I haven’t received a traffic ticket for many, many light years. But it was not always thus.
Several decades ago, when I lived in North Miami Beach, around the time Miami was chosen the crime capital of the country, while running late for church services one sunny Sunday, I took a shortcut off the main route, and immediately encountered roadblocks on the side street. Against my husband’s strongly worded advice against doing so, I recklessly drove onto someone’s lawn to circumvent the barricades. That dreaded sound — a nearby police siren — rang in my ear. I pulled over onto someone else’s lawn, and the cop dismounted his motorcycle. I said a bad word and pulled out the license and insurance card from my purse. My husband said several bad words.
The cop’s first words to me were chilling. “You know you can be arrested on felony charges for driving around a police barricade.”
No, I did not know that. I explained that we were running late for church, and his attitude softened a bit. He then remarked that the charge would probably be reduced to a moving violation, since I had no prior criminal history.
He handed me a ticket for “evading officially erected barricades” or something like that and said I would need to be in court for a misdemeanor charge of driving around a police barricade. That should have been the end of it.
But then my husband smirked and said, “I told you not to do that.” I lambasted him. The cop, who was mounting his motorcycle, turned and approached my rolled down window.
“Hey, that’s no way to talk to your husband. You should have taken his advice.”
In the worst possible way to handle the situation, I mouthed off at the policeman, who threatened to give me another ticket. In the second worst way to handle the situation, I dared him. He did. I mouthed off again. He pulled out his pad a third time. This is how I discovered that if a policeman really wants to charge you with something or several somethings, they can absolutely find a way to do it. We walked into church that morning late, angry and, in my case, unrepentant.
Luckily, we had a friend who was a young attorney. My husband had done some remodeling in his new office and he’d told us “Call me if you ever need my help.” I called him and he agreed to meet me in court. “I’ll speak to the judge on your behalf to get the three violations thrown out. It’s your word against the officer’s. This is Miami,” he said. “The cops are so busy right now they usually don’t even show up in court for minor infractions.” I relaxed. Then I saw the motorcycle cop walk to the witness stand and raise his right hand. I looked at my friend the attorney, who shrugged.
I’m an optimist, always digging for the bright side of the most challenging circumstances. I had a lively experience attending Comedy Traffic School, which was wildly entertaining and useful since it was taught by an ex-policeman, turned stand-up comedian, who shared insider tips on how to avoid getting a traffic ticket and also, my insurance company didn’t penalize me with higher premiums. I also got a great story in the Miami Herald.
I’m still unrepentant, but definitely wiser.