Sunday, August 12, 2007

My Run-Ins With The Law

Got your attention? Good! Now I can tell you all about my shady history with the criminal world of...speeding.

That's speeding on the highway, not with drugs.

Amanda over at It's All About the Walls recently posted about her successful escape from a speeding ticket. (You'll enjoy reading how she got out of it).

Me, I'm not so lucky. I used to get away with "just a warning" back in the day, when I was about 19 and weighed about 35 lbs. less and actually bothered to wear my contact lenses and some makeup. But not these days. (Yes, I really do think that had something to do with it; because I certainly haven't become any less befuddled and clueless when stopped by a cop now than I was then).

I have a long history of getting caught speeding. I am sure I don't speed any more than anyone else; I just have less luck.

I used to drive a 1979 Plymouth Horizon, which, for those too young to remember (since I never see any on the road anymore) was a small "econobox" designed to address the Gas Crisis in the late 70's. It was one of the early American front-wheel drive cars and I felt very cool driving it. A little too cool, I guess, because I constantly got stopped for speeding when I was driving it. After about three years of owning this car, I had racked up an impressive number of points on my license.

I met DH in the fall of 1981, and after a few years we got engaged. At that point my car was about 5 years old, still young by today's standards, but it had issues already. And his car, a 1980 Citation (one of the famous X-cars, also not seen on the road anymore), had literally started rusting away. So we decided to buy a new car - together - our second major purchase since our engagement. (After a china cabinet for our apartment).

The car we chose was our 1985 Saab, which we still have to this day, with 218,000 miles on it. It had to be a stick shift, since DH refused to drive an automatic.

So we put an ad in the paper and sold the little Horizon. A man and his wife came and looked at it and decided to buy it because the wife wanted to learn how to drive and she wanted a little car. The man was huge, about 6 foot 4 inches, and big. He looked a little sad and ridiculous driving away in my roller skate of a car. I hope his wife learned to drive it so he could go back to his Buick.

By the time the new Saab arrived (we actually ordered it from the dealer instead of taking what was on the lot) I had successfully learned how to drive a stick shift by practicing on the Chevy Citation, which drove much like a truck. Driving the Saab, with its hydraulic clutch, was a pleasure in comparison.

Since I was the one who drove to work and DH was taking the train, I got to drive the new car to work. The car felt like part of me; when I shifted and the car sprang forward it felt as if I myself were moving, with the car around me like clothing. It was sleek, it was pointy on both ends, and looked really weird compared to the other cars on the road. I loved it.

After a few years I started to notice a strange phenomenon. I was no longer getting speeding tickets. I saw cops on the side of the highway, having nabbed other people, so I know they were still out there. But I drove by blithely, unscathed.

I started to have a suspicion. I looked at the pictures of the Stealth Bomber that had been plastered in various newspapers from time to time. It had the same pointy shape as the Saab. I said to DH, "Do you think the Saab is, like, a stealth car? Because of its shape?" DH responded that if he told me, he'd have to kill me, but that I might have a point.

For all the time I drove that car, I never, repeat, never, got a speeding ticket. But that doesn't mean I didn't get tickets. Oh no. I can always manage to do that.

My worst offense happened one Friday afternoon on my way home from work. I was tired, burned out, in a mental fog. I just wanted to get home. On my way home, there is a corner with a particularly lengthy red light, right where I needed to make a right turn. It's one of those that has arrows to the left, delayed green, no turn on red, and all kinds of things. When you stop at that light you're there for awhile. As I was arriving at that intersection, I saw to my dismay that the light was just turning red. On impulse, I pulled into the gas station on the corner, and fiendishly cut across to the exit on the other side, hoping to avoid the light altogether. I took a quick glance at the corner intersection and saw cars going across. Thinking I was home free, I quickly turned right onto the side road...and slammed on my brakes as I almost hit the car that had just made a left (on one of those darned green arrows) into my lane. And the car...was a county cop car. Driven by a county cop.

At first I thought it didn't matter as I had some kind of misguided notion that county cops could only give you a ticket if you were in the county parks. Apparently not.

This cop got out of his car and came over to my car. He looked a lot like this:

He was not pleased. I weakly said something about not having seen his car, and he accused me of having cut through the gas station to avoid the light. I couldn't deny it so I didn't say much after that. He wrote me out a ticket and I was on my way, much chastened.

I got home and read what the ticket said - he had put me down for "Reckless Driving." Reckless Driving! It wasn't reckless was, um, stupid driving. Isn't there a ticket for Stupid Driving? I actually don't think there is a law against "cutting through a gas station to avoid a light," so he had to put something, and he was pissed. So that's what he put.

I looked into it and discovered that Reckless Driving is worth a whopping 6 points on one's license in New Jersey. This was not good. So I called up the only lawyer I knew, who was the guy who managed the closing on our house, and asked him for help. A $125 fee later (sounds cheap now, but this was in 1988 or so), he determined that the statute on the ticket didn't match the written words, "Reckless Driving." The statute my county cop had written down was the statute for "Careless Driving" (only 2 points). My mouthpiece then called up said cop and asked him about it and he grumbled "Well, I MEANT Reckless Driving." As a result of this negotiation, the ticket was downgraded to Careless Driving, I paid my fine (and the $125 to the lawyer) and took my 2 points happily. And learned a lesson. No more cutting through gas stations.

