I don’t have too much particularly interesting material from recent weeks due to being somewhat distracted and/or communicating with a superintelligent piece of lint and/or being locked in the trunk of a 1978 Chevy somewhere outside of Poughkeepsie (long story. Don’t ask.) But not to worry, as things are calming down / I’m sober / I got out and hitched a ride with this nice (though somewhat…aromatic) trucker. His name is Francis, and we are now fast friends.
In any case, I do have an as-yet-unpublished tale of my first traffic ticket. Yes, I have a car. She is called Charlene, and she has served me well. But this is not her story, as she was not the steed upon which I rode. Nay, I rode a lesser beast, known in most circles as a “bicycle.” That’s right. I got a ticket while riding my bike. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Bicycles and I have a love-destroy relationship. I brought a bicycle up to hilly Ithaca in the beginning of my Freshman year. It was a 13-year-old artifact, but it was in good condition and fairly functional. By the end of the year, having ridden it about a mile a day, straight through the frigid, snow-laden winter, it was, shall we say, in less than perfect repair. Had I been asked to testify before a court of law on the nature of the construction materials of the bike, I’d have to answer “Rust and duct tape. And maybe a tire.” More specifically, the seat was mostly covered in/made of duct tape, one pedal had come off, leaving only a metal rod, and the back brakes were no longer functional, making my preferred method of stopping some combination of using my front brakes, slamming my feet into the ground, and driving into snowbanks. But the bell I’d installed still worked, so thank God for small favors. (This way, I could warn people before I ran them over – note the aforementioned lack of back brakes.) Yes, I realized that it was somewhat dangerous. I’d been warned; I believe the phrase that the guy at the bike shop used was “death trap.”
In sum, though I try to ride safely, and I wear a helmet, I don’t always treat my bicycles with the respect necessary to keep them out of the “death trap” category. Which is why, when I was pulled over by a cop on a Spring evening last year, my bike’s front-mounted light was broken. Though this bicycle was a new one, it also had broken back brakes, a fact which the cop (let’s call him “Officer Fancy Pants”) failed to notice. But he did not fail to notice the fact that I had no working light, or that I (courteously, I thought) pulled into the left lane to allow his car to pass, or that it (presumably) had been a slow crime day.
He interrogated me as if I were a gun-wielding, baby-orphan-killing, jaywalking cocaine seller, accusing me of, among other things, a lack of respect for the law. Well, yeah; I don’t respect it. Not if it’s going to cause me to get a ticket for bike-riding, which it turns out it did. I mean, doesn’t he have frat parties to shut down, and parking tickets to issue or something?
I gave my information to Officer F. Pants in a daze, as he wrote up the ticket, not pausing to think that he had no way to verify any information I was giving him. After all, you don’t need to have any form of ID on your person while practicing the seedy crime-filled art of bikery. So I took the ticket bewilderedly, ready to go to court, when Officer Pants offered me one glimmer of hope, in a world bereft of justice and free ice cream for all. With the type of felony I had committed, if the owner gets the bike fixed, and then gets to a cop to sign a form verifying this, before sundown on the next day, he is exonerated. (I was a bit confused about that time limit. It sounded a bit too, um, magic-spellish: “If thou doth get the Signature of Power by the setting of the sun in one day’s time, you can lift the Curse of the Ridiculous Ticket….” You know, something like that.) I decided, what the heck, replaced the light, and brought the improved bicycle (still sans back brakes, mind you) to the police station on campus. And – guess what? – I got the signature I needed. (“And lo, it came to pass that the Curse of the Oppressive Fancy Pants was lifted and the younglings pranced and frolicked once again, except for little Johnny, ’cause he’s not really into the whole prancing/frolicking scene, not that there doth be anything wrong with that….”) Later, I would go on to deliver the form to the judge who was handling the ticket, wrapping up this case nicely.
As I left the police station that day, the world looked just a little brighter. Riding my bike away, I broke at least two traffic laws.
It felt good.