Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tiny Instruments of Minor Oppression

The universe is full of tiny instruments of minor oppression.  Cops and traffic tickets are one of them.  I am not anti-cop or anti-traffic tickets.  As an ex-cop I wrote plenty of them.  They are a necessary instrument to impose on people the importance of being conscious of the law and of safety.  So, it is with a sort of wry appreciation that I wanted to tell you this amusing little story.
On Monday, my friend Don and I went up to Mountain View to get lunch.  

As we wove our way back and forth across the street trying to find a restaurant that was open at 11:00 AM, we talked about pedestrian right of way.  In California of course, a pedestrian in the crosswalk has the right of way. Vehicles are expected to yield that right of way.  It was an interesting little sub-conversation that was folded in among other lunch time conversations.

After lunch, we go back to the car, get in, and start the journey back to the office.  Don is driving.  We back out of the parking slot and he starts to inch his way forward, through the somewhat congested intersection.  We are chatting, but I don’t remember what we are chatting about - just conversation.  I am looking to the right at the store fronts as we go by, trying to see what other sort of restaurants are available there in downtown Mountain View.

Don passes very close to a pair of pedestrians on the left hand side, crossing the street toward him.  I actually don’t see them, since I am looking to the right.  I do hear the shout.  I look up, and think it was some guy yelling at Don because Don was a little too close to him.  It is.

Unfortunately for Don “the guy” is a uniformed police officer.  He is yelling for Don to stop.  Don does of course.  The cop approaches and directs Don to pull into a parking lot, where he proceeds to issue him a traffic ticket for “Failure to Yield to a Pedestrian”.  Don is polite, admits his error - but the cop writes the ticket anyway.  

While we are sitting there waiting for him to run the check on license and registration and write out the actual citation, I tell Don that, when I was a cop, we joked their was an imaginary status, called Section 13(c) “Pissing Me Off In Public”. A violation of Section 13(c) would definitely gaurantee you got the ticket.

Combine that with the drive on the part of so many small towns to raise revenue via parking and traffic offenses and there you have it..the tiny instruments of minor oppression.

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