Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Speeding Tickets

Today, I learned that if you're falling asleep at the wheel, you're supposed to take one shoe off and drive barefoot to keep you on your toes. Hmmm. I had never thought of this but it certainly made sense.

The last time I had access to a car regularly was in college. My parents are kind of car crazy and we had five cars, and so they let me have a car starting with the semester that I spent in DC while working at the State Department. My parents live two hours south of DC, and so having a car was much easier for me to make trips home. I kept the car when I started school the following year back in Philadelphia. It was just easier on my parents and they didn't have to keep buying me plane or train tickets back home. One time my parents made me take Greyhound. But after the one and only time I have ever taken Greyhound, I vowed to never take it again. Everyone on the bus was a freak, including the driver. We're talking guys just out of prison, young teenage mothers with screaming kids who are running around the entire bus, hippie folks, old senior, but very vocal, citizens, ghetto gangsta girls....you name it. The most surreal experience is being stuck in a bus with these people for a six-hour bus ride. So that means you hear every conversation on board and pretty soon it becomes almost free will for other people to just interject and provide their colorful commentary on other people. Some people will even take it upon themselves to scream at the entire bus. Can you imagine if I got up in the middle of an airplane cabin and started yelling at everyone? The bus that I was on was packed. Greyhound had oversold and so some people had to sit in the aisles, which last time I checked is a safety violation. And the poor bus driver has to control all of this and keep his eyes on the road. But by nature, bus-goers seem to hate all authority figures and blame the sucky, smelly ride on the driver. In fact, one more crazy person, and we probably would have had a bus mutiny.

So I was pretty happy that my parents let me keep the car for my senior year. Philadelphia is a pretty driveable city and while street parking is a little difficult, Philadelphia is a freaking parking lot compared to New York or San Francisco. And my trips home were a lot easier which was the whole point of my having a car.

You know how some people say speeding tickets come in pairs? Well usually people mean a few days or a week or so in between tickets, and then you won't get another one for months or years. For me, it came within an hour. I was driving home one night. I had already passed DC and was driving down Route 29 on my way to Charlottesville. I had been on the road for four hours and I was getting really sleepy and could feel my eyes getting heavy. I had already tried every trick I could think of--the radio, a cup of coffee, sitting up really straight, but nothing was working. I was soooooo tired. I saw a parking lot for a store on the side of the road and decided to pull over for a quick 20 minute power nap. This was around 11:00PM. An hour and a half later, I woke up with a start. CRAP!!! I slept for more than an hour! I started the car and quickly got back on the road. I really didn't mean to be driving at 1AM in the morning and I just wanted to get home.

The road was empty, and at that time I didn't know that Route 29 has about a gazillion speed traps with another gazillion bored cops who have nothing better to do than give speeding tickets at 1AM. I saw the blue and grey sedan behind me with flashing lights. Fuckety, fuck, fuck. I was just trying to rush home because I didn't want to be on the road that late. I was going about 70 in a 55 mph zone. Come on. 70 is not that fast on an EMPTY road. I didn't bother really arguing it because I just wanted to get home. The officer gave me my ticket and I was on my way.

I'm back on the road. And literally 15 minutes later, I saw ANOTHER cop car behind me flashing my lights. Oh shit. I was speeding again. This time I was going about 75 mph. I pulled over and rolled my window down. Before the officer could say anything, I proclaimed "I was not speeding!" Now I said this having not looked at my speedometer. I really didn't realize I was speeding and guess I had a lead foot. Anyway the officer (who was a woman, which made matters worse) retorted "Oh yes you were." Now I know a little bit about speedometers, and I start going off "I think your thing is wrong. Are you sure it's calibrated? Where's your tuning fork???" Obviously the officer was not too please to be arguing with me, although I like to think that I gave her some entertainment on a boring Friday night on the highway. Anyway, she just took my license and registration and went back to her car. That's when I realized that when she radioed my license number in, she'll probably learn about my ticket from 15 minutes ago. Great. That'll sure help my cause.

I could see the officer walking back to my car. I braced myself for some yelling. Maybe I'd even have to *step* outside of the vehicle. Maybe I was going to get searched. Luckily, either she didn't know that I had just gotten a ticket 15 minutes ago or was being nice or was just simply too embarrassed for me. She just gave me my ticket and I was off.

I wasn't having any problems of staying awake now. Next time, I feel sleepy on the road, at least now I know to take one shoe off. That's surely better than getting two tickets in 15 minutes.


marshmallow said...

interesting theory. i'll ask if MH can try it out. not that i want him to fall asleep behind the wheel!

Jon said...

When I was 16, I was driving after 9PM which is agianst NY State law, as you have to be 17 to drive after 9PM. Anyway, I must have been in denial, because I saw the lights behind me and I honestly kept driving for about 2 miles. The cop (obviously) called for backup, I was ordered to get out of the car with my hands up while 6 cops poointed their guns at me, was searched, and got 2 summons- oh, and when my parents found out, that was really when the shit hit the fan.

Anyway, the judge was pretty lenient and dropped the failure to comply charge. Ah, to be young again ;-)

Kayo Kid said...

When I lived in DC I used to take Peter Pan buses when they first started running service from DC to NY. At first the rides were pleasant because no one knew about Peter Pan, but within a few months the Greyhound culture you so accurately described had oozed its way onto Peter Pan.

Scott said...

My first trip back from D.C. a month after moving to New York, our Greyhound bus driver threatened to run us off the road. It was a Sunday evening, with horrible getting-back-to-the-city traffic, and all of these mothers kept marching their small children up to the driver and pleading with him to park at a rest stop and let them get some food for their "poor babies, who haven't eaten all day." When he kept refusing, due to lack of time, a couple of men started calling him names, and even shouting threats at him. Finally the driver pulled over to the side of the road and turned the engine off. He said, very calmly, into his microphone, "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm in control of this bus. I'm the one who's keeping us all from running off the side of the road. I suggest, if you want to get home safely, that you not distract me from that task, or else you might not like the consequences." The passengers shut up after that. You could still hear them grumbling and cursing under their breaths, though. I've never taken Greyhound since.