There’s a specific emotion reserved within us all for that moment when we get a fine. Parking fine, speeding fine, whatever. The moment you realise you’ve been fined, the feeling is unmistakenly: disdain, mixed with anger, mixed with annoyance and frustration, and finished usually with a little regret.. Why?
Because who ever gets a fine and thinks to themsleves, “Of course, I totally deserve this!”
So last month I got a fine from the NT Police Red Light Traffic Office. The fine shows a picture of my car with the back wheels just over the white line where you are supposed to stop.
I studied the photo and noticed that I was next to a turning right lane, where there was a green arrow.
I checked the date and remembered the day well. I had just been to a friend’s place for lunch, and my precious little girl who is nearly 2 was having a terrible time in the back.
By terrible, I mean she was screaming, crying and trying to get her arms out of the seat harness. I recall that on the way home I had to pull over to put her arms back in (yep she got them free) and try and console her with a drink, her dummy, a toy…. None of which was working particularly well. I also recall having to turn around numerous times while stopped at traffic lights.
So. I saw the photo and came to a conclusion, the only conclusion that made sense to me, because WHY in Britney Spears name would I EVER place my child in danger while driving…. by running a red light? I just wouldn’t.
Here is the letter I wrote to the Red Light traffic Office with the sincerest of presumptions that I was telling the truth, (what other explanation could there be??) and with the perhaps ridiculous presumption that they would understand and let me off.
To whom it may concern
RE: TIN RL 000 34022
As per the attached fine and photograph, I was the driver of the car at the time the infringement occurred, proceeding beyond the red light 42.1 seconds after it had turned red.
I had actually stopped. While the light was red, I had been reaching towards the back seat where my not quite 2 year old was screaming, attempting to give her a pacifier.
Then the lane next to me got a green arrow and I noticed they were moving. I momentarily accelerated, but stopped immediately when I realised my light was still red. I did not run this red light. I took off too early by accident, and stopped straight away.
I realise perhaps more attention should be paid while sitting at a red light, but if you have ever driven with a screaming toddler, you will know that it is probably easier negotiating traffic with a live pig on your back seat. Or a serial killer. Or an elephant.
Given the extreme stress and overwhelming despair at my child’s cries and screams, and not knowing what was causing her to be in such distress, I actually think I did very well not to cause a seven car pile-up.
So I’m wondering, since you fine people for being under the influence of alcohol and drugs, perhaps you could change the title of this infringement, from Proceeding Beyond a Red Traffic Light (which technically I did, but only for a second) to “Driving Under the Influence of A Screaming Child.”
I’m wondering if the infringement amount for this might be less than $250
If you are not sure about how difficult it might actually be to drive while trying to hush a kid in the back – I urge you to research this common occurrence and borrow my child for an afternoon. I’ll make sure she’s screaming for you. My address is above, you can come and collect her any day next week.
Then, before determining whether or not this fine may be removed and the infringement scratched altogether, let me know afterwards if you have not at some point buried your shaking head deep into your hands in despair, and looked up only to discover the light’s gone green. Woops, except it hasn’t. (Aaaand, break.)
Please feel free to contact me to discuss at any time. Except not before the kid has had her sleep.
Truthfully I wasn’t going to blog today. A million things to do. But some things are worth sharing in the moment.
I just got off the phone with a very concerned Indian man. Someone pass me the raita because I’m burning up right now. My fault. Entirely. But still??
So he received my letter. I could tell by his tone he was not amused. Sense of humour? Much like sweet, softly spoken politicians…. No such thing.
Now keep in mind that I heard this in a very thick accent, which although I am certainly not racist, made the whole conversation SO much more irritating, perhaps because I’m always a little dubious as to the authenticity of strange callers with Indian accents as being local calls. Thank you but I’m very happy with my telecommunications provider, PLEASE stop calling.
“We have received your letter regarding the red light traffic infringement, I’m calling to let you know that we have been over the photographic and video evidence and in fact you did run the red light. You entered the intersection when the light was red, and continued to drive through the intersection.”
“No it was not Mam.”
Silence. He continued.
“Would you like me to withdraw the letter mam or would you like us to forward it onto the police.“
“What do the police do?” I asked.
“They are given the same photographic and video evidence with the letter and determine the outcome from that evidence.”
“Sure, send it on. The more people who think I’m a crazy nuthouse dangerous-on-the-road liar the better right?”
“That’s fine, withdraw the letter and I’ll pay the stupid frickin’ fine.” Is what I actually said.
Excpet I didn’t say stupid frickin’.
“Thank you mam, and might I suggest you take it easy on the roads in future.”
Truthfully, I’m usually pretty good at getting out of fines so I’m probably just misplacing all of my frustration on the fact that this time I could not. Sorry kind, concerned Indian man. Have I ever mentioned I’m also slightly passive aggressive?
This is why sometimes it’s good to have conversations on old style telephones with chords. You can disconnect the call politely, then hurl the ear piece across the room and nothing gets broken. It just recoils like a slinky.
Let me tell you I am one of those strange people who likes road rules. I like boundaries. I like restrictions, because it makes me feel safe and there’s no temptation to be a speed demon or drive like I’m filming a James Bond movie. Because I know I have a wild side, and am competitive and like to think I can do everything superbly well, including rally driving. But I can’t because it’s against the law, and you could get caught, and get a massive fine… So I don’t.
So seriously, what the hell was I thinking?