Paying My Dues

I knew I was going to get a ticket when the cop hit his siren’s squawky chirpy thing not once but twice from behind me, in addition to the fact that he’d lit up the rooftop lights of his prowler — and despite the fact that before the second blarp! I’d already pulled over to the southeast corner of Clinton at Gower.

I’d rolled a right turn on my way home this evening traveling approximately 5 mph without coming to a full and complete stop before proceeding onto Clinton back at Larchmont.

Guilty as charged and I already knew the answer, but that still didn’t prevent me from asking the hard ass, easily 15 years younger than me, if he might consider letting me off with a warning after I presented him the ID he wanted to see.

“You can ask,” Officer Booker said, “But I’m afraid the answer is no.”

“Yeah, I figured.”

So I asked him if it was a slow night and he said it wasn’t. Then he asked me if he knew why he’d stopped me and I said I didn’t.

“You ran a stop sign back there,” he told me.

“Really? Which one?” knowing full well my sarcasm would go right over his clean shaven head and he was going to tell me, which he did. Sigh. Cops, man.

After that I ran out of things to talk about so I stood there in respectful silence without making any sudden moves during the interminable amount of time it always takes for an officer of the law to pen a ticket. But I had to object when he presented me with the citation to sign and decided it was time to lecture me on the road responsibilities I have “being the same as cars.”

“Officer,” I interrupted him. ” With all due respect, I bike from Silver Lake to Westchester and back. Thirty miles. Pretty much every workday. I’ve been doing it for closing in on two years now and I’m not dead yet despite witnessing and or being victimized by dozens of vehicular infractions, misdemeanors and felonies every day and being accorded a general level of respect and consideration usually reserved for cockroaches.”

I pointed out my bike with its lights and its now unnecessary bike license, and my helmet and my age as evidence that I’m a conscientious rider.

“And your point is?”

My point is I’m a dedicated bike commuter well aware and respectful of the rules of the road. Does that mean I do a three-second stop at every stop sign I encounter? Obviously not. You got me there. But at least give me give me the benefit of the doubt that I’m not some yahoo without a clue in need of a lecture.”

“Fair enough,” he replied. “If I could get you to sign here without admitting guilt…”

And I did.

But I also readily admitted guilt. Almost gleefully. In fact I confessed to the 500 stop signs I’ve serially rolled this month. And the 500 this ticket won’t stop me from rolling next month. See to me, it’s not the laws of the California Vehicle Code so much as it’s the law of averages. It’s inevitable I’m going to roll through stop signs at intersections where I deem it safe for me to do so, and it’s equally inevitable that at some point I’m going to do so in the presence of the Officer Bookers of the city  who are going to make me pay my dues.

I signed on the line and handed his citation book back to him.

“I appreciate your cooperation,” he told me. Tearing my copy and handing it to me.

“And I don’t appreciate your inflexibility,” I told him. “I know that this ticket is a result of my actions, but  you had the opportunity to not write it, and that’s a shame. Because in the time it’s taken for you to get my weekend off to such a great start you could’ve found any of several four wheelers to cite for bigger fines — maybe even impound.”

“I see things a bit differently,” he said and I stuffed the ticket in my pocket and got on my bike.

“Well then I’d recommend corrective lenses. But don’t worry. I’ll be that good bicyclist and  stop at the next stop sign I see. In fact, I’m going to make full and complete stops at the next three in your honor. But if you want to meet me over at Van Ness and write me up again, I’m gonna roll that one just for spite.”

And I took off, doing exactly that.

But Officer Booker declined to attend.

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Will Campbell arrived in town via the maternity ward at Good Sam Hospital way back in OneNineSixFour and has never stopped calling Los Angeles home. Presently he lives in Silver Lake with his wife Susan, their cat Rocky, dogs Terra and Hazel, and a red-eared slider turtle named Mater. Blogging since 2001, Will's web endeavors extend back to 1995 with, a comprehensive theater site that was well received but ever-short on capital (or a business model). The pinnacle of his online success (which speaks volumes) arrived in 1997, when much to his surprise, a hobby site he'd built called VisuaL.A. was named "best website" in Los Angeles magazine's annual "Best of L.A." issue. He enjoys experiencing (and writing about) pretty much anything creative, explorational and/or adventurous, loves his ebike, is a better tennis player than he is horr golfer, and a lover of all creatures great and small -- emphasis on "all."