19 February 2009
Work, work, work . . . dinner with dear friends, and a very late night of more work. My photo is of the progress I’ve made on Ryan’s order. Our fitting appointment has been scheduled for Sunday, so I’ll set his stuff aside for a day or two, now, and work on another order.
And, in response to a different kind of progress, the middle of my workday contained a rather fulfilling experience at the Arlington Police Station. It may be remembered by some, that I found out upon returning home from our Scottish holiday, that I had been captured on film by the “powers that be” of the City of Arlington—running a red light. I remembered the event clearly—after all I don’t do that very often! When I went to the Police Station to inquire about the choices I had, I was told I could set my case for “hearing” and potentially explain my circumstances and receive a ruling of reduced fine or even dismissal. In the worst case scenario, I’d be back where I was—owing the city $75. So, I signed the form, left the building, and waited.
Faster than promised, the letter arrived assigning my hearing date. That date was today. I dressed nicely, arrived early and at precisely two o’clock a very well-dressed, middle-aged gentleman came through a door and called my name. After removing my metal bracelets and allowing my purse to be checked, I was through the metal detector, down the narrow hallway of offices, and into a small, modest office with only one chair for a guest. The man motioned toward it, and I took the seat.
He was very pleasant, but not chatty. He introduced himself, quickly described the nature of this hearing, explained it would be recorded, and began by reciting the docket number and today’s date and time. He asked me to state my name and address and I did so. Then, he asked me if I had anything I wished to say. After clarifying that he meant “in my defense,” I proceeded by explaining that I had chosen to continue through the intersection under a red light, based on the weather and road conditions, and only after carefully checking my surroundings to ensure that I would be the only vehicle in the intersection. We had had freezing rain the night before, I told him, and the temperature was still hovering around the freezing mark. I am an experienced driver in adverse conditions, and part of that experience is knowing when not to slam on the brakes. Then, he showed me the video of my truck very clearly running the light. He showed it a number of times (I had my own computer monitor for viewing), reversing or rewinding it each time, and playing it sometimes in slow motion. He showed me how the video contains all sorts of information including my speed, the number of seconds the light was yellow, the number of seconds (or portions of a second— .7, in my case) after turning red before my truck crossed the line.
I suppose someone less convinced than I, of her own righteousness might have backed down at this point. The man told me I had a full 3.5 seconds to respond to the yellow light and reduce speed, yet, I travelled through the intersection at 39 miles per hour. He told me there were more cars on the road than he’d expect for a bad-weather day. He told me the bus (school bus!) behind me was too far back to have been a concern. He told me it didn’t appear that I’d even attempted to slow down. That’s correct, I told him! I had carefully made the determination that the intersection was safe, and that I and those around me were safer if I did not try to stop, and therefore I did not touch my brakes. I also told him that I did not know the intersection was governed by a camera, but that knowing that, I would still have made the same decision. You may feel I made the wrong decision, I said. But, I told him I believed I had made the “nobler decision” in the interest of my own, and the public safety.
He was quiet for what seemed like a couple of minutes (I’m pretty sure it was actually less than fifteen seconds) and then he said, “I’m going to find you not liable in this case.” <blink> <blink> My brain took a second to translate. He continued, “I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt. I remember the weather of the 17th and 18th of December, and I’m going to find that you made the right decision and that you are not liable.” I believe those were his words.
“Thank you,” I managed to say calmly enough, I think. I was ecstatic! He quickly and efficiently printed a page, and while he did so, I told him that I’d be happy to go on record as saying I believe the traffic light cameras are a brilliant thing—freeing our law enforcement officers to deal with much more important things. He signed his name on the page he’d printed and slid it toward me on his desk. He spoke words to signify “case dismissed,” and stopped the recording.
“This is my copy?”
“Then, that’s it? I’m done? It’s all good?”
“Yes ma’am. As though it never happened.”
<big sigh> “Thank you very much.”
As I gathered that magic, exhonerating page, and picked up my purse, he seemed to morph into a chattier mode and told me that the traffic cams were a big help to the city. He offered up that they can be a bit disturbing when they catch a fatality accident, but that ultimately, they are a very useful tool. We spoke back and forth about it for a couple of minutes, and then I offered my hand, we shook , and I thanked him once again. I saw myself out of the building, got in my truck and the time was 2:17. It had taken me almost as long to get through the metal detector as it had to plead my case and walk out owing nothing.
I love a system that works. I love the progress that brings us technological developments like traffic tickets by camera and mail, rather than manpower. And, I love that my city is willing to treat people as people, even in an increasingly de-humanized world. I’m afraid it might not be that way forever, but today it happened and I feel all warm and fuzzy inside because of it. And $75 less poor!
On a completely different note: For those of our dear readers who haven’t yet gone to see the brilliant new movie by Henry Selick, director of Nightmare Before Christmas, (and based on the book written by our friend Neil Gaiman) Coraline—-here is a fun list of things to look for when you do go. And of course, you will be going, won’t you? If you hurry, you might even still catch it in 3D!