But that was not the end of my run-ins with The Law. On my way to work one day (in my 1991 Saab which was exactly like the 1985 Saab and therefore not prone to speeding tickets), I nevertheless managed to get yet another moving violation. For tailgating. Yes, tailgating, on a side road; and it wasn't even during a busy time of day.

I usually would have been going 50 miles per hour on this road, but some idiot was in front of me going very slowly. Like about 30. And he kept speeding up and slowing down. At one such point, we passed a side street and I saw the cop sitting there. I gleefully thought to myself "It's sure lucky I am behind this idiot who is going so slow or I would've been speeding as I went past that cop. Ha ha, I'm lucky today!"

As I went along the guy in front of me suddenly pulled over to the side of the road, I slammed on my brakes, cursing at him, and then looked in my rear-view mirror to see the flashing lights. Mr. Cop was pulling me over. When he got out of the car, he looked a lot like this:

Yes, they all look like that here. Don't ask me why. And he wasn't happy either. I seem to have that effect on cops.

Bemused, I inquired what on earth he had stopped me for. He responded "Tailgating," and proceeded to write me a ticket. Tailgating, because I had been behind the idiot who kept slowing down.

I arrived at work even later than usual, and in a very cranky mood. I checked on line (because by now on line was an option) and discovered Tailgating is another Very Bad Thing. It is 5 points. This time there was no way out of it so I just took my lumps. And I think I signed up for some kind of Defensive Driving class to take the points off my license.

Since that time I am VERY careful not to go too close to another car's bumper. But I have acquired a certain lack of fondness for the police.


Christopher said...

I love speeding.

Once, on a drive from San Francisco to Seattle in a rental car, just north of Eureka but still south of the Oregon stateline, I got up to 100 MPH.

It felt like I was flying or preparing to rotate and take off.

Of course, in my rearview mirror I saw red flashing lights in closing in fast and I pulled over only to have a super-hot CHP officer around 30 years of age give me a ticket.

I didn't lie or cry or try to weasel out of it. I just told him the truth: "Yes, officer, I am headed to Seattle and I felt like hurring along so I drove too fast."

You know what? He wrote the ticket for 65 MPH and gave me a warning. The ticket was about $100 versus what could of been more like $500 if he'd really busted me for going 100 MPG.

Nowadays, I'm older and more responsible (more boring too) so I don't speed. Plus, gasoline costs $3 a gallon. I can't afford to speed!

Mauigirl said...

Love your story! Sometimes honesty is the best policy!

One time when I was very young, about 17 or so, my girlfriends and I were hanging out with these two older guys and I let one of them drive my mom's car, which was a Ford with a big V-8 engine. He got it up to 100 m.p.h. for a brief period on the local highway! It was quite exciting but I was relieved when he slowed it down again!

TomCat said...

Maui, you may thing you're a bad girl, but my first wife once had three at-fault traffic accidents in one day. :-(

Mauigirl said...

Wow, that's definitely worse! I did have a couple of fender-benders in my long-ago early-driving youth but only one was my fault, and at least they weren't on the same day!

Larry said...


If you continue on this slide of lawlessness, you'll be riding a bicycle to and from work, and nowhere else!

kuanyin333 said...

Heh heh....well, when you come back to Maui, you can speed! Most of the time I see people getting away with it! :-)

Anonymous said...

Snortle! And knowing how you drive and having been driven by you makes this doubly funny!!

Greatings from HOT Tel Aviv - tell DH I said hello!

Mauigirl said...

One time when we were in Maui, my husband and I were driving somewhere - I think it might have even been on the back side of Haleakala over near the Tedeschi Winery - and we got pulled over by a motorcycle cop for speeding! (And I wasn't even the one driving!) When he found out we were tourists he was very nice and didn't give us a ticket, just told us to slow down a bit, smiled and went on his way.

Hi Anne! I saw in my sitemeter that I had a hit from Tel Aviv so I knew you were reading! Isn't it a DRY heat in Tel Aviv? That should make it so much better...

Scott said...

Nice stories. I love the picture of what the angry cops look like!

Anonymous said...

I was driving a 1972 Chevrolet Biscayne one fine Sunday afternoon, when a 1979 Horizon pulled out in front of me.

They had to take it away with a flatbed. The woman who was in the passenger seat left in an ambulance. And my car? Broken grille, left front headlights smashed out, broken battery; I had to crowbar the fender a little bit to drive it home.

It unnerved me enough that I couldn't bring myself to drive a car for a couple of months.

Mauigirl said...

Scott, thanks, glad you enjoyed it!

Jollyroger, I swear that wasn't me that traumatized you! ;-) I guess those little cars aren't too good in an accident. Luckily, my fender benders were in my '71 Ford Maverick, which seemed to stand up pretty well to it!

pissed off patricia said...

I've never been stopped by a cop but I was told by one to slow down. :)

Mauigirl said...

Patricia, you are lucky! I seem to attract them!