A Tale of Two Cities: Big and Small

Unfriendly Police Officers can Ruin a Town's Economy

I don't get a lot of speeding tickets. I drive a lot of miles each year with all of the travel for work and the family road trips, so I get some speeding tickets. But I'm not a chronic offender by any means. Especially if you divide my number of tickets per mile.

Hartford, Connecticut
I had an interesting trip last month to photograph Montpelier; home of James Madison, our fourth President, Father of our Constitution, and the author of the Bill of Rights. I'm one of those people who are always thinking. At least that's how I see it; Tinsley, on the other hand, may describe it differently. Anyway, "always thinking" sometimes looks to the outside world like "not thinking". Sometimes I miss my turns. Usually this isn't a problem, but on the way to the airport, it can turn into a problem real fast. Especially if there's traffic involved. Which, if you're in Hartford, CT, is a given (I fly out of Bradley Airport serving Hartford and Springfield). So I'm blasting through neighborhoods of Hartford trying to get to the airport when I come over this hill. There's a speed trap at the four way stop sign halfway down the hill. The police officers don't even have to get out of their car, they just sit there shooting people at the crest of the hill. So they wave to me and point to the side of the road.

"I'm sorry, but I was... well I suppose the excuse doesn't matter, forget it" I say to the officer after handing him my license and registration.
"But what?" is his reply;
"I missed my turn a few miles back and I'm trying to find a quick route to the airport because I've got a flight to catch."
"When does your flight leave?"
"I got you going 40 miles per hour coming down that hill and this is a 25 miles per hour zone; keep it under 25. You can get a fast route to the airport by going straight, and then taking your second left. That'll lead you to Interstate 91."
"Thank you very much officer, I appreciate it."

Let's contrast that to my experience after the aforementioned flight.

Orange, Virginia:
I had a wonderful time touring the restoration of Montpelier, eating in 3 local restaurants, and photographing the scenic countryside. I even found the ruins of a mansion designed by Thomas Jefferson for Governor Barbour which burned down after about 70 years. On my way out of town, I got up, packed up the rental car and headed into Orange for gas, road snacks, and breakfast at the local cafe. Coming over a little hill and around a corner I went through a traffic signal (which was green) and simultaneously noticed a "Speed Limit 25" and blue flashing lights in my rear view mirror.

Rather than give an out of state visitor a warning for an honest mistake, the young officer wrote me up a ticket that I can either pay through the mail or appear in court. After I accepted the ticket it occurred to me that if the blue flashing lights were in my mirror at the same time that I saw the "Speed Limit 25" sign, then I wasn't breaking the law at all. I was on the correct side of the sign when he pulled clocked me; the "Speed Limit 45 mph" side of the sign.

Truth is stranger than fiction
When a big city police officer set up in a legitimate speed trap gives a friendly warning (and directions to the airport) and a small town police officer hits an out-of-towner with a big speeding ticket from a bogus speed trap, its in stark contrast to what we expect.

I didn't fill up with gas, I didn't buy any road snacks, and I didn't eat breakfast until I was out of Orange County. It took all of the gas I had, I might add. When I go back to visit Montpelier, I'll stay in a hotel outside of the county and spend my money elsewhere as well.

If I were Stephen Colbert, I'd give Orange, Virginia a "Wag of the Finger!"
Hartford, Connecticut, on the other hand, gets a "Tip of the Hat" for hospitality.

And so does Portland, ME for that matter. I was in Portland photographing a house. I parked on the side of the road not realizing that it was a two-hour only parking spot. When I came out around lunch time, I noticed a parking ticket on my windshield. It was green, rather then red or orange as we expect, and it said something \along the lines of "You have been forgiven". Because I had out of state plates, they figured I didn't realize their parking laws, and they wanted me to come back, so they didn't bust me for an honest mistake.

Hartford, CT: 1
Portland, ME: 1
Orange, VA: 0

By the way, I'm not going to pay the ticket; instead I'm going to court.

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