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Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Ticket to Dignity

Let's be honest, it's a speed trap.

The road had recently changed from 45 mph to 35 mph when the town decided to just pull the 45 mph signs. It still FEELS like it should be 45. Ask the people getting busted on a daily basis, they'd agree.

My ticket in the process.

So I head down ticket alley and see a car pulled over on the right shoulder. I follow the two cars ahead of me into the left lane, giving the officer plenty of space to get back to his car. Twenty seconds later, I've got lights in my rearview.

I find the nearest side road, wondering if he's going to bust me for going 38. Or maybe my speedometer is broken, or there's a taillight out, or he doesn't like blue pickups.

"Do you know why I pulled you over."

"No, sir."

"You are required by law to slow down 10 mph below the speed limit when passing flashing lights."

This, I did not know. Apparently, switching lanes isn't enough.

I give him my info. My driving record is spotless and I wasn't going unreasonable fast, so I expect a warning. I get a ticket for $165 with no points. He tells me I could've gotten a $500 ticket and 6 points. This feels ludicrous, but I politely take the ticket.

I'll go to court in February. I'll plead guilty and, in most cases, the judge will knock the ticket in half. I'll pay the $80 and leave and never, ever, ever pass flashing lights without slowing down.

But here's the thing.

I want to plead my case. I want to pay $0. I can afford the fine, I won't get the points, but I want to win. I want to plead not guilty and explain to the judge that there was an entire lane between me and the officer and that, in fact, I wasn't speeding. I could even claim to be going under the speed limit. He didn't have a speed gun on me.

But all that's not true, and I know it. I wasn't an entire lane over. And I know exactly how fast I was going because I use cruise control on that stretch. All I have to do is lie and, maybe, I'll get the fine reduced even more or, hallelujah, have it thrown out.

How common has dishonesty become? We see it practiced in courtrooms, in politics, and everyday life. We teach our children to be true to themselves and others but, when it comes right down to it, we sometimes knowingly lie, even if it's tiny, insignificant self-deceptions for our own benefit, because it's not the truth that matters but what you can prove. I'm guilty of this. Sometimes, it happens so automatically, I don't catch it until later. Am I really going to sell my dignity to beat this ticket?

The measure of a man is what he does with power. --Socrates

Here's what I hope happens: the judge looks at this ticket and reads the officer the riot act for such misjudgment. Here's a citizen with a clean record and, by switching lanes, was clearly observing your safety. The fact that he didn't slow down to 25 mph does not warrant a ticket. Now give me your badge, you are relieved of duty.

Here's what will happen: pay the fine and leave.

And from now on, Mr. Bertauski, slow down.

Clay (Sequel to Halfskin coming in March!)

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