Friday, January 15, 2016

I Got a Ticket

I got a ticket the other day, a month or three ago.  No, it wasn't a winning lottery ticket.

It wasn't a Ticket to Ride.  It wasn't a ticket to Paradise, either.

It wasn't the golden ticket for a little chocolate visit to Wonka Land, either.

It wasn't even a ticket to some grand event, and I've had lots of those.  Tickets to sporting events, rock shows, Broadway musicals and tractor pulls.  Which are really loud and utterly pointless.  Tractor pulls that is.  The rest of them things, while sometimes loud, can be oodles of fun.

Nope, this was a speeding ticket.  Issued by the California Highway Patrol.  Man, those guys can sure make a day go south in a hurry. 

And talk about a questionable call.  I was simply motoring along on our two lane country road at 47 MPH, speed limit 40.  It's what I do every day.  I mean, we live on a two lane country road.  95% of the folks who drive on this road do so around 45 MPH.  Some drive insanely faster, like 65 MPH, some drive marginally slower, like 35 MPH.

OK, to clarify, about mid way through our two lane country road commute to a bigger two lane country road is a little subdivision of about thirty-five homes.  Since it's a blindish intersection, the speed limit drops about a hundred yards before it to 25 MPH.  Because the folks trying to get out of there can't see vehicles coming at the blindingly fast speed of 45, apparently.

There are a couple solar powered warning signs in each direction that flash your speed a couple hundred yards before the intersection.  There is also a 25 MPH sign about a hundred yards before you get there.  99% of the time I slow down.  Nobody else does, but I do.  Why not?  It's a minor inconvenience.  Plus, there's solar activated warning signs on either side of the intersection to remind me.  It's easy and takes about eight seconds off my excursion.

So, this one Friday afternoon a week or three months or so ago I cleaned the carpets.  My lovely wife was out of town for the weekend visiting her twin sister.  I had the house all to myself.  Was a time I might have invited all my derelict friends over to smoke cigars, drink beer and play cards.  Now I clean the carpet.

Why do I, personally, clean the carpet?  Cause I do a better job then the pros and it's a helluva lot cheaper.

I rent one of those machines at the grocery store and buy a gallon of lemon scented ammonia.  I don't know why they call it lemon scented.  It doesn't have the clean, effervescent scent of fresh lemon, not even close.  It still smells like a haz mat cocktail, and any close inhalation normally sets your nose hairs on fire.  I suppose if you've got a forest in there that would be one easy way to clean 'em out.  You'd probably drop a few hundred thousand brain cells in the process though, so it might not be worth it if you were actually considering giving it a shot.
Besides burning nose hairs and killing brain cells, ammonia does a great job on the carpets.  It does just as good a job as the substantially higher priced "magic" carpet cleaning solutions they would have you buy when you rent their machine.  As a matter of fact, there's about $100.00 you could easily spend on about four different products.  I spend about $6.00 for a gallon of ammonia.  Does just fine.

I also go over the areas I am cleaning two to four times.  High traffic areas get even more attention.  A professional would NEVER do that.  At least I've never seen them do it.

It is a workout though.  Back and forth.  To and fro.  In and out.  Moving the furniture around.  Upstairs.  Downstairs.  On the stairs.  It was a good six plus hour workout for this old man.  Dang, I was tired.  Nevertheless I decided to take the machine back to the store so I didn't have to think about it the next morning.

As I approached the subject of describing my approach of the subject intersection, I became aware I really needed to describe the intersection first.  It's not really a four way.  Or a three way.  It's a somewhere in between there way.

One way goes into the subdivision, the other way used to go into a little back woods country nine hole golf course.  The road in is now gated, but there's a semi truck deep turnout, replete with bushes and trees.  A perfect spot for a predator to lie in wait for prey.

The old back woods country golf course used to be perfect for me and a bud of mine.  We only golf about four times a year so we are compatibly comparable.  We're hackers.  As a matter of fact, our golf scores and bowling scores are roughly the same, low 100's.  Our one rule is that you can't score more than 6 on any one hole.  Every once in a while we actually get an honest six.

Since we're not that great we're somewhat loath to spend a ton of dough on a pristine Pebble Beach.  This one was close, inexpensive and quick.  We could do nine holes in two hours, including commute.

But then, shortly after my lovely wife and I moved just a mile or so down the road, the old owner dude died and his three kids started bickering.  The little back woods country nine hole golf course closed.  It was only a very small portion of a MUCH bigger total of 165 contiguous acres the old dude had owned.  It took a couple years for the kid fighting to cease and the whole deal is now up for sale.   There's been rumors it might go as an overall development, which would bring a lot more traffic to our two lane country road. 

