Monday, January 28, 2013

Super Speeder

Super Speeder

I live in Florida. If we want to drive to any other state, the most direct route touches our neighbor to the north, Georgia. In that state, as of January 1, 2010, a law was enacted dubbed “The Super Speeder Law”. The following is a true story as told to me by a friend, who had the misfortune to discover the outrageous law first hand.


I travel to the Carolinas on a regular basis, and I drive through Georgia to do it. One day, I’m cruising along I95, and in the median is parked a Darien City police officer. He drives out of the median and pulls me over. He tells me I was driving 85 mph, and I don’t argue. I wasn’t looking at the speedometer, honestly, so I’m not certain. Why a city cop should be handing out tickets on the interstate was a mystery, but one I wasn’t that intrigued by. I sign for the ticket and move on with my life. After returning to Florida, I mail the fine of $286.00 to the designated address, thinking that was the end of it.

Ah, but they aren’t done with me.

Two weeks later, I received a letter in the mail from the State of Georgia informing me of an additional fine for my infraction. Because I “Pled Guilty” to driving 85 mph, I fall into a category called Super Speeder and charged an additional two hundred dollars! There was no proof of the speed driven, but there was no offer of a way to contest the charge, either. I was an out-of-state driver, ignorant of their local laws, and they had me by the balls.

This is a line from one of their websites, “...any high-risk drivers who make a habit of ignoring posted speed limits will be the first to feel the pinch of higher state fines (called fees) on their wallets...” So, shouldn’t this fine only be assessed after a second (or third) speeding ticket? And then, technically, it should only be for the citizens of Georgia, not out-of-state drivers, because we could not “make a habit” of speeding on the Georgia portion of an interstate.

Another website (Super Speeder Information) admits that a cop doesn’t have to tell you about the law. They inform you by mail, within thirty days after the penalty. So there’s a lie of omission. I didn’t know about the magical “85 mph” law that tacks an extra two hundred dollars on my fine. But, we all know that cops are allowed to lie, don’t we? Oh yeah, one more thing. My license will be suspended if I don’t pay.

“Surprise!” says the State of Georgia. “We can now legally screw you out of an additional two hundred dollars.”

Thanks for visiting Georgia! Ya’ll come on back, real soon.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Caught in a Set Up - Part 3 - No hope for the hopeless

This is part 3 of a 3-part true short story.
Part One can be found here Just the facts, ma'am
Part Two can be found here: WTF?

Are you worried about the government stealing your money in Washington? Fuggedaboutit! Look closer. It's as near as your downtown Clerk of the Court and County Sheriff’s office.

Part 3
No hope for the hopeless

            I went to my local tax collectors office, Form D6 in hand. I checked the number on the next tab. It was 83. I waited a second in the very crowded room to hear a clerk call “Number 46!” 
            I left.
            I went back a few hours later, and the room was still full. I took a tab numbered 26. I sat down and pulled out reading material I failed to bring earlier. The clerk called “Number 74!” The gentleman sitting next to me exclaimed, “I’m next!” I asked how long he’d been waiting with his number 75. He told me two hours.
            I left.
            My local tax collectors office opens at 8:30am. At 8:15, I joined the line of about twenty other souls currently enslaved to the bureaucracy of the County and the State. When the office opened, and I reached the door, I was handed number 24. I settled into my chair and waited.
Forty-five minutes later, my number was called. Keeping it as brief as possible, and trying to remain as calm as possible, I gave the woman my story and my Form D6.
            You must know that I had to ask.
            “Why is it the Orange County website offers all services online, only to require this form be presented in person?” I knew she couldn’t answer with anything other than a sigh and a feeble attempt at non-responsibility. She didn’t disappoint.
            “I don’t know, ma’am. I can only process the paperwork.”
            I looked away as she did just that. After a few keystrokes and shuffling of papers, she said, “Sixty dollars and twenty-five cents, please.”
            My neck popped as I jerked my head back to face her.
            “I beg your pardon?”
            “$60.25, please.”
            The file folder I carried contained all of the paperwork I had received and copies of those I’d printed out. Digging through them, I pulled out the document from the State of Florida saying the $60 would be due if I didn’t pay by the 29th.
            She said, “Six Dollars, ma’am. Not Sixty.”
            Still taken aback, but slightly relieved, I asked, “For what?”
            “The processing fee.”
            The look of strained patience was priceless. “You can choose not to pay,” she said, “otherwise, $6.25.”
            And do you know what I got for my six bucks? She scanned my Form D6, which I had printed at home, from their website, then she emailed it to the State! She even gave me the original back! That explains the forced attendance. To collect a processing fee for something I could have done at home!
            I paid $316.25 in total, plus interest on my credit card thank you very much “online service”. I left irritated, frustrated, and feeling violated by those I once trusted. Damn. I didn’t even get kissed.
            Where's the hope? The lawyers I had turned to for help became WM. By the way, I can’t help but feel their office didn’t bother to contact me to ask my side of the story because they must have an agreement of some sort with the court. Either that, or perhaps it was simply they got their $90, so why bother?
Yes, I’m bitter.
            As for the original infraction, my mother taught me to look both ways before crossing the street. Now I find she was wrong. I can cross the street anytime, with or without traffic, because the law is on my side. It will make me impenetrable to oncoming traffic.
            Would someone make sure this is on my gravestone…

