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Friday, March 28, 2008

They call me Mr. Fitty Cent!

No, I haven't decided to finally pursue that career in rap music, although I look good in bling. Actually, this was a nickname I had last year. I bring it up because we are finally close to the time of year I love, summer. It's not that I do anything special, I don't even think I'll be taking a vacation anywhere other than porchview. It's because I will finally be able to drive to work without getting stuck behind a school bus. On my normal route to work I traverse four school districts and if I get the timing wrong I get stuck behind a bus that has stops all along the way. Having a three month break is always nice for my travel time as I can usually make it to work in under 30 minutes. Also, with the kiddies out for the summer, that means one more thing. Those damn school zone lights won't be flashing for awhile. Ok, before I get flamed for dissing the safety measures of our school systems, let be known I only get pissy with these zones because of a personal incident.

In 2006 I was travelling to work through one particular school zone. It was 8:03AM and the busses had yet to even begin delivering students to the elementary school when I passed through on my commute. After crossing the area, I noticed lights in my mirror. "What the hell?", I thought. I pulled over and begin the usual rigormoral with the officer who said I was doing 21 in the school zone. Most people will tell you not to do more than six miles an hour over the speed limit to avoid being cited, but this guy claimed he would have pulled me over for doing a mile over the posted limit. First off, there were no busses in sight and school wasn't even in session, yet. Second, do you know how hard it is to maintain 15mph in a car without going over. And cruise control does not work at that speed, I tried it. I guess I should be thankful as the officer did not cite me for speeding, but for failure to observe a traffic sign. I went on my way with a poor scribbled carbon copy of the citation.

I mailed out my payment of $106 that evening and decided to put the whole mess to rest. A week later, I received a notice in the mail that I did not pay my fine in full. Where did I mess up? I checked the letter again and noticed that I was short by fifty cents. I looked at the citation again and squinted to make out the amount. The officer had failed to color inside the lines and the faded amount of ".50" was barely visible crossing between two boxes on the yellow paper. I became livid. Not only was I ticked about the fact that I got pulled over for a mere six miles over the speed limit, now I was being sought after for a mere half dollar. I ripped up the notice, immediately, and declared that if they wanted their fifty cents they could come collect it at the door. I wasn't wasting an additional $0.41 on a stamp. If they would have just not bothered with the letter to start, that could have counted towards my payment.

Another two weeks went by and another letter came. This one was threatening me with a warrant for impending arrest. I couldn't believe it. All this paperwork over two quarters. It cost more to call them on a pay phone to clear it up. Soon, this became a mission. I was going to be a complete and utter jackass about this issue. We began formulating ways to get vengeance. After all, I was not going to write an additional check in the amount of fifty cents. Our thoughts turned to the following.

  • Drive out to the magistrate's office and lay each penny on the counter, one by one. Counting as we go.

  • Walk into the office and ask the receptionist if we could borrow fifty cents for the pay phone outside. Leave the office and then return to pay them for the fine.

  • Stuff the pennies into the mailbox of the office.

  • Send them a envelope with two stamps, telling them to keep the change.

  • Pay them in the equivalent of Canadian Change

  • Give them a coupon for fifty cents off at Dunkin Donuts

We opted for the least offensive and gathered up our penny collection and headed to the office. Unfortunately, they keep better hours than I do and the office was closed. We went home, probably wasting more than fifty cents round trip. My wife wrote a scathing letter, admonishing them for having officers with bad penmanship, and focusing money and man hours on coming after me for a fraction of a dollar. Feeling pretty full of ourselves, we stuffed the envelope with the fifty pennies, the hate mail, and used three stamps to send it. In all, this whole ordeal cost me five times the remainder of the fine but the cathartic satisfaction of sticking it to the man was reimbursement enough for me.

Two weeks went by with no communication via mail or a ring at my door bell with cuffs at the ready. I decided that I had better call them to ensure that my payment had been received. The receptionist confirmed that they did receive my payment but no mention of any letter or the fact that I mailed change. Apparently, it is not illegal to mail cash, just risky. Someone had told me it was, but it involved a chain mail scam and that IS illegal. After the dust had settled, a coworker began complaining about being stuck behind busses and I had to share my tale of woe. This recounting of my plight earned me the moniker "50 cent" at work.

It's been two years since my run in with 5.0 and I'm happy to say I've been citation free in my commutes to work. I've been careful not to get any other infractions because my little stunt could come back to bite me in the ass. Still, I enjoy the freedom from my brake pedal for those glorious three months out of the year when school busses get parked in the lot and their yellow and red flashing lights stop blinking. Of course, I don't drive the same route anymore because I found a quicker one that didn't involve me going through any school zones. After all, the real 50 Cent may have said, "I'd rather die like a man, then live like a coward", but I say, "I'd rather go another street than be caught by the heat."

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