During the final 30 minutes of Thursday’s eight-hour drive to Pittsburgh for my grandfather’s funeral, I was pulled over. I was (allegedly) doing 80 in a 65, but driving in the slow lane and being passed by a number of folks doing at least 90 with Pennsylvania plates. Cops love to get out-of-staters because they see us as easy revenue since they figure we won’t bother fighting the ticket. It was my first speeding ticket in nearly 3 years, and only my second in nearly 10 years.
The guy who pulled us over was a robot. He simply asked for my license and registration, told me he clocked me doing 80 in a 65, and that I was getting a ticket. End of story. He didn’t bother asking me what my hurry was or making small talk. Though I don’t necessarily like the idea of using my grandfather’s funeral as an excuse to get out of a ticket, it still would’ve been a pretty good excuse, right?
I’ve always had the worst luck with driving in Pennsylvania. In 1998 or so, Jonty and I drove to Chicago from Vassar for a college journalism conference. Between us, we got pulled over about 3 times during the trip. Luckily, I managed to get out of the ticket both times I was pulled over. On the return trip, I was being careful not to speed… well, to only speed a little bit. I was only going about 5 miles per hour over the limit. It was the middle of the night and we were alone on the road. A trooper going the other way saw me, turned around, chased me down, and pulled me over.
When the trooper came to my window, he asked me to go with him and had me sit in the front seat of his patrol car. After a few minutes, he said under his breath, “How much money do you have?” Nervously, I told him that we were college students and only had enough for gas money and gas station snacks for our return trip. Silence. “What about your buddy up there?” (referring to Jonty in the passenger seat of the car). I told him that we were sharing a budget. Silence. He wrote something on a piece of paper. “Oh great,” I thought. “I’m getting a ticket.” He handed me a dark yellowish-orange slip of paper. It was a “friendly reminder” from the Pennsylvania highway patrol to slow down.
I could’ve used one of those friendly reminders on Thursday.