Be careful in Burbank, California: the city needs revenue.
Driving from the baseball field, where I’d dropped off Nine, to the place where Five and I were supposed to go to Nursery Rhyme Dance, I saw the police officer’s motorcycle in my rear view mirror. I didn’t think about it at the time, of course, but now I remember how Claire Wolfe, one of my favorite freedom writers, talked about not having a car and how wonderful it was to have freedom from the blue light in the rear view mirror. Ah, but our government taxfeeders do love to make us late for things and to miss things all together, just for the privilege of driving on their roads, of course. Here I was, a law-abiding mom just trying to get my children to where they needed to go, and totally and completely following the rules of the road. Except, of course, for the cell phone use rule. I’ve written about this ridiculous law when it was first passed in California, but now, things have really gotten out of hand. On a day when the stock market took a strange plunge, I began to see what our country is coming to: a totalitarian mess in which little old ladies, moms, and other innocent folks can be stopped, detained, asked for identification, and treated like a criminal. I did, of course, sign the document that said I was guilty of the crime, with no jury trial; not doing so may have gotten me arrested and harassed even longer by the people whose salary my tax dollars pay.
What really got me about this particular stop, my first in California (although I have gotten a camera ticket), is that the officer was so very polite in his zero-tolerance mess. I was very polite back to him, of course. The officer seemed void of intuition, as if his common sense had been politely brainwashed out of him and he even had to give a ticket to someone who probably is a lot like his own wife. If you’re not familiar with zero tolerance, it’s this crazy thing that’s all the rage in government schools these days. In fact, I read the other day that a kindergartner or first grader (I forget exactly which) was expelled for hugging another student. I help to manage and coach a t-ball team and yes, the children can get a bit huggy sometimes; and sometimes, they can hit each other too much. However, I always let them know, very gently, that hugging and hitting and all those touchy feely things aren’t allowed on the t-ball field. We’re there to play t-ball and that’s it. I don’t expel them, but I do warn them that if they continue behavior that has nothing to do with t-ball, they’ll have to sit out the rest of practice. This kind of thing has worked (so far!) every time and the t-ball players generally stop whatever annoying distracting behavior they’re doing and get down to business, at least for a couple of minutes. In the zero-tolerance atmosphere of the government schools, however, there is indeed no room for common sense. Thus, the student who brings a knife to school, or who hugs another student, or who hits another student is now being shown the open door back to his or her parent’s house for a few days, where students belong in the first place.
I mention the zero-tolerance atmosphere of the government schools because it is one that we are all slowly going to have to get used to. The last time I was pulled, for speeding as we were going through Arizona to North Carolina, the officer saw that I was an innocent mom, driving while my husband and sons slept. I told him that we were trying to get to our motel that night (it was after midnight). He very nicely gave me a warning ticket and I went on my way, extremely careful about not speeding. That was a couple of years ago, however. If you’re expecting this kind of common sense behavior to continue from those whose loins are girded with tax money, you need to wake yourself out of your stupor.
I was woken up yesterday, as I was very nicely treated as a criminal in front of two of my children. The very polite officer, who was, of course, just doing his job, was more than likely fulfilling a quota. He had been sitting and waiting for someone like me, someone who believes the cell phone law is ridiculous and hasn’t bothered paying to get a hands-free device or didn’t want to put the phone on speaker, neither of which makes talking on the cell phone much safer. Make no mistake: if I’d told him that I was trying to get a sick child to St. Joseph’s Hospital and I’d called the dad to tell him, this officer would not have budged. After all, he had a quota to fill. No doubt, Burbank revenue is now declining in this economy and the tax-feeding officer was up front about telling me that they are now ticketing heavily for cell phone use. In fact, when I finally made it to ballet and tap classes (unfortunately, we missed Nursery Rhyme Dance), I found that another mom had received a cell phone ticket just three weeks ago, with the same line from the officer about how Burbank is now ticketing heavily for cell phone usage. Translation: Burbank needs money and will extort it from those who drive within its confines, all the while making innocent people, in the supposed comfort of their own private property, into lightweight criminals.
I’d heard, as have others I talked with, that the cell phone use fee was $25 or so. But he told me that my ticket would be $130; the other mom I talked with told me that her ticket was $141. As our car registration is due this month, the officer reminded me that I must park my car after May 10th and not drive it until I receive the proper registration information. Yeah. Right. Mr. Thinking Mama, btw, said that we have until the end of the month. There is no doubt that the taxfeeding officer saw what a target I really was and took it upon himself to remind me that I could become even more of a victim by the state of California. Having said all this, the taxfeeder did not pull me out of the car and frisk me or anything like that and in these days of Amerika as a police state, I should certainly be thankful for that. Still, it was a humiliating experience and the thing I’ve learned is that I now have to buy the more cumbersome "hands-free" device, which I was trying to avoid, and that I need to use the speaker and put my cell phone in my lap or in my console. A very well-meaning Facebook friend suggested that perhaps Burbank is trying to eliminate cell phone accidents, and I’m sure that any taxfeeder will tell you that’s the case, but I don’t believe that for a minute. In fact, I can tell you that if he’d been trying to do that, he would have done exactly what the officer in Arizona did: Give me a warning ticket. A good p.r. campaign could lower those accident rates, but the government would have to spend money to do it; by giving tickets, the government prospers.
On a related note, I happened to be going the wrong way on the very confusing Chandler Blvd. in Burbank the other day. A very sweet woman pulled up beside me and made me aware of what I was doing. I quickly got into the correct lane and continued, promising myself to be more careful in this neck of the proverbial woods. And yet, what would a police officer have done? Give me a ticket, no questions asked or answered. I’m thankful that zero tolerance has not yet crept into the general population and the woman was helpful to me. When my father-in-law tells me, as he did just the other day, that the government is just trying to protect us, I almost have to laugh out loud. If the government were trying to protect us, they wouldn’t be fining us at every opportunity. It’s hard to believe that there was so little going on in Burbank at 5:30 p.m. that the officer had nothing better to do than give a mom a ticket. As more and more laws are created by those we elect to serve us, this situation is only going to get worse.
And so, if I’d been eating a hamburger or putting on make-up, I would have been okay. But talking on the cell phone with my husband cost me $130 and took away Five’s and my Nursery Rhyme Dance class for the day.
I know that a lot has been said lately about Arizona and its new draconian law that allows anybody at anytime to be asked for papers please, but you don’t have to go to Arizona to be treated like a terrorist. If your particular jurisdiction hasn’t yet come around to the revenue-boosting zero-tolerance attitude yet, it certainly will. Remember this: The government is not there to protect you; it’s there because you pay it to be. I’m becoming more and more disgusted with the way it’s treating its customers.
Tricia Shore [send her mail], a former English lecturer at North Carolina State University, lives in Los Angeles, where she has become hip enough to be on MySpace and Facebook. She’s a comic mom and thinking mama to three curious sons and the lucky wife of Mr. Comic Mom, all of whom live in the Gingerbread House with some rather ornery cats.