Tuesday, January 25, 2005

How to Beat a Traffic Ticket

I was going to save this story for later on, that is until I went to see my chiropractor this morning. I got a good look at my x-ray's, the ones taken yesterday. Since this is a new chiropractor for me I was going through the "getting to know you" stage. "You have a very interesting x-ray", as she pointed out that my heart is not left of center as with most folks. I thought to myself, "that explains my conservative leanings". We got to talking about traffic tickets, that I was a retired police officer and I promised that I would post this for story for her staff.
How to Beat a Traffic Ticket
Making the transition from the Police Academy to actually working as a line officer required additional training. I was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to ride with several veteran officers while learning the streets. One of those officers gave me advice about writing traffic tickets that stuck with me. He said, “After you have the violator pulled over; look at the driver’s license. If it’s their birthday; cut ‘em loose and wish them a happy birthday while asking them to be more careful.” Then he added the second part, “… or if they give you an excuse, regardless of how much you believe it; if the excuse is different than any other you’ve heard, cut them loose too.” In the overall scheme of things it made sense. It was downright awe inspiring and kept traffic violations in their proper perspective.
After a few years of stopping folks for running red lights, expired license plates and illegal turns I had heard most of the excuses. “Officer I had to go to the bathroom really bad”, or, “I’m late for traffic court” had been used too often. Every now and again I would hear one that touched on golden, “I just washed my car and was going fast to help dry it off”. That worked the first time; unfortunately the same fellow enjoyed washing his car and drying it on a regular basis.
I thought about all the varied reasons I’d heard and had to come up with a “Grand Prize Winner” of all excuses; the very best weighed out over my twenty years of service. The trophy would have to be awarded to a garbage truck driver. I’d stopped him for running a red light at the intersection of Westheimer, eastbound where it crossed Commonwealth. It was in the middle of our Houston summer and it must have been well up into the 90’s. When I say he ran the red light, he ran it by a good margin, six or seven truck lengths. His luck meter must have been set close to “divine intervention” that day as his garbage truck cleared without a fatal accident. I pulled him over a block or so down the road and could see that he was sweating profusely. His dark brown skin made the beads of sweat look more like motor oil as they ran down his face. I approached the cab and kept an eye on his movement; his bending suggested his reaching for his wallet, his own eyes in contact with mine.
“I sure am sorry about that, Officer.”, he blurted out as he handed me his license. I glanced over his license and took out my ticket book. “Could you write fast, Officer? I’m on an emergency run.” The words came out as naturally as a child asking his father for ice cream.
“Hey, I didn’t know. Be more careful.” I handed his license back and motioned for him to proceed down the road, all the while trying to keep a straight face. I was walking back to my unit when the clincher remark hit my ears.
One of his co-workers in the front seat next to him exclaimed in disbelief, “Can you believe; he bought that sh…!” I could contain myself no longer as I let out a huge belly laugh and waved back at the two, still watching me in their side mirror.
I suppose I’ve ruined yet another great excuse for the next garbage truck driver who finds himself pulled over for having run a red light. “Try to be more careful and have a good day.”

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