Thursday, June 02, 2005

License suspended

We got notice that my license has been suspended due to a traffic violation. The cost of the original ticket was $150.00. We paid the ticket, so ignored the follow-up letters saying we better pay it or else. Well, apparently we didn't pay it, our credit card had expired or something like that. Rather than asking us to pay again, we were given a late fee of $200.00. And, as I mentioned, my license is suspended--and we now owe $350.00. On so many levels this is awesome.

I'm not sure where to start, this could be an explanation of the ridiculousness of traffic laws and fines in New York, or it could be a complaint against a policeman that would actually enforce such ridiculous laws, or it could be my struggle to come to grips with the fact that, in any given situation, I am only capable of talking myself into further trouble (more on this another time).

I don't get tickets. I am a safe driver. I don't think it is cool to go real fast, or run stop-signs. Furthermore, I have rehearsed what to say to a policeman or woman in the event that I get pulled over, emphasizing the respected officer's authority (this is a tip I got from my brother, Jim):

(I first turn on the cabin light, and put both my hands in the 10 and 2 positions on the stearing wheel and look ahead)

Officer: (says whatever)
Me: Yes Officer.
Officer: (says whatever, makes a clever remark about my disregard for the law and civil society)
Me: Yes Officer. I understand that you have the authority to issue this notice, and I certainly appreciate your authority to do so, are you also authorized to issue a warning? You can check my record, I am a very conscientious driver...Are you authorized to issue a warning?
Officer: Yes, here is a warning, you take care now!

I have rehearsed in my head a hundred times what I could have said to the policeman who gave me a ticket for turning right (Folks in the West know that I meant 'right') at a red light. It is illegal to turn right at a red light in New York. Of course 500 yards from where I got the ticket, I would have been outside of New York and it would have been OK, but I maniacally burst through the red light on the empty street to turn right.

I could have said, "I'm sorry officer, I'm used to Utah (or Westchester) where it is not illegal to turn right on a red light" I guess I thought I was in Westchester, [not 500 yards from it]. (then continue with original dialogue above). Instead, I panicked, said that I couldn't recall turning on a red light (a note of defense: in speeding situations, when asked "Do you know how fast you were going?" I have rehearsed to reply "I can't recall, I wasn't watching, I thought I was going with the flow of traffic" this is usually a good response in such situations. My mistake here was a simple bad translation between situations for which different rules apply). Then, to explain why I couldn't remember turning right at a red light, I said, "I guess I'm a little frazzled, I just finished taking a test."

lets get back to dialogue mode:

Officer: How did you do?
Me: I actually administered the test, I'm a teacher. (I thought being a teacher could recall fond memories for the police officer, and why would anyone give a teacher a ticket? But I think it probably made him see me as a quasi authority figure, and so a threat.)
Officer: Oh, you're a teacher are you?...

I really didn't see the ticket coming. Why would a policeman ever give a ticket for turning right on a red light? I thought it was a great opportunity for a policeman to lecture on the dangers of turning right at a red light then issue a warning. But he went ahead and gave me a ticket to help me recognize the seriousness of my actions.


  1. I tried offering a cop a donut. Not a good move, I don't recommend it.

  2. When I was in high school I was hit by a car making an illegal left hand turn. Turns out it was Scott Layden. I was pretty upset when they only issued a warning.

    In sum: celebrity counts.

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  4. And do not think the states do not talk to each other. I once got a ticket in a spped trap in Iowa. I decided not to pay the ticket and thought, "Oh, well. I guess I just won't ever drive in Iowa again." Just four short months later and I was pulled over for speeding while I was test driving a car in Virginia. (I realize how this sounds but I really was just trying out the accelerator.) Our salesman "Horatio" was in the back seat saying "Oh don't worry he won't give you a ticket." The officer came back and told me my Utah license was suspended and gave me a ticket not for speeding, but for driving with a suspended license. After a couple phone calls it turns out Iowa had called Utah to let them know I was a deadbeat, Utah in turn let Virginia know. I am not so sure I like the idea of a "union" among the states anymore.

  5. I also got a parking ticket in DC recently. You have 30 days to pay and after that the fine doubles. On day 29 I tried to pay the ticket, but the cop had not yet entered it into the system so I couldn't pay it. I called and was instructed to fax the ticket to the office and they would enter it so I could pay, I did. A couple weeks later I got a notice that I now owed $200 rather than $100. I have since had to write a letter explaining the situation asking for them to forgive the extra fine. In the mean time I am waiting to pay a ticket recieved in North Carolina. Hmmm. . . maybe I am just a bad driver.

  6. John--apparently celebrities can receive maltreatment even after a reasonable (and I would say generous) display of goodwill.