Bureaucrats and Speeding Tickets

Many times I’ve gripped the steering wheel of my idling car on a summer weekend, trying to make a left turn onto Rt 13, odd-colored license plates from out-of-state drivers flashing by at Mach 2, horn beeping behind me from an impatient motorist wanting their turn at bat, wondering why I don’t risk my life and pull out in front of a semi full of Purdue chicken, just to wait in a six-inch wide median for a break in traffic going the other way. All the planets in the solar system align more often than simultaneous breaks in traffic. It’d be easier to just park and wait for summer to pass. No stoplight nearby? Better make sure you’ve got a full tank and some protein bars.

It was on one such day, as I sat waiting for the stars to align, watching those odd-colored plates zip by, that I thought, “How could the Eastern Shore make money off these out-of-state drivers?” The only people who’ve figured it out are the gas stations and cigarette outlets. Maybe we could…

I made my turn, stopped to fill my tank back up, and was pondering the possibilities as I cruised along. Then a silver Dodge Charger zipped by, its only noteworthy appendage being a somewhat conspicuous antenna. Police car, I reasoned. Just after him shot a black BMW, dark tinted windows, orange plates, though it was difficult to see as I a wrestled with my steering wheel to retain control after his shockwave slapped my car sideways. He flew past the Charger, making lights flash from windows and grills and bumpers. The no-longer-under-cover policeman hit the afterburner and the chase was on.

Then the thought hit me: They beat me to it! Who? The bureaucrats! There I was, trying to be clever, musing how we could make money off the out-of-state traffic, and the government already got it.

Listen. Anyone who’s driven on the Eastern Shore for more than a few minutes knows two things: deer are suicidal, and don’t speed through Exmore. Of course, all us residents know stretches exist in both counties where you can drive like a rabid squirrel. But you’re guaranteed numerous speed-sensing devices aimed at your chest near the regular watering holes, Exmore being one. There, a driver will sight at least one or twenty officers at the communal town speed-trap.

I can sense when the ambush is set. Nothing weird. Not like ESP. Just that once I turn the corner with those radar guns, the temperature in the car rises. They’ve got so many set up it causes brown-outs all the way to Wallops. You can tell when you’re in range because the grass beside the road is brown and withered. The FAA issues a no-fly zone over the town whenever the speed trap is in action.

One officer remarked, leaning against the wall outside the Northampton county courtroom, that he preferred the term speed enforcement zone. Yeah. That’s like a lioness in hiding near her watering hole, then slicing claws into the neck of prey and saying, “No worries. This is just a zebra enforcement area.”

As you get closer to the speed trap, the shoulder is a parking lot filled with out-of-state vehicles. Exmore is negotiating with EZ Pass to hurry up ticket processing. If you think deer are suicidal, what about the guy that jumps into traffic holding a stop sign as his only protection? I’d like to see that job description. “Must be well organized, computer proficient, and willing to step in front of speeding vehicles.” In my profession, that’s a good reason not to hire.

So it turns out not all bureaucrats fit my prejudiced mold. After all, they invented an entirely new, independent revenue stream. They’re being a good steward with all that cash and using it to keep our property taxes down. Based on the number of cars I see stopped on a daily basis, they’re bringing in tons of money, most likely more than their departments cost.

Now, some bureaucrats are thinking, “Isn’t that what we’ve always done?”

Not exactly. Governments collect taxes. If you bring in more money than you use, in the real world we call it a profit.

“How do you spell it?”

P – R – O – F – I – T

“Does it hurt?”

No, but taxes certainly do.

All I’m saying is that we should have a newfound respect for the resourcefulness of our local governments. They’re taking money from off the Shore, landing it here, while using resources already at their disposal. Encourage them to keep up the good work. And next time you pass a driver being ticketed, stop and thank them for their donation. Invite them back.

For being the inspiration of this good effort, I hereby nominate the town of Exmore for the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. If you don’t agree, they’re circulating photos of your car’s front grill among its hit-squad of suicidal deer.

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