We all have good stories. Some stories are made better by the manner of telling them. Some stories are just good on their own. Some require a bit of embellishment to really catch the attention of the listener. I am not going to tell you which category this one falls into, but my Girls Night Out (GNO) friends found this one very amusing indeed.
Many Ontario residents may remember about 15 years ago when the province brought in this public form of highway robbery – known as photo radar. Here is a short summary of how it worked. An everyday looking van would park along the side of a road, looking innocuous and innocent in appearance. But lurking behind that friendly looking windshield sat a very unpopular and borderline criminal piece of machinery. By some evil mechanism, this thing could determine how fast any approaching vehicle was traveling, and if that vehicle happened to be traveling a mere 10km per hour over the posted limit, this evil contraption would then take a picture of the driver of the vehicle, and of the corresponding license plate. A speeding ticket would be issued without prejudice.
Right off the bat I hated the concept. Up until the advent of this horrible tax grab, the police had trained the citizens of Ontario that we were allowed to travel 15km over the posted limit, with no repercussions. The police followed this same rule, and going slower than this speed would actually be dangerous, as the traffic generally traveled at posted plus 15. Traveling posted plus 10 put lives in danger.
Up until this black point in history, a driver who happened to be traveling faster than the posted plus 15 speed, would have the opportunity to explain to the police officer if there was some truly honest and necessary reason for the excessive speed. It was all very fair and civil.
It seemed to me that this cash grab was unconstitutional. I had strong views on the matter. But, having a long history of being an upstanding and law abiding citizen, I did my best to slow down to the posted plus 10 speed.
One day I was traveling down a beautiful and sparsely traveled country road. I was likely listening to gospel music or some inspirational tape. The sun was shining and life was good. I saw a van up ahead and wondered if I should stop to see if they needed some help. But then again, I was a lady traveling all alone, and that might be dangerous. As I got closer I noticed that this was one of those evil white vans looking to add misery and cost to the lives of nice and decent people like me. I checked my speedometer and was happy to see that I was traveling a mere 81. No problemo. I fought the urge to roll down the window and flip the driver the bird. Instead I kept my speed consistent and smiled to the friggin’ little dweeb, muttering insults under my breath.
So I was very surprised when, a few weeks later, I opened the mail to find a nice picture of me driving down this most beautiful of roads, accompanied by a ticket for driving 81 in a 70 zone. I do not recall the amount for the ticket, but it was not much. The ticket explained that no points would be taken off my license because, although I was a law breaker, my speed was not excessive.
Winnipeg Free Press – ONLINE EDITION
Drivers urged to not pay photo radar tickets”
Boy was I pissed. 11 km over the limit! You gotta be kidding me! And to think I had given a thought to helping out the seemingly broken down van. I felt that I had been duped, tricked, misconceived.
But with me, emotions tend to turn quickly. It was not long before I was giggling aloud as I prepared to pay the ticket. I looked at the picture and had to admit they caught my good side. And I figured one good picture deserved another. And so…. I gathered up the proper sum to pay for the ticket, I placed it very artistically and tastefully upon my kitchen table. I took out my camera and snapped a few shots to make sure I had a good one. And then I filled in the ticket stub, pleading guilty to the charge. I carefully put the stub inside the kindly provided envelope, together with the picture I had taken of the money. And I was feeling very downright giddy as I mailed my chosen form of payment off promptly. I was probably humming the theme to COPS when I happily walked the envelope off to the mailbox.
I imagined that somewhere in a dark and gloom filled office, some poor office clerk was sure to appreciate a good laugh. I was sure she would call in all her friends and share this most ingenious coup with all of them. I was happy to provide a little joy into an otherwise bleak and boring existence. I slept well that night.
Eventually I received several notices that acknowledged my guilty plea, but failed to accept this artful form of payment. They still wanted my money. I cannot recall whether I chose to ignore these notices, or if I deliberately chose not to pay for this non-infraction. But one day I was approached by a police officer, who told me that he had a warrant for my arrest for an unpaid speeding ticket. I paid the ticket with a real cheque and considered it well worth the chuckles I shared with this real live police officer.
To this day I am still convinced that this episode brought a little chuckle into the lives of some poor clerk. I am more pleased that eventually the unpopular photo radar was abolished from our provincial roads. I have been caught speeding a few times since this unfortunate event, but I have only received one ticket, and that was for much less that the speed I was traveling. Life is back to normal with our ability to put a human touch on a common event. My only regret is never having met the clerk who opened that envelope 15 years ago. If you know her, I am sure she has shared this story and maybe you can put her in touch with me.
Drive safe and keep it real.