I didn’t set out to break the law that early morning a few years ago, but that’s probably what they all say.
We’ve lived in our home for 30 years, and for all those years there has been a sign on the corner of our residential street and the very busy street it bisects. The sign is just below the stop sign. It features an arrow that curves to the right and the words “Right Turn Only” and the times 6-9 AM and 3-6 PM, Weekdays Only.
Easy to understand, right?. Except, for me, somehow, that sign always meant “No Left Turn” during those hours, maybe because a left turn would be difficult and possibly dangerous when there was lots of traffic.
So sometimes, especially in the early morning as I was going to work, I stopped at the stop sign and then proceeded straight through the intersection.
That’s what I did the morning I met the cop. With not a car in sight, I crossed the intersection and drove about a block before I saw the flashing lights. I pulled over so the officer could get by me and catch up to the criminal he was chasing. Except it was me he was coming to see.
The cop was an older, white-haired guy who took his time walking to my car. We did the license and registration thing and finally I was enlightened. The sign clearly stated Right Turn Only. I had crossed the line, so to speak, by crossing the intersection.
The ticket was a moving violation, which meant I would lose three points. So, although I didn’t know how it could help, I went to Traffic Court to plead my case.
This was my first (and so far only) experience with Traffic Court, a large meeting room at the Wauwatosa City Hall that was packed that evening with other lawbreakers.
Names were called out by a clerk, and a seemingly endless line of drivers approached the “bench” to have a conversation with the judge. I couldn’t hear the conversations but most were brief and then the next person was called.
The judge was an older, white-haired guy with a horrible cold. He coughed, sneezed and blew his nose in almost constant rotation. His face was flushed and he looked feverish, even at a distance.
Finally, my name was called. Approaching the judge, I snapped into nurse-mode. Greeting him warmly, flashing my most earnest and sympathetic smile, I asked him how he was doing.
He admitted he was feeling pretty rotten, then added that my smile reminded him of his daughter’s smile and that his daughter and I shared a first name.
Perhaps things were looking up.
He went on to tell me his sons were “rubbish” but that his daughter was his favorite child. Long story short, with hardly a word from me, he cancelled the points deduction on my moving violation. I still had to pay the $95.00 fine.
Although I occasionally see drivers go straight through that intersection during the posted times, I never see that cop. Maybe he’s retired now, like me, and possibly, like the judge.