“Why you in such a hurry? You were going 40 in a 25 zone. Gimme your license, registration, & proof of insurance.”
It was so late on Wednesday night that it was already Thursday. Riding with me was my fiancee, a gift-economy naturopath, a Mexican Gandhian & peaceful warrior, and an Amma devotee & brilliant graphic artist. The cop seemed a little hardened, but there was a special energy in the air after two hours of listening to Krishnammal Jagannathan in Santa Clara, and I couldn’t think of four other people I would rather be getting a ticket with for going too fast :-)
As the cop was making his way back to the car, we started thinking. If he was going to give me his best, how could I give him mine? We had some food in the car, but figured that we might get arrested for offering it to him. Pancho pulls out his smile deck just as I’m thinking of the smile cards in my glove box.
“Ok, sign here.”
“Wait a second. Do you know what these are? You gotta check them out!”
“First you gotta sign here,” says the cop.
“First you have to check these out,” I insist, as I explain the concept and the four suits. “Go ahead and take a card!”
“Awright, but sign here first.”
“No, you have to take a card first,” I say, noticing that he’s already smiling! I catch myself wishing for a brief instant that he pulls a card that something like “Don’t give Rahul a ticket!” but was pretty clear that this wasn’t what it was all about. He was just doing his job, enforcing the law. I had to make sure I was doing my job, reminding myself of a deeper law. If we both walked away without any negativity, the world would be a better place. And if the cop followed the suggestion on the card, or paid it forward, the world would be WAY better off. Who’s ever gotten tagged by a cop?!
“What does it say?” I demand.
“Get lifelong bulbs for you house and another’s house,” he says, as he tucks it into his cap with a smile.
“And, you gotta check this one out!” I say as I hand him a regular smile card and tell him more about it.
“Cool. Sign here,” he says, still smiling!
I click the pen but it doesn’t pop out. For another quick second, I catch myself thinking, “Yessss! No ticket for me!” but then he takes it from me and clicks it open as I put myself back in mental check.
“Thanks officer. Have a great night!” We roll away almost missing the turn that is less than a half block away, pulling a crazy maneuver that might have earned me another ticket less than thirty seconds later. I bet the cop was probably too busy re-reading the cards to notice :-)
As the weeks ran by without a ticket arriving in the mail, I figured that there might be some chance that the ticket got magically lost in the system, but it just arrived yesterday.
Cops get paid extra, time & a half I believe, for showing up in court if someone they issued a ticket to contests the charges. The state is facing budget cuts and in the midst of its worst financial crisis, encouraging employees to take 2 unpaid days off a month. At the same time, I’m >400 miles away from the courthouse, and $188 is a lot of money to pay for driving a little fast on an empty road after midnight (and traffic school will add another $30-50 on top of it all).
So that raises the question of what the best response is– and I want your opinion!
a.) drive 400+ miles to contest the ticket, then say in open court that I’m guilty but just wanted to give the cop a gift of extra cash over the holidays to make him smile more; pay the fine; go to traffic school
b.) Berkeley is a nice place in grand scheme of places; pay the fine to support the city but save your time & the pollution of the trip; go to traffic school and spend your gas money on donuts & smile cards for your fellow speeders
c.) pay the fine, go to traffic school, and save you money for a rainy day
d.) pay the lower fine, and skip traffic school altogether– the point on my record costs less than the higher ticket + traffic school; do something nice with the spare change
Incidentally, three days later, my fiancee is speeding down the 5 freeway going >80 mph while I’m asleep in the front seat. A cop pulls her over and tell her she was going 20 mph over the speed limit. She admits guilt, pleads ignorance, and gets off with a warning! So that leads to the last option:
e.) cute girls make cops smile more than cards. Outsource future speeding to them!
Submit your answer by comment, but make sure you get it in before my ticket due date: January 8th, 2009!
UPDATE - February 11th, 2009:
After considering everyone’s input, I decided to write to the court and explain 1.) that I was doing social service when I got the ticket 2.) that it was past midnight on an empty road 3.) I’ve spent most of the last 4 years giving my time in service 4.) there were people in the car with up to 1 additional hour of driving to do.
I offered to pay a more affordable $50 for the ticket, and spend $20 on doughnuts for my fellow speeders at traffic school as a way to introduce the story of how I made my officer smile, hoping that the court would see this as an investment in creating a better and safer world for officers, and very much in-line with my ideal of social service.
Today, the response came back. The court decided to DROP MY TICKET entirely!
The privelege of being in a position to devote your time to serving society makes for a rewarding and charmed life. I don’ t think anyone could have guessed that an added perk would be amnesty from a speeding ticket, but I suspect that there are many unexpected fruits from using your time to sew the right seeds.
Now comes the question of what to do with the $70 I saved on fines & doughnuts! A nicer problem, for sure :-)