A Mostly Fractured Take On Current Events

Death, Taxes and Speeding Tickets: A Case Study

In Essays on March 16, 2011 at 7:42 pm

 There are precisely two things in the universe that have the power to ruin my morning commute. One is getting a speeding ticket. The other is hearing Cher sing. I don’t know Cher personally. She’s probably a nice person. But I do know that when “If I Could Turn Back Time” comes out of my car speakers, I am somehow less human for the experience. Superman has kryptonite. I have Cher. Thankfully, there’s no sign of her on the radio this morning. But in my rearview mirror, I see flashing red and blue lights. Consider this drive spoiled.

It’s been twelve years since my last ticket. That’s a virtual lifetime in speed trap-years. As I wait for the officer, I’m overcome with a strange sense of calm. The pressure to elude capture for this long has taken its toll. I’m a little relieved the streak might be ending. It’s not easy to comply with speed limits day after day without riding some sort of public bus. But I showed up every day and I delivered. I was the Cal Ripken of avoiding radar guns! Alas, my streak is over and now I must face the music.

“Do you know how fast you were going?” I have been asked this question during all of my previous ticket encounters. And yet I’ve always found it an odd query. State troopers don’t do small talk because they have their sense of humor surgically removed during training. Besides, logic doesn’t apply to speeding tickets so I answer using the metric system. “I think I was going about 120 kilometers per hour, sir.” Surely he can’t make the necessary conversion to miles. When he does, I know I’ve been stopped by the only cop who’s also a member of Mensa. This cop is a smart cookie. It’s going to take a supreme effort to get out of this.

Talking my way out of a ticket is a skill I have yet to master. The only time I have been successful at this was in 1997. My sister was in labor with her first child. On my way to the hospital, I was pulled over for going 50 in a 35. I explained the situation (the impending birth, that is, not how babies are made) to the cop and he let me go. I learned a valuable lesson that day. Clearly, if you want to avoid getting a ticket, slowing down isn’t the answer. Rather, make sure you have plenty of pregnant relatives and friends waiting in the wings for an adequate cover story.

As I have no relatives currently in labor, my ticket is handed to me with a knowing smile. One thing that puzzles me about this incident is my car. High-mileage Honda Civics with hail damage aren’t traditionally known for their breakneck speed. If you don’t believe me, look at my engine. Two out of the 4 cylinders are powered by small mice running on exercise wheels. So how on Earth did I ever exceed the speed limit in my glorified golf cart? There must be a mistake.

But there is no mistake. Much like jury duty, it is simply my turn. The only sure things in life are death, taxes and speeding tickets. I’ve made peace with that certainty. Going forward, I have two options to improve my commutes: Slow down or learn to love the silky voice of Cher. As much as she wants me to “believe in life after love”, I think I’ll slow down instead. This should last about half a day.

© 2011 Pat Hester


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