Governments make laws to protect citizens and fulfill their needs. While the U.S. federal government is busy making sweeping regulations, state and local politicians have more time to focus on smaller scale issues that affect their constituents directly. State and local laws often have the most impact in your day-to-day life and are the true nuts and bolts of the machine that is a community.
Sometimes, though, the nuts and bolts can get a little rusty. Some laws are made to prevent specific events from happening again, or become outdated as society progresses. Many of these are simply ignored by law enforcement and waste space in the law books, but they certainly are fun to read and laugh at in your free time.
In New Jersey, where we literally have a semi-annual travel magazine about local legends, supernatural stories, and unusual places or events (Weird NJ), lawmakers have certainly passed some odd legislation throughout the years. Here are some of the weirdest New Jersey laws.
You cannot pump your own gas.
Ever wonder why the gas station attendants in New Jersey so kindly wash your windshield and fill up your tank at those lovely full-service stations? It’s because you could actually go to jail for doing it yourself, as lawmakers thought it could be dangerous for the average citizen to handle such flammable materials. This, combined with New Jersey’s relatively low gas prices, makes driving in New Jersey superior to most states (as long as you forget about the turnpike). We just hope this law wasn’t made as a result of some sort of gas fire or explosion in the state…
Men cannot knit during fishing season.
It’s hard to think of a legititmate reason behind this law, but we’ll try anyway:
Once upon a time, a small, rural New Jersey village had only one fisherman on whom the townspeople relied to reel in their favorite fish. After many years, the man grew tired of fishing and started to take up knitting as a hobby, which he learned by watching his mother in the evening.
He began to spend all of his free time knitting fish-themed sweaters and quilts, eventually refusing to wake up early to catch fish. The townspeople had plenty of trendy nautical clothing before it was cool, but they began to starve without enough fish to feed their families.
Soon enough, the government had to get involved, and made this law so that the fisherman would have nothing to do during fishing season but catch fish.
Car dealerships can’t open on Sundays.
Perhaps those weekend car sales were conflicting with Sunday mass? We don’t have a story behind this law, but if Jesus didn’t buy his car on Sunday, you shouldn’t either.
You can’t slurp your soup.
Sure, this promotes good table manners, but do we REALLY have to report Uncle Tony for slurping his Zuppa Toscana at Olive Garden?
Bernards Township is a “Frown-Free Town Zone.”
Don’t worry, be happy…or else. Bernards Township might not be the happiest township in the country, but it is the one with weakest facial strength (It takes more muscles to frown than to smile.).
In Cresskill, cats must wear 3 bells to warn birds.
Of course, because 2 wouldn’t be loud enough, but 4 would just get annoying. We could imagine one neighbor’s cat eating another’s pet bird as the reason behind this law, but politicians in Cresskill won’t let that cat out of the bag.
In Haddon, you can’t annoy someone of the opposite sex.
We wonder how many couples attending therapy have been arrested for this one…
In Manville, you can’t offer alcohol or tobacco to animals at the zoo.
We’re glad this law exists since it sets a precedent protecting animal health, but we’re concerned about the situation that prompted its passage. Did someone give beer to a bear, wine to a Wallaby, or rum to a rhino? We also propose an amendment to this law that would expand its provisions to animals in the wild as well. We don’t want squirrels drunk on sangria wandering into our yards.
In Newark, you can’t sell ice cream after 6:00 p.m. unless you have a doctor’s note.
We appreciate this law as well for its concern about citizens’ health, but we have questions about what excuses people would get from their doctors. Just had oral surgery? New braces? Tonsil removal? A bad case of the midnight munchies?
In Trenton, you can’t throw a bad pickle in street or consume them on Sundays.
As far as we know, good pickles are still fair game, although we would advise against it. Jesus probably ate dill pickles, so we’re not sure why they’re banned on the Sabbath.
It is illegal for birds to poop on statues.
We think this law is great for public hygiene, but very difficult to enforce until they start making little bird wing-cuffs.
Those are some of the weirdest New Jersey laws, but there are plenty more, and equally crazy ones in other states. You should read up next time you travel to another state, or you could be arrested for transgressions like refrigerating a goat or pocketing your ice cream, because a lot of people do that, right?