I was caught red handed, though I still contend the light was more yellow than red—so let’s call it “orange” handed. I also contend that if the jacktard driver in front of me making a left turn had just sped up instead of hitting her brakes, I wouldn’t have had to scratch out a—cough, cough—$500 check out to the County of Riverside.
Sentiments to this effect are evident in the grainy black-and-white photo that accompanied my traffic ticket in the mail, where I can be seen mouthing the first syllable of a word that clearly starts with the letter “F.”
I now accept full responsibility for my actions, even if immediately afterward I may have spent a few hours Googling “how to beat a camera ticket.” (Apparently the big ticket-beating “secret” is to keep throwing away court notices until somebody dressed in body armor uses a battering ram to gain entrance through your front door. Then a German Shepherd attacks your larynx as you attempt to hide in the backyard underneath your family’s upside-down Toys R Us plastic pool. Uh, thanks but no thanks.)
I have always felt that education shouldn’t stop after graduation. Learning should be a lifelong pursuit because knowledge is, you know, important and stuff. That’s why when it was offered I readily jumped at the chance to attend traffic school. Well that and I didn’t want my insurance rates to go up. Believe me, you don’t’ want to see that talking Geico lizard angry.
Traffic school has changed a lot in the last decade. It used to be you actually had to go to traffic school. It was typically held at a local high school, community center or banquet hall and you were forced to piss away an entire Saturday being taught by some gym teacher-turned-traffic instructor who’d gone all dead inside and was just trying to make an easy $100 for popping in a few VHS tapes about road safety.
The traffic school movies were laughable, shot in the 1970s and starred some Willie Aames wannabe knocking back a few Seagram’s Wine Coolers before making the regrettable decision of driving home from a party. You can guess what happened next. Depending on the movie, it was one of several scenarios:
Willie steamrolled his ’78 Pontiac Trans Am through a bus full of elderly nuns on their way to a humanitarian aid mission to Guatemala. Or Willie was paralyzed from the waist down and had to give up his football scholarship to Quarterback State. Or Willie was involved in a head-on collision with another car. Miraculously Willie was unharmed, but he always wound up killing . . . his high school sweetheart Mary Beth! No-o-o-o-o!
And all because Willie made the tragic decision to not stay at the party and get completely wasted until he threw up and passed out in the host’s fireplace. (At least that’s the moral I always took from the stories.)
Yep, they just don’t make ’em like they used to. But with the advent of technology comes online traffic school which, let’s be honest, isn’t traffic school at all. Any idiot with a modem, an index finger and a return key can “pass” online traffic school in about three hours, especially when it includes multiple-choice quizzes at the end of each chapter with questions like this:
You are getting ready to make a right turn. You should:
A. Turn on your signaler
B. Turn on your heart light
C. Turn on, tune in and drop out
D. Turn into a werewolf
Needless to say, some time between the third and fourth quarters of a Monday Night Football game I “graduated” from online traffic school. I even had an impromptu ceremony right there in the living room with my two cats (who I made honorary “deans”).
It was a special moment because I’m the first online traffic school graduate in my family. I just wish Willie’s dead girlfriend have been alive to see it.
Contact Jeff Girod at firstname.lastname@example.org.