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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Wrong on Red

(Your handy dandy me @ Bugs & Cranks update for the day:

Voted Least Popular: “…the very least popular name in MLB is no steroid peddler, reprobate, bigmouth or front office honcho of a sad sack franchise.”

Wednesday Walk Watch: Week Won: “The list below includes more swingers than a Rat Pack love-in, more hackers than a whooping cough convention, and about as many walks as the wheelchair ward of your local hospital.”

Atsa spicy base-a-ball, folks.)

I came to the end of an era last night. For thirty-*mumblemumble* years, I had a streak going. Uninterrupted, unchallenged and unwavering, I thought it might last forever. But all good things must pass, and like Seinfeld’s ill-fated no-upchuck streak, my run also ended. I’m now the recipient of exactly one motor vehicle moving violation.

“Getting a vehicle like that onto a street like this would be like cramming a woolly mammoth into a pair of stonewashed Levis.”

The evening started like any other. I had a dinner reservation, and was running late because… well, because it’s me. I’m always late. That’s just how it is, unfortunately. My parents tried to beg, cajole and beat punctuality into me as a kid, but to no avail. They might as well have asked me to change eye color or shrink a foot. Unpossible.

So, as usual, I was feverishly rushing to my dinner appointment. And, also as usual, the rest of the world seemed to be conspiring to make me even later. The Fates hate a tardy smartass, I suppose. And if there’s one thing you can count on when you’re running a few minutes behind, it’s a bunch of slow clueless assholes getting in your way to run you further behinder. Last night, I got the whole shebang. And I almost got around it — until the fuzz reeled me in.

First, there was the early-evening Boston traffic, which is always a molasses-reminiscent adventure. I lost three traffic light cycles and several frazzled nerves to the ‘drivers’ ahead of me who seemingly failed to make the connection between the concepts of ‘green’ and ‘go’.

Personally, it doesn’t seem so freaking hard. It’s alliterative and everything, so how hard could it be to remember? I can only theorize that these people had their mnemonics mixed up, and either thought ‘green’ means ‘grind to a halt’, or they were waiting patiently for the light to turn some shade of gold, gray or goldenrod yellow.

(It’s either that, or assume that the entire world is out to get me. And I haven’t quite sunk to that level of rabid paranoia.

Yet. But talk to me again after my next commute. I might just be ready then.)

Finally, I wriggled my way through the traffic and shot toward my destination. The route should have been simple — a few blocks on the one-way street I was driving, a quick left, a couple more blocks, then a right, and a half-mile or so to the restaurant door. I had the plan in my head, no traffic left around me, and a Google map on my phone, should things get out of hand. Which they wouldn’t. How could they, frankly?

Naturally, that’s when things got out of hand.

Three blocks from my left turn, I saw a huge fire engine turn, mostly, onto the street ahead. Only it’s a narrow little road, and fire trucks are especially big and wide. Getting a vehicle like that onto a street like this would be like cramming a woolly mammoth into a pair of stonewashed Levis. It’s not happening without a lot of shimmying, some creative maneuvering, and possibly a shoehorn. A greased shoehorn, at that.

So I improvised. I took my left turn early, thinking I could always take a quick right and be right back on track. My map assured me that the next left, just before the obstacle of the behemoth truck, was not a dead end. So I took it. And it wasn’t a dead end. So that was good.

On the other hand, what it was was a one-block connecting street that dumped out onto another one-way street parallel to the one I’d just exited. And if you know anything about the wild-eyed fevered rantings of ye olde Boston street planners, then you’ll know that two adjacent one-way streets never let traffic go the same direction.

Except those times when they do, of course. But that only happens when you desperately need a street going the other way, and then they’ll throw six or seven no-use one-way bastard roads in a row. Me, I just needed one street, going north the way I’d just been pointing. Instead, I found myself driving south, losing precious minutes and sanity as the reservation deadline tick-tick-ticked away.

But I regrouped. There are plenty of other streets in the sea, so I set out to find one that would perhaps allow me to drive in a direction somewhat less completely opposite of the one I had in mind. I took the next turn down a side street, just in time for a big honking old lime-green thirty-year-old sedan to pull out of a parking spot a few dozen yards in front of me.

The driver was an ancient, withered old man. He probably bought the car when it was new — back when he was merely withered — and had been driving it ever since. At the requisite six miles an hour, of course. Which is the ‘speed’ he drove in front of me for the next three blocks, turning twice in the direction I was going before finally toddling off on another side street to complete whatever nonagenarian mission he was on. A late-night applesauce run, perhaps. Or a restocking trip to the local pharmacy. A liver-spotted booty call? I don’t know. I don’t want to know. I was just glad to not be staring at the old fart’s oversized bumper any longer.

Hopelessly behind now — but at least pointing in the right direction — I sped toward the restaurant. Or tried to speed. But I was in a neighborhood now with pedestrians crossing every street, and every traffic light a red one. Desperate to get back on track, I looked for a corner to cut. At the very last intersection before the straight stretch that led to my dinner, I thought I’d found it. The light was red, but I was first in line. With a break in the people crossing the street, I nudged forward past the crosswalk to look for a crease in the cross traffic. When a window opened up, I took it, and swung around right on red.

That’s when I saw the cop standing on the sidewalk ahead. And then walking into the street. And then pointing at me, in that pointy way that cops have when they’re about to point out that you’ve broken the law. They must go to some sort of pointing class to get that just right. It’s probably between trips to the shooting range and Brutality 101.

To make a long story slightly shorter, in my haste to conquer the last major hurdle on my journey, I’d evidently missed a ‘NO RIGHT ON RED’ sign somewhere back in the vicinity of the intersection. I don’t remember a sign being there before — but then, I’m not often dodging colorblind assholes and wayward fire engines and crawling clunkers older than I am to wind up at that intersection. And the cop was one of those no-nonsense old-school uniform jockeys, so there was little chance of getting out of it. He took my info, wrote me up, and now I’m on the books with my first moving violation.

On the good side, the fine wasn’t much more than a parking ticket. And I get those all the time. Most of the places I park won’t let you stay for more than two hours at a time, and — me being the ever-tardy jackhole I am — two hours often turns into two and a half. Or three. Or next Tuesday. Parking tickets are just the cost of being me, at this point.

Still, it’s good to know those right on red penalties aren’t much stiffer. Maybe I can get a list of all the fines, and pick and choose some others to break, now that my moving violation cherry is popped. So long as they’re cheap — and could maybe get me to dinner on time, for once — it might be worth a look. Nobody said I had to be punctual legally, right?

Permalink  |  1 Comment



One Response to “Wrong on Red”

  1. kerry says:

    i’ve had three speeding tickets. that’s it. nothing else. but they all happened within a two year period. and the first two tickets happened within 36 hours of each other. fun times.

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