Saturday, July 15, 2006

Peter's World -- Time and Money

For those new to TDD, or with limited retention for the breathtakingly trivial, here is the deep background for what follows:

Peter's World

Peter's World -- The Bust


The easiest thing to do with a traffic ticket is to pay it and move on. Nearly always, that also coincides with the smart thing to do. While there are odd exceptions (E.g., driving a British sports car -- an MGA -- with California plates through a west Texas town at 1:00 am is a sure way to get a ticket for doing 55 in 25, a previously unheard feat for that car while in second gear; said ticket got promptly torn up when the arresting officer discovered the driver was stationed at the Air Force base ten miles down the road. That brought home the truth of the saying "poor New Mexico: so far from heaven, so close to Texas.), the ticket is the payback for an actual violation, which no amount of quibbling can avoid.

But what's the fun in that? Besides the disconnect between what the officer said he saw, and what I saw, here was a perfect opportunity to take a trip to Peter's World, to view the law from where the sausage is made.

With a month and a half between my pavement performance art and the preliminary hearing, I had some time to tackle the central riddle: how is it that an apparently stand-up police officer saw me entering the intersection two seconds after the light changed, when I saw myself entering it while the light was still yellow?

This is the part of the show where the Law & Order lawyers, and, therefore, Peter, play the role of quasi-detectives, doing police work the police aren't doing.

Fortunately, the pivotal T-intersection is not only on my way home from work, it is equally convenient to approach from both relevant directions, south and east. After a couple weeks of trying to explain the two-second gap, something Rosemary Woods would have found a doddle, I had the good fortune to hit the red on the west arm of the T, right where the arresting officer was sitting. It took a good half minute of staring before the obvious grabbed me: despite sitting in an F-150, a much higher seating position than the police officer enjoyed, I couldn't see the limit line marking the entry point to the intersection.

Why? For the first time I noticed the right arm of the T had an additional lane on the south side, to facilitate right turn traffic at a major intersection barely 200 yards away. Since I am talking arms here, picture the left as belonging to some pasty faced, pigeon chested dweeb like, well, I am. Now envision the right arm that would be attached to The Governator.

I'm sure you can see the problem. A subsequent session with a tape-measure, with some inevitable experimental error due to dodging traffic, showed this additional lane displacing the limit line from where it would otherwise have been by 45 feet.

Or, given the normal speed making the right turn into the rightmost travel lane, right at 2 seconds travel time.

Suddenly, I have a case.

Two weeks later, armed with PowerPoint slides with circles, arrows, and explanations, I went to the preliminary hearing, where I was to learn about ...


Being the archetypal naif in Peter's World, I assumed the preliminary hearing was my opportunity to present my side of the story which, if persuasive enough, would result in dismissing the case.

Wrongo, wonderwings.

For traffic violations, preliminary hearing is nothing more than an assembly line intended to make the cash register go cha-ching just as fast as humanly possible.

At the appointed time, I took my place in a line with about 40 other people. I happened to sit next to a far from unattractive redhead in her early thirties. Being as I am married, neither rich nor attractive, and with my thirties in my deep six, it struck me as singularly ironic that, for the first time in my life, I had readily at hand an excellent pick up line.

"So, what are you in for?"

Whereupon I heard the soccer mom's story of being tagged for running a red, while she was certain she had entered the intersection in time.

Thereby doubling the irony, since, for the first time in my life, I could follow up a sure fire pick-up line with commiseration.

The opportunity was fleeting, because the line evaporated with unseemly haste.

After hearing my name called in the flat monotone of someone who has become thoroughly bored with her job, it was my turn in the barrel with the prosecuting attorney.

Before I could even sit down he said "If you agree to pay the fine, we will waive the points." And then promptly started writing to that effect on his copy of my citation.

"I don't agree."

The pen stopped in mid-scribe, and he looked up at me sharply, clearly annoyed with my impertinent interruption of the cha-ching rhythm.

Opening my folder of meticulous slides "And here's why, the inter ..."

"If you elect to take this to trial, you will pay not only the fine, but get the points on your record. This is my final offer. Do you accept?"

Not being a poker player, I have no idea whether I have a poker face. Which means I may not have successfully hidden the sudden flash of anger and contempt. My answer's tone might also have been less than flat and neutral.


Next: Peter's World -- A Fool for a Client


Blogger Duck said...


You are demonstrating quite the skill with writing what used to be called the potboiler. You could novelize yourself as an ex Air Force fighter pilot and itinerant private detective who tackles the sticky cases with a mastery of logic and a sense for irony for sultry heroines in distress who are at their wits end dealing with incompetent police and indifferent courts.

Sort of a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Mike Hammer. In one of your books you just have to present your analysis or why a Tow missile would not knock a man on his back - that was a classic. I think it is still buried in the BrosJudd archives somewhere.

July 15, 2006 9:19 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Oh, and don't forget your arch nemesis "Peter", the curmudgeonly, misogynist district attorney ready to prosecute every unmarried, sultry vixen that lands in his case file on the reflexive certainty that she must be up to no good, otherwise how would she get mixed up with unsavory characters to begin with.

July 15, 2006 9:29 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Agreed. The redhead was a nice touch.

Fight the Power, Skipper!

July 16, 2006 7:38 AM  

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