In the meantime, cows graze upon our golf course, they poop upon the greens.
It's overgrown, the birds have flown, here's hoping it stays an animal latrine.

As I approached the now over described intersection, I noticed the flashing warning sign on the south side was not operational.  That thought quickly vanished.  In its place came about six hundred thousand other thoughts of varied degree and tapestry.  Fortunately most of them weren't really relevant to just about anything, really.  Just random, silly thoughts.  And then, as I rounded the final curve right before the intersection, I noticed a CHP lurking in the shadows of the turnout.  And he sure noticed me.

I immediately slowed down, but as I passed he immediately swooped in behind me.  Then, since there was no safe place to pull me over for about a mile, he followed about six inches from my rear end.  Talk about tail gating.  Only, you know, I didn't really want to flip this guy off.  He stayed there, on my ass, until we were right in front of his home turf, the new CHP station at the corner of our road.  There's a lot of room to pull over there.  The circus lights came on.

Now, I am always polite to law enforcement.  This time was no exception.  Besides there was no way I wanted him to find the decomposing human body parts that were rotting in the trunk.  The smell of which I was trying to mask by smoking a joint.  So I hopped out of the car to greet him, smiling, smoke trailing behind.

Actually, I'm kidding.  I simply sat there, muttering and cursing under my breath.

He walked up to the window, asked for my pertinence and then proceeded to tell me why he pulled me over.

"You know...too fast....old people....can't see....slow down...enforce..."

Blah, blah, blah, blah.  I was still cursing.  Then I proceeded to tell him that I always slow down there, you know, except for just that one time.  But every other time I always do.  Honest.  I also mentioned the solar activated warning light was out, and that was my usual wake up for the intersection.  He conceded it was out and we yakked back and forth.  I almost thought I had him talked out of it but then he went back to write the citation.

As I sat there, I started thinking how I might possibly beat the ticket.  Sure, he clocked me at 47 MPH rounding the corner before the intersectionBut I was still a hundred yards from the actual intersection at that point and had slowed to 35 by the time I got there.  Plus the warning sign was non operational.  The more I thought about it the more I felt confident I could beat it.

Then he comes back and tells me he did me a favor by just writing me up doing 47 in a 40.  Instead of stating the safe speed was 25 MPH at the intersection.  The fact of which I think I could have beat.  Based on all the evidence previously presented.  How was I going to beat a simple 47 in a 40?  No mention of an intersection or anything.  He had me on radar.  I was sunk.

And I felt sunk.  I was bummed.  I returned the machine and bought a couple doughnuts.  Only doughnuts could console me now.  Was a time it would have been a bottle of whiskey.  Now it's doughnuts.

It's been about a dozen years since my last ticket.  And maybe a decade prior to that since the one before. 
I forgot how the whole process worked.

Was I supposed to get something in the mail?

Was I supposed to call them?  I had a phone number.  He wrote it on the ticket.

Would I have to go to court?  I didn't wanna go to court.  I don't like court.  I spent a lot of time there in another life and I don't like it one bit.  See "Late Night Letters to the Moon" for clarification.  There was a court date written on the citation for December 9th.  I needed to head that off at the pass.

A month into waiting for that damned envelope I finally called the court.  They said they hadn't yet received anything with my name on it.  They said stuff from the CHP takes a little longer to get in their hot little hands.
A week before my court date I decided to call them again.  They still had nothing, but a big batch of goodies from the CHP had just come in.  Mine should be in that sleigh, they said.  They'd extend the court date to the 30th and I should be receiving something shortly. 

Well, they did and it was.  Imagine my surprise when I saw the bail was $220.00.  Plus $66.00 if I wanted to attend traffic school and keep it off my record.  Talk about inflation.

$220.00 for driving seven miles over the speed limit?  Are you kidding me?  In an area where there are mostly squirrels.  As a matter of fact, for further clarification, I encounter a vehicle coming out of that intersection maybe one out of twenty to thirty passes.  That's how friggin busy it is.  It's a back woods country road folks. 

The actual cost of the ticket was $35.00.  Then they added a TVS Monitor fee of $3.00.  And a TVS penalty assessment of $99.00.  Whatever those are.  Then there was a court operations fee of $40.00.  And $109.00 designated to "other".

$185.00 of extraneous fees.  Apparently little criminals get to help support all kinds of county programs. The kicker, though, for me, was the traffic school fee.  Some government entity gets $66.00 just to allow you to take the class.  The class cost is extra.

There is a little silver lining in all of this.  I think.  Once the court got my money they sent me back a receipt and some paperwork.  Part of that paperwork included a fold-out listing about eight thousand online traffic school courses.  It also listed one specific school that was available for the Nevada County area.

