Sunday, April 09, 2006

Can’t drive 35

For his birthday present this year, the state of South Carolina gave my dad his very first speeding ticket ever. The trooper was actually a few days early with his present, but he had to catch Dad while he had the chance, as Dad was only in town briefly for a business trip, and was apparently moving quite rapidly.

If you’d ever driven with my dad before, you’d understand how much fun this is for everyone else in the family. It’s not that Dad’s usually the slowest driver on the road, it’s just that he’s the slowest one not driving a tractor. The man has a helium foot. School buses pass Dad on winding country roads. When we used to take family drives through Amish country, we’d have buggy drivers whipping the back of the station wagon and hollering for Dad to get out of the way.

He is not a man who likes to test the limits of his vehicles. That task is left to my mom, who racked up enough speeding tickets on family vacations to win the position of Permanent Navigator, though she also moonlights as the Passenger’s Side Brakeperson, slamming down her foot on the floorboard at the slightest hint of brake lights. In all fairness, the right side of the car always seems to stop when the left side does, and we have Mom to thank for that.

But we were all shocked to learn that not only had the trooper clocked Dad going 55 in a 35, but the ticket weighed in at a whopping $440. I guess the town of Camden, South Carolina expected Dad to finance a new stadium for their minor league baseball team, the Camden Speedtraps.

After amassing my own collection of speeding tickets over the years, I’ve learned to look at it this way: it costs about a nickel each time you speed, and every few years, a cop will come along to collect. For Dad, though, that way of looking at things really doesn’t help much. He got charged 440 bucks for the first time he’d ever sped in his life.

At least Dad handled his ticket better than my friend Johnny, who was recently pulled over for not fully stopping at a stop sign.

“Do you know why I pulled you over?” the cop asked Johnny.

“No, sir, I don’t,” Johnny replied.

“You rolled right through that stop sign back there. That’s a moving violation,” said the cop.

“Is it possible for you to give me a warning? There wasn’t anybody else in the intersection,” Johnny said.

“Sorry. I can’t do that. And this ticket is going to be about a hundred dollars,” the cop replied.

At this point, Johnny became incensed at being caught for such a minor violation. I can understand his sentiment. Over the past twenty years, I’ve personally witnessed Johnny doing countless things for which he should have been arrested, most all of which were more entertaining than rolling through a stop sign.

So Johnny, always adept at ignoring the little voice in his head that tells him to keep his mouth shut, proceeded to inquire of the officer, “Well, how much is the ticket for selling crack?”
Johnny learned shortly thereafter that pointing out laws that you happen not to be breaking doesn’t help you to avoid a traffic ticket, but mouthing off to a cop does ensure that you’ll lose in court when you challenge that ticket.

The good news for Dad in all of this is that his trooper made a mistake, and the ticket ended up only costing $75. It was the ribbing from his family that turned out to be expensive. Here’s a sampling of his birthday card this year from his loving children: “It’s funny how fast birthdays come up on you. Kind of like state troopers. We hope you get a chance to slow down on your birthday!”

You can ask Mike Todd for his license and registration online at


  1. I learned the lesson of mouthing off to a cop the hard way, too -- I had someone willing to help me get my ticket fixed, but the state trooper had remembered that I "smarted off" to him. All I said was, "You could at least ask why I was speeding."

    His response? "Doesn't really matter now, does it?"

    My sarcastic tone no doubt did not help either... I think I must be more like your friend Johnny, huh?

  2. Apparently it helps if you are soberly speeding on a national drinking holiday. My boyfriend was driving 90 mph on the freeway with a cop behind him on St. Patrick's Day. But we didn't know it was a cop who was tailgating him. BF got pissed and slammed his brakes on to lose the tailgater, resulting in the red and blue lights. I nearly crapped my pants when we got off with a warning. Tell your dad to speed on those days, just as long as he's not drinking.

  3. There was this golf course fire and I was heading to the station going about 90. You could see the smoke down the valley and a cop pulls up to me along the interstate and I was like... shit. He looks over at me, points to the smoke and I give him the thumbs up. He waves and continues on his way- well, you can be assured I was going 100 by then.

  4. Poor Pops!! Getting a birthday present like that.... too funny!

    I love how your mom mashes the floorboards at the sign of a brakelight. I do that too becuase ..well... I think it's got to help right?

  5. ROFL!


    You never cease to amuse me young Michael Todd - what a little firecracker, you are!