I just got a speeding ticket—in the mail—and I think that’s un-American.
I don’t claim innocence. I also don’t admit to any guilt in this obvious violation of my civil rights to confront my accuser, which, in this case, is an inanimate object featuring a radar speed device and a pretty good camera.
I do admit that the truck in the image looks an awful lot like mine, but how many white, crew cab Ford F-150 pickups do you imagine are running around the country? And, as we have all been reminded by recent events, electronics can be misused.
And how can I be certain that the photograph accurately represents the actual speed that particular truck (maybe mine, maybe not) was traveling while those pictures were being snapped? Too many uncertainties, if you ask me.
But the biggest threat to civilization as we know it is fine-by-electronics. I’ve been stopped a few times in the last few years—some for traveling a tad over the limit—or so they say—but I have received no more than a pleasant warning. “Slow down a little,” the polite officers say. “Have a nice day.”
“Thank you, sir,” I reply, graciously, and usually add: “Thank you for your service, sir. And I apologize for taking you away from your duties.” I know, it’s gratuitous flattery at its worst, but I may pass this way again, and a little groveling might be helpful down the road.
But with electronic surveillance, one has no opportunity to elicit sympathy. Typically, the officer, who is at least 30 years my junior, sees, instead of the surly miscreant he’s expecting, a timid, white-haired senior citizen who greets him with his driver’s license already out, a chastened look on his face, and an apology already forming on his quivering lips.
“I pulled you over for your speed,” he says.
“I must have missed the last speed limit sign,” I usually lie through my teeth, knowing he is not going to believe me anyway. Then I try this after he relates just how fast I was going, which is always exactly how fast I thought I was going: “I can’t argue with that. That’s how fast I was traveling.”
“Well, I’m just going to give you a warning, but slow down.”
“Thank you officer, etc., etc., etc.”
That’s not possible with an electronic speed checker, which becomes arresting officer, judge, and jury. I should fight this all the way to the—well, all the way to the justice of the peace. Or I could just ignore it and take my chances of it going to warrant. I’ve never been arrested, and that could be an interesting adventure.
“I’m paying the fine,” Pat said. I don’t argue. I’m really not that adventurous. But still, maybe it wasn’t really my truck. And maybe I wasn’t speeding. Maybe the system is rigged.