Driving down to the Island this morning, I was thinking about my first (and only) traffic infraction to date (that I was nabbed for). I don’t know why it suddenly sprang to mine. Perhaps the deceptive speedomeer of the car I was driving, but maybe it was the music. Something about being in a car alone with music playing makes me retrospective.
At any rate, my first ticketed traffic infraction occurred back in the dark ages when I was still driving the Ford, and I was ambling down the 101 South, slipping in and out of slower traffic like a salmon moving upstream, when I noticed a highway patrolman with all his lights on behind me. The music was blaring, the engine was humming, and life was good.
Ah ha, I thought, he’s on the hunt for a traffic maldoer! I should comply with the laws of the State of California and move aside for him.
To my surprise, he pulled up behind me and got out of his vehicle. I turned my car off and put my hands at 10 and 2 like a good citizen until he arrived at the car and knocked on the window, which I obligingly rolled down.
“FUCK THE POLICE,” the stereo said, “STRAIGHT FROM THE UNDERGROUND.”
I turned the car all the way off.
“Yes, officer,” I said.
“Uh…are you aware of how fast you were going?”
“Well, er, I was kind of, you know, grooving to the music and thinking about dim sum, so no.”
“Er…you know, Chinese dumplings, and, uh, stuff.”
“You were thinking about food?”
“Yeah, more or less.”
“Well, I clocked you going 112.”
“Really,” I said, with interest. “I didn’t think this car could go that fast. I mean, the speedometer only goes up to 85.”
“Could I see your license and registration?”
“Oh, yeah, of course,” I said, and proceeded to root through the glove box, dislodging a lease agreement, a very large hunting knife, a package of Tylenol, a case of .22 bullets, a stale pack of cloves, and a hair crimper. I also dug out my insurance for good measure, and handed him the pile of papers.
He studied them for a moment, and then said: “this vehicle isn’t licensed to you.”
“Really? That’s odd,” I said, “since I sure pay a lot for insurance and registration on it every year.”
“The name on this registration doesn’t match the name on your license.”
With a sinking feeling, I realized what had happened.
I have a somewhat unusual name, you see. Let’s say, hypothetically, that it’s Starshine Defenestrate Jones. Not the sort of name you encounter every day.
Well, on my license, my name is displayed correctly, because I filled out the paperwork.
However, when filling out the paperwork at the DMV, the car dealer mispelled my middle name, so the car was registered to Starshine Defenesterate Jones.
The car insurance muddled it further, insuring the car under Defenestrate Starshine Jones, and their system truncated my middle name, so the car was insured to Defenestrate Jones.
Now, any person with a brain could take this information and understand the the driver, the registrant, and the insured were the same person. But the Highway Patrolman decided that this was apparently not the case.
“Come on man,” I said. “How many people in California are named Starshine Defenestrate Jones? I mean, seriously. and how many more are mispelled? You must realize that this is, in fact, my vehicle. Besides, if I was faking the paperwork, I would have spelled my own name right. I hate my name. It’s humiliating enough already. Could we not prolong this?”
“Well,” he started to say, grudgingly, “I suppose that makes sense.”
“Well then,” I said, “no matter who the car belongs to, you’d better write me a ticket, hadn’t you?”
“Er, yes,” he said, brightening visibily. “Don’t go anywhere, Miss Jones,” and he strode briskly back to his vehicle.
I picked up In the Shadow of Young Girls In Flower from the front seat, where I had left it, and started to read. As I turned a page, I suddenly realized that I was in deep shit. I was going well more than 30 miles an hour over the speed limit, which I was pretty sure was a felony. My license would be revoked for sure. And God knows what else.
Oh God, I thought, FUCK.
The officer was meandering back to the car and I waited to hear my fate.
“Well, Miss Jones, I’ve decided to write you up for 92.”
“Oh, thank you,” I said.
“But you should be more attentive in the future.”
“Oh, for sure,” I said. “But, uhm, why only 92?”
“Well, you didn’t try to weasel out of it. And you were reading Proust.”
“Oh,” I said.
Several weeks later found me in the halls of the Sonoma County Traffic Court, getting ready for my hearing. I figured I might as well go–I’d heard that if the cop doesn’t show up, you get off.
But as I handed the ticket to the clerk, I realized something: the officer had mispelled my first name.
When my turn came, I looked the officer in the eye and said:
“Well, Your Honor, as you can see here, this ticket is written out to Starshieen Defenestrate Jones, and that’s not me,” I said. “I fail to see why I should pay it.”
And that was that. My first traffic infraction, and hopefully the last…the last one I get caught at, anyway.