I have never been a person who talks her way out of a speeding ticket. I lump those who have had success in this area under the banner of “a person who” because it is my considered experience that the ability to talk oneself out of traffic citations is indeed a signifier of certain overall personality characteristics that I lack; namely, charm and the ability to -- well, to make people like you.
I don’t really have these skills. When anyone likes me, I consider it a happy coincidence, an accident, or a strange and inscrutable form of magic -- I certainly have no idea how or why it happens and so I cannot take for credit for the result. Thus, my life philosophy has included, alongside other points such as “Always say yes to pie” and “Don’t ‘save’ certain clothes for ‘special occasions’ -- YOUR LIFE IS A SPECIAL OCCASION,” the axiom: “Never try to talk your way out of a speeding ticket because you’ll probably only make a bad situation worse.”
My first-ever speeding ticket was received when I was 17, and rushing home late at night following a rehearsal for a (frankly terrible but in an amusing way) drama club production of Arsenic and Old Lace. I was doing 85 in a 45, although in my defense, the road in question was on the western edge of South Floridian civilization at the time, and I had believed myself to be the only car on it for miles.
The officer who pulled me over asked if I knew why he had pulled me over, and my first thought was, “Isn’t that kind of a trick question? If I say yes, then I am admitting to wrongdoing. If I say no, it looks like I’m some of kind of oblivious irresponsible kid who was somehow UNAWARE that I was FORTY MILES over the speed limit.”
You can imagine how things could have gone, if I had expressed my irritation thusly. I PROBABLY would not have escaped the citation, is all I’m saying.
Besides, I was quite aware that I was speeding, and that I had messed up, although at the time I was quick to mentally place the blame on Nine Inch Nails’ “Broken.” I calmly handed the cop my license and by the time he returned with the ticket I was in complete blubbering hysterics, choking out broken sentences expressing my stress over completing my college applications and my essay for AP English and that stupid play is not even any GOOD and still I’m staying late to rehearse because I need the extracurricular activity, and on and on.
The cop was plainly irritated, and as he shoved my ticket and license back into my lap he barked at me to pull myself together before I started driving again lest I cause an accident. You stupid girl, was unspoken but understood.
My second ticket happened on a trip to Tampa, with two friends in my car. A friend’s band was playing an out of town gig (which was a BIG DEAL) and we were speeding along, listening to music and shouting and laughing and I wasn’t paying very close attention to how fast I was going. When the lights appeared in review mirror and my heart sank, I pulled over, with my two female friends offering friendly advice: “Just be cute and dumb! You’ll get out of it.”
It is difficult to adequately communicate the degree to which I am neither of these things; at best I may sometimes be cute in an annoying way, but certainly not in the way a typical dude might appreciate, and playing “dumb” is just -- I don’t even know where to start with that. Besides, my nascent feminist brain chafed at the idea that I should exploit sexist stereotypes for personal gain.
In the end, it didn’t matter -- the cop was a crisp and curt lady who was about as interested in my excuses as I am interested in learning how to play the zither and so I accepted my ticket without complaint.
Truthfully, part of my issue with trying to talk my way out of a ticket is that it strikes me as kind of insulting. By doing so, I am implying that the officer in question is some knuckle-dragging evolutionary exception who is easily swayed by nice tits and a pretty smile. I mean, I know intellectually this is true an unfortunate amount of the time -- and that not all of those likely to fall for it are shallow assholes either -- but I bristle at the notion of insulting an individual dude who might not fit that description.
More than that, it feels demeaning because I am so OBVIOUSLY not a person who can throw herself into the “Gee, officer!” role, and pretending I can pull that off insults us both. Thus, my usual response to being pulled over as an adult -- and it, um, happens -- is to simply pass over my license and registration without a word. We both know why he pulled me over; no point to beating around the bush about it.
Which means I wind up paying all of my speeding tickets.
What with all the traveling folks do for the holidays, this time of year we get a lot of advice on how to get out of a ticket -- even a ticket we legitimately deserve -- and often the ticket-evading tips specific to women include "crying," or “showing some leg.” Because, y'know, only women who are emotionally distraught or sexually available ever get any sympathy, apparently?
Maybe I’m foolish for not even giving these tried and true methods -- advocated EVEN BY POLICE OFFICERS -- a fair shot. But I don’t.
So when, a mere ten minutes from home on Sunday, driving to my in-laws for the holiday, I found myself in the Williams Tunnel, approaching a huge sign that read “SPEED LIMIT 45,” which I SWEAR had not been there before, and even as I realized my speed and immediately slowed down I spotted a familiar blue and grey shape squatting on the shoulder, whence there came a state cop waving me down -- when this happened I pulled over and handed him my paperwork without a word. When he said, almost as an afterthought as he walked away, “I stopped you because you were speeding. 70 in a 45.” I said, “Yes.” I didn’t debate, I didn’t try to beg forgiveness -- I’d screwed up and would accept the consequences.
(Speeding is bad, everyone. Don’t speed. It’s dangerous and makes you a terrible person. Learn from my mistakes.)
Once he’d walked away, I did, however, start trying to figure out how the cost of tickets is arrived at, as my husband had recently gotten his first speeding ticket in a decade -- I must be a bad influence -- right near our home and it was pretty pricey. The initial surcharge started at $50, and then generally were added up by a certain dollar amount for each mile over the limit. Crap. This could be expensive.
The officer returned and handed me my newest ticket, giving me the usual spiel on how long I have to pay. With a curt exhortation to “drive safely” he walked away, and I said thank you, because I have kneejerkily thanked every cop who has ever given me a ticket in my long and illustrious history of ticket-getting. And then I looked down at the ticket.
It was for $50.
I don’t know why the dude didn’t throw the book at me; I wouldn’t have argued, because I’d done wrong and part of doing wrong means taking the lumps that sometimes come with the wrongdoing. Maybe he respected my docile response. Maybe he was moved by some holiday spirit. Whatever the reason, I was pleasantly surprised -- perhaps my lack of eyelash-batting and cleavage-squeezing abilities were paying off in their own way? I guess I’ll never know.
Do you routinely talk you way out of tickets? Is there some magical formula for doing so? In my case, I suspect the only way I’ll ever avoid a ticket is the obvious one -- by not flouting speed limits in the first place. Which, you know, might happen. Someday.