Here lies JL Mo
She obeyed the law to death

Friday, January 25, 2013

Caught in a Set Up – Part 2 – WTF?

This is part 2 of a 3-part true short story.
Part One can be found here Just the facts, ma'am
Part Three can be found here: No Hope for the Hopeless

Are you worried about government stealing your money in Washington? Fuggedaboutit! Look closer. It's as near as your downtown Clerk of the Court and County Sheriff’s office.

Caught in a Set Up –
Part 2 – WTF?

            Flabbergasted. Stunned. Confused. Shocked. These and more passed over me quickly. The red-faced, sweating, overdressed-for-the-temperature officer remained straight-faced as he wrote the ticket.
            I gained my composure to ask, calmly, how I was supposed to stop for the 'pedestrian' and not cause a five-car pile up? He, too, remained composed as he explained the timing was such that the driver would have plenty of space to stop once the pedestrian stepped onto a crosswalk. Positively bug-eyed at the admission of the set up, I quizzed him on several other traffic rules and regulations. He failed the quiz. To his defense, he did admit that he and his fellow officers were here strictly for this duty. Ah, I thought. Trained for this one job. Entrapment.
            When I went home, I told my husband the full story. He laughed.
            Did he laugh at me for not yielding to a pedestrian? No.
            Did he laugh at me for receiving a ticket? No.
            Did he laugh at me for quizzing the officer? No.
            He laughed because I have always been a staunch supporter of the police. I’ve embraced the belief that the police are right. They are humans, and are doing a very difficult job. If you’ve received a ticket (I remember saying to him smugly), you deserved it.
            I allowed him his laugh. Then I hired The Ticket Clinic. Their advertisement guaranteed no points on your license, no matter the outcome. They would fight unjust citations. They would represent the accused with unwavering dedication. After you paid the $90.00, nonrefundable fee, of course.
            My interaction with The Ticket Clinic (henceforth referred to as Wasted Money, or WM) was frustrating, at best. Their rep requested all of the information on the first call I made. That was it. No further interaction until I called, three weeks later, to ask of the status. I was then told the court date was set for two weeks from that date. I asked if someone would be in touch with me. I was assured by WM that someone would.
Yeah, I should have seen it coming…
            Three weeks later I received a letter from WM stating I was Found Guilty.
            I called WM. After a bit of ‘research’ the guilty verdict was confirmed. The fine is now $230.00. Oh, and, points were assessed. Since their advertisement ‘guaranteed’ no points, they had to adjudicate. I asked if I should pay the fine now and was told by WM to wait until the adjudication was complete.
            Four weeks later I received a letter from WM saying the points and all record of the guilty verdict have been removed.
            The next day I received a letter from the state, informing me my driver’s license would be suspended in three weeks, the 29th of the month, for failure to pay the fine. According to this letter, I can pay the fine online.
            Fabulous. Upon checking the referenced website for Orange County, it showed my license as suspended. Not “going to be as of the 29th,” but suspended.
Again…fabulous. Thanks, WM.
The Orange County website touted the virtues of online service. Everything can be done online now, it declared. Just use a major credit card, and all will be processed online. So, I paid online. The site seemed rather adamant about printing a Form D6. It warned me, if I didn’t have a printer, I should wait and pay when I did. The website admonished me to print Form D6, because it cannot be obtained at any other time. So, I printed Form D6. Then, after paying, printing, and reviewing the next lines of instruction, I find I am required to present Form D6 to the Orange County tax collectors office. In person.
            WTF? That can’t be right. The state said my license isn’t suspended. They issue the damn things, so, that can’t be right.
            I waited five business days. I checked the website again. My payment has been applied. No balance due. But, if I do not hand-carry Form D6 to the Orange County Tax Collector’s office by the 29th, they get another $60.00! Yes. Sixty Dollars! Online my ass!
            But wait, it gets better…

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Caught in a Set Up - Part 1 Just the facts, Ma'am

This is part 1 of a 3-part true short story.
Part Two can be found here: WTF?
Part Three can be found here: No Hope for the Hopeless

Are you worried about government stealing your money in Washington? Fuggedaboutit! Look closer. It's as near as your downtown Clerk of the Court and County Sheriff’s office.

