fine line of crossing over into probably what's deemed public indecency....She knows the law. When law enforcement officers have been out there before, she's quoted it to them, so she's very aware of what she's doing."

What is going on here? Just when did people get the idea that they can go out in public virtually naked, and that no one can tell them they can't do it?

Well, we've been heading in that direction for awhile now. Personal freedom, which sounds like such a reasonable, even laudable, concept, can lead us down strange roads. You may recall a few years ago reading about Andrew Martinez, a 20-year-old student at the University of California at Berkeley. Martinez decided that he would go to classes naked--completely nude. And for months--all fall and into the winter--he did just that. He walked into classes wearing nothing at all, and sat there. He walked around the campus the same way. Nude. Ate in campus dining halls, nude.

When some parents--understandably upset that they had sent their sons and daughters to a school where a naked man attended classes--complained, the school was reluctant to do anything about it. To tell Martinez that he could not go to school at Berkeley unless he wore clothes might have been considered a violation of his rights, some school officials feared--and could result in Martinez filing a lawsuit against the university.

Eventually Martinez--who was known around campus as "the Naked Guy"--was expelled, for failing to wear "proper attire." But society may have moved toward him, not away from him. The fellow in Indiana, who was arrested while wearing the G-string as he washed his auto last week?

If he sues--if he argues that his personal freedoms have been violated--he just may end up owning the car wash.

JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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