I never really thought of myself as a bad girl, until now.There is a contest for teens to write an essay on “My First Traffic Ticket and What I Learned.” This is clearly for nice children. In my teens, I might well have been tempted to submit an essay, but it would have been highly satirical and would never have made it past the first level of judges.
Now let me say that I have gotten citations I roundly deserved. I have gone over the speed limit. I have rolled through stop signs. When spotted by the law, I did not even pretend at innocence, and I’ve done my time in traffic school.
But my first ticket was bogus in the extreme and I have never forgotten it or become less annoyed by it.
It soured my attitude for the rest of my driving career.
As I pulled out of the parking lot of my glamorous job at Kentucky Fried Chicken, (I hadn’t even gone 10 yards), I was pulled over, as I did not have my headlights on.
But wait. I did not forget to turn them on.
I wasn’t oblivious to the fact that it was night time and headlights needed to be turned on. I had turned the proper switch, had made the effort to turn them on, and my parking lights were on to prove it. The area was just so well lit, on a main street in downtown El Cajon, that I didn’t yet realize I hadn’t rolled the switch all the way over. I was driving a Rambler station wagon, so you know I wasn’t showboating. I was alone in the car, so I wasn’t distracted by giddy friends. It was just a quarter inch on the switch.
So what did I learn from the ticket? I learned that the police in that area clearly did not have enough to keep them busy and apparently preferred to kill flies with a sledgehammer.
Yes, I learned to double-check my lights, but a friendly “Check next time, young lady, to be sure that switch is turned all the way on,” would have been more than sufficient to accomplish that.
Or in my father’s words, as he paid the clerk, “If I’d known the city was this desperate for money, I’d have sent a donation!” My dad was awesome.
There are probably two or three kids out there who feel that their first ticket was a meaningful, important and essay-worthy experience and I tip my hat to them. But I don’t think I would have hung out with them.
Jean Gillette is a freelance writer with children who laugh at her driving skills. Contaact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.