I got a speeding ticket on Sunday; my first speeding ticket since 1973. That’s not the news. I didn’t get a warning. That’s the news.
Here’s the story: I was looking for an outdoor hockey rink, hidden among the crooked back streets of White Bear Lake. After a half hour of looking, I needed to get back to where I started to try my directions again. I was frustrated that I didn’t know where I was. Anxious to get back to a spot I recognized, I didn’t pay attention to my speed.
I saw the 30 mph speed limit sign and the police car at the same time. I started pulling over, I think, even before the guy put his lights on.
Now, keep in mind that one of the benefits of becoming a senior citizen is you become a more sympathetic character during times like this. I pulled the license out of the wallet even before the officer came to the car. And when he did, I didn’t waste time, admitting I wasn’t paying attention, I was going as fast as however he thought I was going, acknowledging that I deserve a ticket, and — by the way — where’s that hockey rink?
In the old days, that would get you a warning (or at least a lowering of the indicated speed you were going), especially if you’re a senior citizen, and an adorable one at that.
Those days are gone. The officer — one of the few police officers left who is older than I am, I noticed — explained that he doesn’t have a choice these days. “The man” is really on them to write people up, he explained. In the old days, I thought “the man” was the guy in the police car, but I guess that’s changed, too.
But I got his drift. Times are tough. Local government aid is being cut, and guys like me — guilty scofflaws — are a boon to cash-strapped counties and communities.
He went back to his car to write up the ticket and when he came back, he told me — apologetically, it seemed — what I should do to appeal it. “I’m not going to appeal it,” I said. “I’m guilty.”
That’s when he gave me a police escort to the hockey rink, which was almost worth the $131 it cost me. He was a nice guy doing a tough job.
Ironically, MPR just finished a week profiling how tough White Bear Lake has it in this economy, and nowhere was it mentioned that a partial cure for the state budget crisis on communities might be to lower the speed limit by 5 miles per hour, and hope more people get lost in your town.
On MPR’s Midday on Monday, Gov. Tim Pawlenty will join Gary Eichten for a discussion about his proposed budget fix, which he’ll unveil this week. The governor has said there’ll be no new taxes to balance a $5 billion shortfall.
What does that mean to us? It means we should slow down, try not to get lost, and pay attention to the speed limit.