Close Encounters of The Blue Kind

October 20th 1990 is a very memorable day for us!  No! it’s not our wedding day or the day our child was born or any such thing. That was the day we got our first speeding ticket! You all do keep track and celebrate your 1st speeding-ticket-anniversaries, right?  🙂

Here’s what happened…

That was a Saturday and we were excited about going to a party in Allentown, when we were pulled over in Coopersburg! The officer was very polite. He inquired if I knew why he stopped me (hmm.. what’s with this quiz?). I was very  nervous and mumbled a “No! officer”.  I felt like every one driving by was slowing down to take a look at me! The officer asked me for my  driver’s license and registration. Then, after what seemed like a long time he came back with a speeding ticket for $150 and then told us to have a nice day!! I appreciate the politeness .. but that almost felt sarcastic!

“Nice day”?? He pretty much ruined our day. The only saving grace was that the party that we went to, turned out to be a surprise baby shower for Uma!! Of course, THAT is the real reason we remember Oct 20th!

The next day, when I discussed this ticket with friends at work, I got a lot of advice..

You should have known that Coopersburg is a speed-trap town!” one said.

“Contest it – the cop never shows up and therefore you will beat the ticket” chimed another!

You should have told him that your taxes pay for his salary”, said another wise guy!

“Next time you should be prepared – when he asks “your eyes are red, have you been drinking?” you should say “Officer, your eyes are glazed, have you been eating donuts!!”

Ahh.. everybody is a comedian.. when passing out such free advice!

A few weeks later, I went to court to contest the ticket. I was dressed in my best jacket and tie, even though, those were usually reserved for weddings and funerals! I had seen enough episodes of “LA Law” to know how the system worked. I walked in with a briefcase in hand. I gave a look that said “I am an engineer, I know what I am doing”, while the faint, nervous voice in my head said “damn, I should have gone to the bathroom before coming in.” I was quite disappointed to see that the officer did show up. When I asked him about the calibration data on the radar, he read out all the dates and measurements – as if he was expecting this exact question! Finally, I opened my brief case and brought out my Exhibit A – a receipt from the grocery store in Coopersburg, where we had stopped earlier to pick up some flowers for our host. Then, I took out Exhibit B – the speeding ticket itself! I told them that the distance from the grocery store to the place where the cop stopped me divided by the time taken should be the speed at which I drove! Based on the evidence, I stated that the speed thus computed does not match what the officer noted. I therefore declared with a flourish that the speeding case against me be thrown out! The judge and the officer were taken aback by this display of theatrics and middle school level time-and-distance math! I was prepared to be yelled at by the judge for wasting his time. Surprisingly, he and the cop had a hearty laugh, after which the judge said something to the effect of  “get out of here!” and reduced the fine to $35, I guess just for my efforts! I thanked him and got out of there. I could hear them laughing even from the outside. I can definitely tell you  – that was not an “LA LAW” performance.. it was more of a  “My Cousin Vinnie” performance!

That day,  I had learnt a valuable lesson: no more speeding…  in Coopersburg! But, Warrington? That’s an entirely different town and I got my speeding ticket #2 there, a few years later!  This was another ticket for 40 mph in a 25 mph zone! I was not as nervous this time around.  When I showed up in the court, I did not do the phony lawyer routine. I was dressed in my business casuals. As soon as I walked in, the judge’s face lit up! He pointed to the “Lucent Technologies’” logo on my shirt and said “that’s a great company”! I was befuddled by such an opening! By way of brief background – that was a brief period of glory for Lucent (my employer), when its stock was skyrocketing.

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A brief period of glory for Lucent!!

The judge and I reveled in our mutual admiration of Lucent! He said that he had a lot of Lucent stock and of course he was thrilled about its performance. After this bit of distraction, he almost forgot to admonish me on my speeding infraction! He reduced the speed and I just had to pay $25. I gave him a thumbs up while the bewildered cop just looked on!

If you think that I am the only one in the family that’s always speeding, you are totally wrong! Uma had her share of tickets too! There was this one time when she got a ticket for 50 mph in a 35 mph zone! Being the veteran with traffic courts, I accompanied her, to show how it is done! As we pulled into the parking lot, we saw an older gentleman walking slowly . We stopped and waved him on with a smile, while cursing him under our breath for being the slow poke, as we were getting late for our court appointment.

As soon as we got into the court, we saw that the cop was there with all of his documents to make the case… and when the judge showed up, we saw that it was the old man from the parking lot. He recognized us and smiled and winked at us! After that it was smooth sailing. He sent us off with a minor admonishment to Uma for not being careful with the speed. Yay!! Another successful overturning of a speeding ticket!

There are several lessons that I have learnt from all of these court appearances:

  1. Always contest speeding tickets.
  2. Always be respectful to the officer and the judge. They are just doing their job. Having a nasty attitude towards them is not going to do you any good.
  3. Wear proper clothing that will make a good impression. I wonder what would have been the judge’s reaction if I had worn an “Adult World T-shirt” to court!
  4. Be nice to people walking slowly in parking lots… or just everyone around you. You never know who will be in a position to judge you!
  5. Final lesson – Try not to speed…  too much!