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Commentary from my recent speeding ticket

10 August 2010 No Comment

It is always a very unsettling circumstance when you see cop lights behind you. Having gone through a wayward period during my teen years, followed by a notably wild run during my college years, seeing police lights in my rear-view mirror is certainly nothing new.

Anytime a pull-over does not result in an arrest, that is a victory of sorts … and if you can get out with no papers being handed to you, it is a total win. I did not win this round.

When I am actually not doing anything wrong (in my mind), then it leaves only a feeling of being perplexed at being pulled over. I was driving home from Maplewood this past Monday night, and noticed a police car sitting in the shadows in a clandestine fashion. I was cruising down Manchester, just before Hanley Road, and looked down to see I was traveling right at 40 miles per hour. All good, so I thought. However, as I kept my eye on this police car it was clear he had pulled onto Manchester pretty quickly after I passed his car.

No way, I thought to myself! What the f*ck?! I felt a surge of anxiety mixed with anger as I took a right on Hanley, not to avoid the cop but to see if he was following me. I can get home this way anyway. He turned. I knew this was for real!

I felt panicked, like I should try to escape. Having a fear of police cars and the individuals who drive them made me irrational for one or two seconds before I slowed down in anticipation of my pull over. I scanned my scene. I had just left Shop ‘n Save to grab a few items, and, of course, had an 18-pack of Bud Select on my passenger seat.

Yet, since I was sober (legally sober, had ONE Bud draft while watching the Cardinals’ ninth inning to wrap up a big win over the Reds) and the beer in the car was unopened, I had nothing to hide. As I pulled over, I slid my seat belt on – I should wear my belt anyway, my bad there – popped in a breath mint and put the beer on the floor, in a less prominent spot. I grabbed my license from my wallet and my insurance card from my glove box. All set.

But … oh, no! A sports bar cup in my drink holder! I like the cups used at The Post Sports Bar & Grill, and occasionally keep one to take home. I was not sure if the cup was TOTALLY empty, so I put it under the driver’s seat while being pulled over. Whatever liquid that was in there would now have to be cleaned up very soon. Oh joy! … Then, I hoped that did not make my car smell like beer. It was the right move, though. Had to do it.

After making 12 quick decisions in 48 seconds, I sat in my car and awaited my fate. If the speed limit was 30 and not 35 then that explains this situation, I figured. An extremely lame excuse for pulling someone over on a slow Monday night, but at least it is an explanation. So, I sat in my driver’s seat, somewhat rattled, (empty) beer cup hidden, an 18-pack of beer easily visible, documents ready … and a big bag of chopped walnuts now in my passenger seat (preparing for a new pesto recipe).

“Do you know why I pulled you over,” Mr. Authority says. “I saw you, looked down and saw 40 or 41, so thought I was fine. But I assume that’s why you pulled me over,” I replied. “I did not think I was speeding.”

Blah, blah, blah … he comes back with a ticket. “Oh, man!” I replied in a defeated tone. “Well, thanks for being very quick about it.” I started a brief conversation, then realized he was scoping my car and using stalling tactics.

“I’m very late now in getting my two-year-old, but thanks again for being brief.”

He was looking for something, but I was clearly sober and articulate and went home … though pissed off.

Looking back at all of the things I have done, to get hassled and ticketed for driving for 41 freakin’ miles per hour is just stupid. If should at least feel like speeding if it is. What a waste of my money, our tax resources and valuable police time. Little traffic, no schools near, too late at night for kids to be out walking … if someone is blazing down Manchester at 51 mph, well ok. But this was a straight-out money grab. Speeding is a real offense, but only in the proper context. Not 41 mph on a quiet night on a quiet road away from children and pedestrians. Maybe … a warning. Maybe.

Police are there to respond to calls, respond to problems and patrol our streets and keep them safe. But, not for this crap. Not these days, not in St. Louis. A Honda Civic driving 41 miles per hour down Manchester should not even get the attention of the police. Somewhere close, there were real crimes happening. With victims.

So … now I am back to being a paranoid driver and am likely to cancel many social plans so I am not in a position to have to drive home. Plus, I have to deal with the legal racket, where you pay a lawyer money to make the ticket magically disappear. Money grab! And I was having such a great night up until then. Still have not made my walnut pesto.

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