ast week, while driving on Highway 55 just outside of Newton Grove, I noticed a blue light behind me.
My hair started to stand straight up and bladder control became an issue. I turned off my Leona Williams tape. I checked my speed to make sure I wasn’t speeding. My tag was up to date. I was wearing my seatbelt.
So, I couldn’t think of any violation I might have committed. When the friendly trooper, (excuse the oxymoron) approached, he informed me that I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt. I assured him that I was and had been since leaving the Newton Grove post office. He then returned to his vehicle and moments later presented me with a citation.
I was so shocked when he returned with the ticket that I didn’t have a chance to say any of the clever stuff I’ve been saving up for years to say to those guys. A trip to the post office to mail my sister a birthday card was going to cost me $132. I actually deposited four cards and a bill, so that’s only about $26.40 per item. But, I felt every bit as violated as I did when a former students broke into my house to steal baseball cards. And at least with the theft, I got my cards back. Mr. Trooper informed me that I could fight it in court, but either way I would pay the court costs of $106.50.
So I began to ask myself why this happened. I have received citations in the past when I was actually breaking laws. Those instances caused bad days and sleepless nights, but at least in those cases the guy was doing his job. This was kind of like the home run that Braves catcher Earl Williams hit in 1971 at Candlestick Park. The umpire, Dutch Rennert, claimed that it bounced out of the park. In those days, replay couldn’t change it. But how do you miss that when that is your job? With state troopers, I know it’s difficult to judge if a driver has been drinking or texting, but how do you miss a seatbelt?
Why was I chosen? I was driving a 1998 model vehicle. I’ve heard sometimes they discriminate against older cars. And there was once, on a Sunday in 1996, when I actually didn’t use the seatbelt on my way to church, because I had just ironed my shirt. Maybe they were getting around to making me pay for that. Or, perhaps it was the Atlanta Braves decal. I know there are a lot of Mets fans in this area. Another possible issue was the North Carolina state budget. As a retired teacher, I am well aware of our state’s lack of funds. Randomly picking out motorists for bogus tickets could give a lot of money to the state in court costs alone. Or was it, as I suspect, just a slow day in Sampson County?
I spent the rest of the day sulking and comparing North Carolina to Nazi Germany. But as I watched the news, I was made to realize just how lucky I was. A lot of people in North Carolina and elsewhere had worse days than I had. It’s just that your own case is always most important to you.
I have read of cases (and seen movies) where state troopers actually killed a driver’s dog and kicked out his headlights. My guy didn’t do any of that. But then, I don’t have a dog. I did come up with some possible options for taking care of my debt to society.
1) Skip my next 6 haircuts. That wouldn’t be fair to my hairdresser, but it’s an option.
2) Drop the baseball package from my Directv plan. That won’t happen.
3) Withhold contributions to law enforcement charities until I reach $132. Maybe.
4) Spend $132 in South Carolina on something I would normally buy in North Carolina.
That won’t help me financially, but I’ll feel better.
5) Don’t drive again until I’ve saved $132 in gas money. That could take close to a week.
6) Skip 3 meals a week for three months. The doctor vetoes that one.
7) Using the matching funds concept, send $132 to Newton Grove Fire and Rescue. I would be down $264, but at least, I would get to pick my own charity.
8) Come out of retirement. And do what? There are no teaching jobs.
9) Show up in court and at least get my money’s worth for the court costs I have to pay.
10) Suck it up, forget it ever happened, and send a check, oops, I mean a money order to the Clerkof Court.
The moral of the story is wear your seatbelt. It may not keep you from getting a seatbelt ticket, but it could save your life.