It came with a head-tilt and raised eyebrow, the kind of stunned expression you see on the faces of people who have lived in our town for several years and suddenly find out that we have a fine arts center. And an airport.
I was speeding, I told the woman, and wanted to pay the fine. I was going 48 mph in a 40-mph zone. The nice policeman emerged from behind a shrub and pursued me with a zeal that indicated Osama bin Laden possibly was hiding in my trunk.
After handing over my license and proof of insurance, I sat there with my passenger my 15-year-old son, John, who has a learner's permit. He stopped smirking only long enough to mutter, "Way to go with the good example, Dad!"
Then the first officer called for a second police car, and for a few fleeting seconds, I prayed. Specifically, I prayed that my son would get Tasered.
The pair of officers then spent some 20 minutes writing the ticket. This kept them from snooping around in one of our village's many pesky methamphetamine labs, places that smell funny and make their eyes hurt.
(I apologize for that rant. It was unwarranted, just a misdirected tirade against the fine officers who were only doing the job they were hired to do: make revenue-generating speeding arrests to pack more money into the village coffers so the Albert Einstein Fan Club that serves as our City Council can flush it all down the toilet again.)
Anyway, the woman in the traffic office stared and asked, "You're just going to pay the fine?"
I said yes.
"Talk to the city attorney's office," she said. "They'll give you a plea deal."
But I was speeding.
"They'll redo it," she said, smiling. "You'll get something less."
I knew this was my lucky day earlier, in the lobby, when I set off the metal-detector alarm. I was asked I am not kidding about this by the security agent if I was wearing a "big metal belt buckle." I said yes, as a matter of fact, and was immediately waved through with no further check, just another goofy-looking guy wearing a bulky shirt over either a big metal belt buckle or a jihad suicide vest.
At 1 p.m. a huge group of us made our way into traffic court. We were about to have more fun, to use the old expression, "than a barrel full of presidential candidates."
I and some 90 others were told that, merely by showing up, we were now eligible for deals. Original charges would be thrown out if we pleaded guilty to lesser charges. I jumped up and, in a voice choked with emotion, said that in fifth grade I stuck a wad of bubble gum in Eleanor Drysdale's hair. I sat back down only when I felt the court sensed my great remorse and when the bailiff looked at me and began fumbling with his handgun holster.
All went quickly then. Each driver got a written plea offer, stacks of 20 and 30 at a time being carted out from a back room where city attorney's office workers were, in strict legal terms, getting writus crampus.
Instead of pleading guilty to speeding, I pleaded guilty to code violation 10.22.102: having a defective headlight. I'm not kidding. My headlights, by the way, are just fine.
Just about everyone else in the room pleaded guilty to the defective headlight charge, too, including some who were nabbed for speeding in a school zone.
The fines were not reduced. We paid the cash penalties that came with the original charges, an estimated $10,000 taken in by the town in that one-hour session. But the points against our licenses were reduced. The sweet deals meant none of us lost driving privileges.
Then we were all dismissed. And a village with a police car behind every bush got exactly what it wanted:
A whole room full of shitty drivers back on the road.
You can reply to Rich Tosches at firstname.lastname@example.org, and listen to him every Thursday at 8 a.m. on the Darren and Coba Show on MY99.9.