Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Chapter Five -- A Million Tiny Pieces of Cake

Mrs. Linklater's memoir continues with her driving record, which has all the excitement of parallel parking.

I got my first ticket at 24, for driving 43 MPH in a 25 MPH zone. Ho-hum. Having a 1965 Mustang I received for graduation from college was probably the reason for it. That little car was quick. A little too quick sometimes. I never got stopped on the highways, but barreling through a quiet neighborhood, complete with a Dukes of Hazzard moment, which lifted all four wheels off the road as I crested a small hill, no doubt caught the attention of the police officer who was cruising behind me.

Instead of just paying the ticket I decided to go to traffic court in my town. In those days you went to the village where the infraction took place. Nowadays  traffic court takes place in a larger, centralized venue with bunches of smaller courtrooms instead of one big one.

But my first appearance before a judge was in a courtroom with a ceiling two stories high, right out of a Jimmy Stewart movie. The judge was sitting at a nosebleed height. There were at least two hundred people in the room. This was going to be a long haul.

I watched as one sixteen-year-old boy after another went before the judge to defend himself for his second or third speeding ticket. When my turn came the judge almost seemed relieved to discover that young people could drive eight years before getting their first ticket. He gave me supervision, which ultimately kept me from getting a speeding ticket on my record.

Of course, when it came to good driving records I couldn't touch my mother's, which was blemish free. Not only that, but she had a chauffeur's license -- not standard issue for suburban moms in the fifties.

When I was four or five, my resourceful mother started a business driving kids to school. She converted a 1947 Mercury Woody station wagon to a kidmobile so that it had benches around the perimeter of the back for little tykes to sit on.

She started the business to make extra money while my dad was still making no money as a medical resident. She was a registered nurse, but driving was the only way she could take care of us kids while she worked  We went on all her pick up runs. "Fingers, hands on chest," was her mantra every time she opened a door or closed it. I think that came about because I stuck my fingers in the door just as she closed it one time. I was like that.

Later, as I got closer to driving age, I became convinced she kept her chauffeur's license long after she needed it, just to show me the high standards of driving she expected from me.  

Except for a four year period when I couldn't seem to back out of a driveway or a parking lot space without hitting another car, my contacts with other vehicles driving forward have been pretty much limited to one or two other occasions.

I hit the bumper of a white car in front of me hard enough to leave the black imprint of my bumper on hers. The damage amounted to something that could be rubbed off with some elbow grease. Unfortunately the driver's husband, who hadn't been there, claimed that I hit her so hard that there was irreparable destruction to some gismo in the front end. Luckily I had taken pictures at the scene to show the insurance company how little damage there was. Soon that complaint went away.

A couple of years ago,I lost my mind and tried to turn right in front of a stopped bus, forgetting that it's ILLEGAL to do that. The bus started up and clipped my bumper. No damage, but he had to write a report. This meant the whole bus had to be emptied and another one called to come pick up the passengers, each of whom gave me a dirty look as they trudged off.  

The bus driver's superviser had to come to make a report too. He tookdown all my insurance information, driver's license info, etc., etc. We all agreed that everything was my fault. Then the police showed up. Two of the biggest, baddest, baldest Chicago police officers I have ever seen came swaggering over to my car, as I sat looking up at them seated on the passenger side with the door open. 

One of the officers talked to the bus driver, then turned to me and started shouting in my face, "Shame on you! Shame on YOU!  Trying to drive around the bus, that's illegal, what were you thinking . . ." He went into a wild tirade at me. I just stared at him because even though I knew it was my fault, I sure didn't like him yelling at me up close and personal. Suddenly he stopped his rant and I didn't say anything. I just glared at him with fire in my eyes. By now both cops were standing over me like two huge sumo wrestlers in uniform.

Then I saw the look on the bus driver's face. "Just say you're sorry, lady," was written all over it. He was staring at me like I'd better do something quick. So I said, "Yes, officer, we have agreed that this was all my fault. I'm very sorry."  There was another beat, like the cop was trying to decide whether it was worth his time to write me a ticket, because I was up to my neck in insubordination, not to mention utter disrespect.

He looked at me hard, then turned to the bus driver. I had the feeling he didn't want to bother with the ticket, but I had pushed him to the edge. "Any damage?" he asked. "No." At this point he could let it go and seem like a good guy. So I didn't get the ticket I richly deserved.

After the police drove off, the bus driver was incredulous. "You almost got yourself a nasty ticket. What were you thinking?"  I was thinking the bus driver was right, Actually, I just needed time to get my anger at the police officer's IN YOUR FACE scolding under control. It almost took me too much time, that's all. So I just agreed with the bus driver and went on my way.



suzypwr said...

When someone opens a door in a car, do you still fold your arms in? It does seem like a good plan.

Those old Mustangs were something else!


mosie1944 said...

I was with Cliff one time when he got stopped for speeding; the police officer started writing out the ticket, and as he did, he went into a lecture.  When he paused for breath, Cliff said, "I'll take either the ticket or the sermon, but I don't need both."

The officer quit talking, finished writing the ticket, and silently handed it to Cliff.

psychfun said...

Chicago Police Officers are a rare breed that is for sure! They screw up traffic at lunch hour more than they help! And bus drivers & taxi cab drivers drive crazy in Chicago!

ally123130585918 said...

Mrs L I have only ever had one ticket and that was for "parking in a disabled parking slot"...but as I had my disabled stickers in the winow of my car - I wrote them a nice letter - asking if their Traffic Wardens could read...had a nice letter back saying I didn't have to pay the fine.....Take care and don't drive to fast.....Ally

sunnyside46 said...

i am like you, I drive just fine, but parking is another story

screaminremo303 said...

Chicago cops have an infamous reputation. 'Nuf said.

yakvette said...

No way.  A cop giving you a speeding ticket and he GOT IN YOUR FACE???  That NEVER happens.  Riiight.  Could have been French Lick, Indiana and I guarantee you would have gotten the same attitude.  Not that the "in your faceness" is ever relative to the attitude being projected by the driver.  Never in my case, anyway.  

By the way, please try and update your journal more often.  I have done TWO entries in a 2 day time span.   Try and keep up, will ya.