Officer Alex explains how to avoid ever getting a traffic citation
You can often gauge how well I know someone I’m in a conversation with based on the length of the “traffic ticket story” they’re telling me.
First clue: If they’re telling me a long “traffic ticket story,” I don’t know them at all and they certainly don’t know me well.
Second clue: Well…that’s pretty much it. But it’s still okay to ask questions now and then. (If I want your ticket history I can pull it up in my car. But I’m not going to. Ever. Because I don’t.)
Insensitive? Eh, maybe, but I don’t blame them. Wait, you mean I’m being insensitive? Eh, maybe I am, too, but I am just one man and I have to have some limits. I actually have a profound understanding for why people feel the need to do this: It’s a source of anxiety and therefore a topic they are very passionate about and it’s how they feel they can relate to me upon meeting me. I get it.
Sometimes the comments are snide, sometimes remorseful, and most involve the injustice of being caught (“…instead of that other guy that blew past me just seconds before!”) to deflect from the fact they were still guilty, and I’m always patient with them. (Okay, mostly patient with them, but my expertise is in dealing with human accountability, not being an emotional tampon; give the PTSD-bound a break here.)
The last conversation I had was actually about why they didn’t get a ticket, hence this week’s normally verboten topic. “I couldn’t find my license anywhere, and I was panicking. My kid was in his car seat and asking what was happening over and over and I actually think he’d undone his seatbelt which would have been a second ticket and finally the cop just said ‘Fine, just…be careful. Have a good day, ma’am.’ What was with that? He didn’t go through my car or anything!”
She had other forms of identification. He had tools in his car to verify who she was, but what made her really lucky was that this wasn’t a drug interdiction cop, or a cop who wasn’t able to convince his supervisor he hadn’t seen a citeable offense in five, ten, or fifteen days as opposed to not doing his job. She was polite and nervous and didn’t know that without a license you can’t get a ticket by the letter of the law—you have to be taken to jail for a lack of state ID to verify your identity and brought before a magistrate, and she had a kid in the car that would have suffered.
That’s why she didn’t get a ticket for doing 12 over, so naturally I told her, “Wow. That was just your lucky day I guess! Be careful, don’t waste that!”
I wasn’t lying, but I wasn’t going to give her the idea she had an “out” from now on, and I’m not giving you that idea either because, unlike in her situation, I can take the time to tell you it’s a fool’s errand to think you can chuck your ID into the trunk and drive like Steve McQueen in “Bullitt” so long as you have a kid in the car.
She both had a planetary alignment in the personality and tenor of the cop that pulled her over and a genuine air that he read into along with the sense to find other ways to verify her identity rather than have a fast one pulled on him.
Discretion + Experience + Instinct = Good Cops. He was fine to let her roll, but any other cop, much less a specialist in ticket writing? Press hard because there are several carbons to be distributed under that white copy, Mrs. Thing.
The real “ticket” to avoidance isn’t claiming ignorance of law or that “everyone else was doing it.” Tickets are a voluntary program, folks; just watch your speed and your brake pedal instead of your cell phone because that’s how you show up “The Man”. If not? Collect that carbon and add it to the stories.
I’m a listener. It’s what I do.
When officer Alexander D. Teach is not patrolling our fair city on the heels of the criminal element, he spends his spare time volunteering for the Boehm Birth Defects Center.