Ease on down the road ... but within proper limits

I was headed to work on Interstate 5 when the silver-haired fellow cruised up alongside me in the fast lane. He smiled sweetly and waved. I gave him a smile back and waggled my fingers.

My belief that we were just two passing motorists — pantomiming "Lovely day, isn't it?" — was dashed when he mouthed, "pull over" and pointed to the side of the road.

Who me? I'm just cruising along in the slow lane.

Sadly, this too often seems to be both literally and figuratively true.

Confused but cooperative, I was easing my red Vibe onto the shoulder when the dark blue cruiser slipped ahead of me and flipped on his light bar.

The woman in the white van who'd been traveling just ahead of me would soon become part of our trio. As we sat on the side of the highway just outside of Gold Hill, the Oregon State Police trooper approached her vehicle first.

The woman began waving her arms as soon as they began chatting. She looked pretty irate. Or maybe she was having a medical problem? Does he need help with her? Did she call him? Was I tailgating?

My brain began to hurt. So I decided to count the cows grazing in the pasture.

Eventually the trooper came up to my passenger window, asked for my license and registration, then left without another word.

My attention drifted back to the cattle. Eight, nine ... Does a calf count as a whole cow?

"Do you know how fast you were going?" The question came suddenly, accompanied by an arched eyebrow.

"Um ... 65?" I said hopefully, knowing that was the speed limit.

"You were going 72," he said with a sad shake of his head.

Handing over the speeding ticket, the trooper kindly informed me he was only writing the citation for $140. It could have been more, he said.

"Don't try to keep up with the flow of traffic," was his parting advice.

A few weeks later, at the traffic ticket window, I handed the yellow citation to a clerk.

"It says I can pay this, or appear before a judge and schedule a trial," I said. "What if I want my day in court?"

One must be able to prove to the judge that they weren't speeding, he said. "If you pay it today, it will only be $109," he added hopefully.

"I'm the courts reporter for the Mail Tribune," I said. "Is there a conflict if I want to plead my case before judges I regularly write about?"

He laughed, groaned and rolled his eyes.

The county would probably bring in a special judge from out of the area. "And you'd still have to prove your case," the clerk said, then reiterated the discounted rate.

Pay? Or plead? That was the question. I was dithering back and forth when I noticed a line had built up behind me.

I felt the pressure of their impatience and decided to pay and move on.

Hmm. It appears I haven't learned my lesson about not going with the flow of traffic.

But I have it on good authority the clerk was right. Most judges would have gaveled me guilty — if the trooper had showed up.

And who knows whether I'd have gotten the discount rate.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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