My life in cruise control

My Turn by Carolyn Carter

  I think we all have something to say about the pesky Plumas County cops. I’ve noticed that if any conversation is lacking in fervor all one has to do is say “Well, I got pulled over a couple of weeks ago …” and it starts a conversation that has legs that can last for miles.

  Well, I got pulled over a couple of weeks ago, and a couple of weeks before that too. I am now the recipient of two crushingly expensive speeding tickets.

  I don’t think it’s just because I’m a fast driver, though I’ll admit I am. I also do an uncommon amount of driving. I live in Quincy and all of my life, my work and hobbies are in Eastern Plumas County.

  Since I also drive my old Honda, which glides along like a skateboard, I forget in the midst of my zooming to look down and pay attention to my speed. In fact, the only time I really do is when I see a black and white car pass, and by then it is too late.

  My drive home after being awarded my second speeding ticket was a shameful one. Though I was alone on the road and I know that stretch of Highway 70 like the back of my hand, I was very bothered by my ability to yet again get a speeding ticket within a couple days after paying off the last one. Not only that, but my incapacity to learn a lesson was frankly embarrassing.

  What I think bothers me more than the many dollars going to Plumas County Superior Court is that on that last stretch of highway before I got home I was correlating my ability to magnetize tickets, and my lack of talent for keeping an eye out for cops, as a sign that I was a menace to society. That is never a good feeling.

  As my penance, I decided to try an experiment. For one week when I was driving, my car’s speed would be dictated by cruise control. As soon as I got on to the hypnotic road that is my commute I vowed to press the button and see where the road took me. Oddly, I learned a few things.

  The first thing I learned is I get stressed out when I have to manually try to keep my car at the same pace at all times.

  If I’m going 60 miles an hour, and I’m climbing up a hill, there is a certain amount of anxiety that comes with hearing the engine struggle its way to the top. Then, seeing that the person behind you has a better car with a manlier engine, which appears to be zip-gliding uphill, sends a feeling of inadequacy through my bones.

  When you leave it up to the car to figure out how to maintain its own pace, a brains-over-brawns pride in your vehicle comes along with that.

  The second thing I learned is that it’s not the cool thing to do to speed along a winding mountainous highway, and to celebrate just for coming out alive every time. I realized when I went at a normal speed there was a plethora of comrades cruising along with me like a herd of law-abiders.

  Though I feel some (generally Subaru drivers) take their insistence on going 54 miles an hour to the extreme, overall my ability to keep pace with the rest of society began to repair my sense of banishment from them.

  The third thing I learned is it is really fun to gloat whenever I passed a cop hiding behind a bush or turn in the road. Every time I did, I would automatically look down at my speedometer, see I was going the speed limit like my cruise control was forcing me to, and sing a mental “neener neener neeeener” as I passed them.

  Though I am sure more speeding tickets will come my way eventually, I think it was time for me to process exactly why it’s important for me to slow down. And maybe, in my public attempt to admit my wrong, the next cop I meet on the road just might have a bit more sympathy.

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