Caught in a Set Up
Just the facts, Ma’am

Part 1 of 3

            I’m driving the posted speed limit of forty-five mph on a road comprised of two lanes south, two lanes north, separated by a median. My car is in the inside lane, that is to say, driving alongside the median. Ahead, on both sides and in the median, are construction workers and police officers. A great deal of activity is taking place. I decrease my speed to thirty-five. The car behind me gets so close he’s practically sucking my exhaust pipe.
          A construction worker in the median to my left momentarily distracts me as he moves a large barricade. I look back to the road in time to see a blue-shirted man to my right step off the sidewalk into the lane next to mine! I gasp and raise my foot off of the accelerator, prepared to slam my brakes should he run in front of me. But the man stops and crosses his arms. Our eyes lock as I pass him. I'm cautious by nature, perhaps to a fault, but I’ve witnessed people run across the road before, ignoring oncoming traffic. Had he done so, I would have hit him. Either that, or one of the four cars traveling close behind my vehicle would have slammed into my rear end. Thankfully, he did not move.
            I breathed a sigh of relief. All of this took place in a matter of seconds. Ahead of me, a police officer waved me into a parking lot. Driving well below the speed limit, and under the impression there was a detour around the construction zone, I looked for other officers in the parking lot to direct us (me and the four vehicles following). We were sent into adjacent parking spaces.
            A police officer approached my window and, after reviewing my required identification documentation, informed me I had violated a law.

         I failed to yield to a pedestrian.

          Each of the vehicles following was being ticketed for the same infraction. The fine totaled One Hundred Sixty Dollars. Each. Orange County just made $800.00 in a matter of minutes.
            There will be a fight.

Part 1 of 3

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Groupon Ads

I received an email ad in my inbox today with a banner reading, “Get out and have fun.”

The ad offered six online classes, two television related offers, two board games, one software package, an iPod docking station, one magazine subscription, one projector (yes, projector) and a savings on $40 t-shirts.

So, I’ll wear my $40 t-shirt and take six computer classes while downloading software and watching television. I’ll listen to my iPod while reading my magazines and flipping through my favorite slides. Then I’ll play a board game with, um, well; maybe my online classmates would like to Skype a game!

If there were such a thing as truth in advertising, the banner would have read,  "Stay in and let us sell you more stuff."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Thank you, Madam President

January 16, 2006 - "If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough." Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, the first elected female head of state in Africa.

This was from her speech on her first election. She was re-elected in 2011.

How big are your dreams?  Are you frightened by the prospect of reaching them? I'll admit, I'm a little frightened of mine. Although, I hold no such dream as President Sirleaf's.

My dream is to be a successful author. Success is measured differently by different people, granted. My measurement is simply to be able to make my own living with my writing. Why does that scare me? Because of the fear I may reach a point where I have nothing left to write about. Nothing left to say.

Oh, and then there's the lack of a retirement plan. Meh.

But, with political leaders (and citizens) like this in the world, who champion the rights of others to their own peril, I imagine I'll at least stand up and cheer, even if I nothing to say that would add to their elegance.

Who's scared?

Monday, January 14, 2013

The End of a Conversation

            Yesterday, I enjoyed having lunch with a group of friends. We sat at an outside table at a restaurant on the St. John’s River. The place was packed, and why not? It was a glorious day. The sun shone in a magnificent blue sky on an unusually warm afternoon in January. The day would be called perfect, even by Florida standards.
            The friends, the sights, the sounds, all combined to make the day incredible. Boats on the water, birds singing, glasses clinking, and happy conversation with friends I love. For icing on the cake, an acoustic duo played the music of Jimmy Buffet.
            I will admit I could barely hear the person speaking next to me. He had reached the end of his story as the music got louder. So I leaned in closer with a few others listening, and when he finished we all leaned back, laughing at the punch line of his tale.
            A lull in the conversation took place at that moment, as the music decreased in volume. Not realizing the relative quiet soon enough, two friends at the other end of the table were laughing hard as one offered the punch line of his own tale. “The whips and chains were really unnecessary.”
            I would love to have been listening to that conversation!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy 2013 everyone

When I got up around 8 this morning, New Years Day, I read postings on my facebook page for wishes for a Happy New Year from people all around the world. Some had only gone to bed 30 minutes before I got up, and others had risen early enough to post the first sunrise of the year. It truly brought a smile to my face.

2013 feels great so far.’s still early.