I was confused.  I wasn't sure if that meant I could take an online class or if I had to take the one listed for Nevada County.  I surely wanted to take an online course on my own time and did not want to burn up eight hours on a Saturday in a room full of people who didn't want to be there.  Either.  There's simply not enough pot on the planet to handle that scene.

A bit confused, it all warranted another phone call to the court.  The nice gentlemen who answered the phone clarified the situation.  I could take any one of the eight thousand listed online courses or I could burn up a Saturday in a room full of people that didn't want to be there.  The internet class would also probably be less expensive he said.

Hmmh, let's see.

Vacation in war torn Syria or the coast of Spain?

Have lunch in a filthy gas station restroom or a restaurant?

Have all my limbs sawed off by that weirdo from Texas or just get a haircut?

Get a back massage by Terry Bradshaw or Teri Hatcher?

I opted for the online course.  In case you were wondering.

There's a gazillion online traffic courses out there by the way.  You just have to be sure the one you choose is on your county's approved list.  Which was pretty easy, cause, like I said, there were about eight thousand listed.  Non-alphabetically by the way.  If you wanted to go class shopping online for the best price it was nearly impossible to cross reference on the handout to see if they're approved.  So I made it easy.

I chose, which was listed on my paperwork.   I mean, could there possibly be a cheaper site in the universe offering a certified traffic course?

And, having just completed their rigorous regimen, I can honestly say neither one of those words are true.  Rigorous or regimen.  It was $5.00.  Sign up was a snap.  They get all the pertinence and electronically mail the completion to your specific court.

They had a few up sales, like audio if you can't read.  Which is another thing I really wanted to avoid.

Let's see, I could listen to Jim Nabors in slow motion or Bon Jovi in record time.

I could drive to the corner liquor store for some Ho-Ho's and a cigar on a tractor or in a Ferrari.

Now granted, driving anywhere on a tractor is pretty cool.  Especially if Jim Nabors is sitting next to you singing.  In real time.  But those are good times, so you'd want to take your time and relish the occasion.  Traffic class is not an occasion to be relished.  I wanted out as fast as possible.

After signup there were essentially four stages of curriculum.  After each stage you had to answer with 75% accuracy a four question, open book, 5th grade level multiple choice quiz.

At the end there was a 25 question same as above test.

I probably could have simply taken the quiz's and challenged the final test and passed within their 75% perimeters.  Without reading anything.  But I dawdled and read a bit and probably spent a couple hours total in pursuit of an almost perfect 24 out of 25.  And the one I missed I think is suspect.  I think they're wrong.

At any rate, my ordeal is over.  They emailed me a certificate of completion and said they would also email said cert to the court.  I was supposed to follow up with the court a few days after to confirm they received it, which I did.  And they had.  Case closed.

The other day on our way into town my lovely wife asked why I had just slowed down. 

And I said, "Because, um, I just got through paying a $286.00 ticket for traveling too fast right here.  Spent an hour on a course.  It all happened.  Right.  Here.  Thank you very much."

I have yet to see another cop there and, as I mentioned earlier, I see another car there every few weeks.  And I am now, apparently, the only person on the planet who slows down there.

Oh well, it's not the first time I've been a trail blazer.

Animal Update

It is with deep sorrow that I announce the most recent addition to our family, Sammie, our ten month old  wonder kitten, was clipped by a car on the night of January 11th.  He was found dead at the foot of our drive.

It's a risk we take as pet owners, letting our cats outside.  Especially out here in the country.  Besides the road-which is to hell and gone from the house why in the hell was he all the way down there?-we have night critters that would love to dine on cat.

We've lost a few cats over our lifetime because they were outdoors, but the majority have lived long, healthy lives.  And we feel it's wrong to deny them all the wonder the outdoors has to offer.  A couple years back we buried our 18 and 19 year old kitties, who essentially died of old age.  They had been indoor/outdoor all their lives.

Losing a pet is sad anytime.  This one hurts a little more because he was so innocent.  He had just started going outside and was just learning his way.  Apparently he wasn't getting a second chance.  No "whew" for him.

He was the life of the party too.  When most cats would flee, Sam would be hanging out in a room full of people vying to be the center of attention.  He was also quite affectionate, sometimes lumbering onto our slumbering noggins in the middle of the night.  There he would curl up, essentially using our head as a pillow.  Then he would start purring and it would sound like someone was riding a motorcycle in your brain.  But we didn't dare move because he was having such a wonderful time.

Our other two cats as well as the chickens are fine.  We two humans are devastated, but we'll be fine.

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