It was all feeling so good yesterday on my commute home from work. And I'm not just referring to the Hooked on Chuck Mangione CD I had in the player. It was warm out (for MN standards), I was off work at a reasonable hour, and a night of camaraderie, competition, and glory lay ahead at Keegan's Thursday night trivia challenge. A real workingman's American dream if I've ever heard one.
A fantasy that endured all the way up to the time I paused at the last stoplight on Hwy. 36 before hitting the Interstate. At which time I noticed, slowly pulling up behind me, a late model, dark blue Crown Victoria, with pulsating, flashing lights on the side view mirrors and the dash board. Given my mood and run of positive luck of late, I of course assumed this must be the KDWB Party Patrol prepared to grace me with free passes to the upcoming G Unit/Sticky Fingaz Star Party.
But instead of Ton E Fly or Tack Hammer and their marketing interns bouncing out of the car, I got a rather stern looking middle-aged woman, sporting a crisp brown uniform and a boxy, Smoky the Bear hat. All of which I recognized as being consistent with the ornamentations of a law enforcement officer.
In short order, her status as such was confirmed. And she politely informed me that I had been clocked going 76 MPH in a 65 MPH zone. My initial reaction was wondering if that was even illegal. A mere 11 MPH over on a state highway, on a clear, dry day, and going right along with traffic all the way. Who cares?
Even as she elicited and received my confused denials (was I speeding? Inconceivable!) and subtle "I've had a long day at work" plea for mercy and proceeded back to her car with my vitals, I still thought I'd be let off. The nature of the offense was laughably minor and the traces of empathetic rapport between us had clearly been established. I figured my chances were excellent to get one of those mythical "warnings" to slow down, I've heard so much about. A warning I'd heed, I assure you. At least until I got out of Oak Park Heights. Come on lady justice, be sweet to your daddy tonight!
Alas, this deluded optimism lasted only long enough for me to check the rear view mirror and notice my super trooper wasn't alone in her unmarked, stealthy conveyance of state sponsored surveillance and interception.
For in the passenger seat was a slightly built, crew cut wearing adolescent. I could hear his voice cracking in the gleam of his wide eyes. And then I saw he had a uniform on as well. Though he looked to be about 16 years old, he was also an officially registered agent of the government enforcement bureaucracy. A fuzzy cheeked rookie on the Wash. County sheriff's department. Ye gods man - this was to be a teaching exercise! Meaning, in no uncertain terms, I was dead meat.
I watched as the wise teacher with a badge took the young lad step-by-step through the various computer checks and procedures involved with identifying and documenting a genuine, unadulterated scoff law. I swear it was just like watching a mother vulture rip shreds of rancid bison flesh off a carcass to feed to her rapacious, screeching fledgling.
I must say she was very pleasant to me when she returned and officially confirmed that I was to be punished by the court for my heinous violation against society. I guess she just loves the joy of teaching others. I'm happy for her. But when she handed me the ticket (or as they subtly phrase it at the top: a SUMMONS) and cheerily requested I slow down in the future, I offered no pleasantries in return. Only brooding silence. As far I'm concerned, the social exchange officially ends whenever someone decides to brand me a criminal and starts issuing confiscatory fines. You want me to maintain my Minnesota niceties, give me a warning and I'll kiss your hobnail booted feet all you like.
Reading the ticket, the consequences for pleading GUILTY and WAIVING MY RIGHTS to a trial (do they really have to phrase everything is such Constitutionally apocalyptic terms?), is an ice cold 120 bones for going 11-14 MPH over the posted limit. Interesting to note, the penalty for 15-20 MPH in excess is $130. A mere 8% increase in penalty for a 31% increase in speed. Kids, the broader lessoned learned from this is to never travel 76 MPH in a 65 zone when 85 will do.
My sense of violated justice over this alleged offense prohibits an immediate, compliant kowtowing to the court. Some more brooding will be in order. Followed perhaps by an inquiry to my old pal, Dr. Flash. He always seems to have the right prescription to resolve these things in a civilized, minimally expensive, and non-record tainting manner. From what I understand, this has nothing to do with throwing yourself on the mercy of the court. Instead it's all about throwing yourself into the meshing gears of the machine and gumming things up long enough to get them to beg you to leave with a slap on the wrist. Fellow citizens, let justice be done.
The Elder Adds: I feel your pain brother. Or more accurately, I felt it about a year and a half ago. A period of brooding is most appropriate.