In early July 2003, around 1 AM on a Tuesday (really Wednesday) I was driving from Baltimore to Washington on an essentially deserted 295, when (literally) "out of nowhere" came a cop in an unmarked car who pulled me over. He nabbed me for going 78(!) in what was a 45(!!!) zone (due to construction that wasn't in evidence at that time.)
He gave me a ticket for $270, which I guess could have been $570 - he told me he was giving me a "break" by not doubling my fine fine for speeding in a work zone.
I was, somewhat foolishly, furious. So I decided to go to traffic court.
Traffic court in Hyattsville, MD works like this: You're assigned a day to show up at the courthouse. Before you go into the courtroom, however, you must have a conference with the citing officer. At that time you have the option of paying your sentence, or convincing the officer that due to circumstance should get some sort of price break.
I told the officer: "Listen - I know I was going over the speed limit, but it was in the middle of the night on a deserted road; I've travelled that road daily for over five years; In all that time, I've never seen anyone going the speed limit on that road and I don't believe I was going the speed you said I was going."
"Hmm. Well, how fast do you think you were going?" he said.
"sixty-five?" I said.
"Okay. Let me go talk to the DA and see what we can do. She usually won't let me do a plea over thirty (mph over the speed limit), so let me see what kind of mood she's in ."
The officer was gone for over 10 minutes. When he came back, he said exactly this:
"You should know, that you are probably the luckiest person in this court today. You see, I don't usually work the overnight shift, and obviously it affected my thinking. I'm going to be honest with you: I don't remember exactly where I pulled you over, but the location I wrote in the ticket (points to spot on ticket), is not my jurisdiction. Therefore, on this technicality, this case has to be thrown out. I tagged you with a laser from a quarter mile away, long before you could have possibly seen me in my dark, unmarked car, and you were going 78. I'm a specialist in lasers: I teach people how to use them, and I've NEVER lost a case on this type of tag. You're very, very lucky. Take this paper (hands me a yellow court sheet) into the courtroom, the judge will dismiss the case and you'll be free to go. Any questions ?"
I did have one question: I was curious why I'd never seen a cop going the speed limit. He told me, but if you want to know, write me at mandra@defDumbAndBass.com
So, I remain the luckiest man I know.
I've had this idea for making t-shirts and things for a l o n g ass time and knew it would somehow intersect with cafepress so I finally decided to do something about it and made up a nifty cafepress shop where I started selling Great Mutant Skywheel t-shirts and stickers etc, and I realized that I wanted to start making bumper stickers to counteract the (perhaps now waning) tide of people defining "patriotism" in terms that I feel are actually antithetical to patriotism. So I had two ideas for slogans (we LOVE slogans) -
The first was: "Dissent: It's American
and the second: "Dissent is the only true measure of American freedom"
Now, I actually believe those things, but after watching "Bowling for Columbine", I'm struck by something else; something that Mate Hollos, a composition teacher I had in Hungary told me that I never really "got".
First a little background: I lived in Hungary from Oct 1988 - May 1989, studying music at the Franz Liszt Academy. This was shortly before the Berlin wall came down, while Hungary was still a socialist state. While talking about politics during a lesson, Mate (pronounced Mah Tay, like that tea drink) said this:
"You know, democracy and fascism run hand in hand." Now, I'm still not sure exactly what he meant, but I think it really means this: In a society where there is freedom of speech, thought and action (to the extent allowable by law) it is possible that "the people" may from time to time make decisions that are anathema to actual freedom" - i.e. granting greater power to the government with the side effect censorship and loss of freedom, under the guise of protecting freedom. It's a connundrum; how does one go about "protecting freedom?"
I was thinking about this relative to "Bowling for Columbine" because what should be strived for in making America a great place to be is making it a great place to disagree. There's more to say, but I'll sit on it for now.