About sixty miles outside of Cleveland, Studley and i were singing “Moon Over Parma”*. i was cruising along at a good clip as we made our way to western New York State for a ski weekend with friends.
Cresting a ridge, i saw movement in the lane ahead of me. A man in my lane. Wearing a hat. Motioning me to pull over.
Shit. Johnny Law.
Slowing, clipping the turn signal, and making a controlled stop on the left shoulder, i flipped on the hazard lights and put the car in park. Snagged the registration from behind the passenger sun visor**, and quickly dug my driver’s license and insurance card from my wallet.
Zipped down the window, and held all documents in my left hand. Both hands visible on the steering wheel as the state trooper approached my car.
This is how you do a traffic stop. i have rather extensive experience with this…
John Law: Good Morning. Ma’am, I had you going 81 in a 65 mile per hour zone.
daisyfae: Yeah. Sorry. i was singing…
He went back to write the ticket***, and i swore a little. “Damn. Should have seen him. It’s been a few years since i got a ticket… Probably because i haven’t had a car that doesn’t shake apart at high-speed.”
Had the ticket in hand within about five minutes, and continued on our way. Cranky, a bit less cash in the wallet, but none the worse for wear. This triggered a few recollections regarding prior traffic incidents.
Hauling The Girl and three of her pre-teen friends in the back of a station wagon, i was pulled over for speeding. Since the girls were approaching driving age, i used the ‘teachable moment’ to instruct them in proper technique for traffic stops. Emphasis on keeping your hands on the wheel, with the car window open, as the officer approaches the car “because you got a guy with a gun jacked up on adrenaline – you don’t want to make him any jumpier than he already is”.
As i pulled the car back onto the road after the stop, Lindsay said “Man, you didn’t even get nervous! My mom gets tickets all the time and she cries her head off!”
Another lesson: making excuses is pretty pointless. Either you’re guilty or you’re not. Either he’s going to give you the ticket or he won’t. Trying to explain is pretty lame…
Back in the 90’s, i’d gotten a second speeding ticket within a month of the first – requiring an appearance in traffic court. Giving myself some time to get oriented, i showed up early to watch the operations and get a feel for the process.
The referee, a tired-looking man, sat at the dias. The clerk would call out a name, and the violator would stand before the referee. He would barely look up from the paperwork in front of him and say “You are charged with [Violation X]. How do you plead?”
Without exception, the violator said “No Contest”, or “Guilty, but…”. The referee would then ask in a deadpan voice “Do you have anything to tell the court?”
“I was rushin’ to pick up my grandbabies so my daughter could get to work on time…”, “This dude had passed me really close, and I was chasing him down to get his license plate number” and on and on and on…
The referee would then declare guilt, levy a fine and move to the next stack of paperwork.
Referee: You are charged with doing 51 in a 40 mile per hour zone. How do you plead?
daisyfae: Guilty as hell, Sir.
referee [looking up from stacks of paperwork]: Do you have anything to tell the court?
daisyfae: No, Sir.
Referee: Fined $45. Suspend court costs. Next case.
* The opening song from “The Drew Carey Show”. Not as cool as “Cleveland Rocks” used in the first few seasons, but a good car song nonetheless…
** Don’t keep your registration in the glove box. If the officer sees you digging there, it’s pretty easy for him to request a search of your vehicle if he sees anything he can call “suspicious”.
*** i’m pretty laid back about this. Heart rate barely goes up when i see the lights. But i am smart enough to NOT say “Can you write the ticket quick, buddy? i’m in a hurry…”