Friday, May 13, 2016
490 BUCKS LATER
…a tale of impatience and its resultant stupidity…
The US 101 freeway through Santa Rosa was an afterthought. The city was built up and a nice, old downtown was bisected by the urge to build a north south four-lane thirty or forty years ago. The result of this poor, but necessary, plan is streets that dead end and are reborn again, traffic patterns that aren’t really patterns, on and off ramps that send drivers careening into neighborhoods and business districts and a bottleneck of traffic through town during many times of day.
Belatedly, a few years back, a third lane was constructed to be a high occupancy vehicle (HOV) diamond lane. Diamond lanes are a great idea. While, years ago, a writer to the Sacramento Bee lamented that Sacramento’s HOV lanes limited one’s “freedom of choice,” in reality, they enhance one’s choice. You can either choose to commute with a partner and use the lane or you can choose to commute by yourself and be stuck doing about 19 miles per hour in a 65 zone.
I like diamond lanes and never abuse them.
Well, almost never. Leaving Santa Rosa in the Subaru Forester after a frustrating forty-five minutes of trying to find an establishment that’d moved from one location to another on the other side of the freeway, at about 4:00 PM, I crept up the on-ramp to a clogged 101. Once on the slab, I noted a big-rig negotiating a lane change so he could edge off the freeway at the next opportunity. I flashed the Sube’s lights to give the trucker the traffic break needed.
Someone driving a car that could go much faster than 42 in the number 2 lane filled the semi’s gap and with traffic pulling ahead in front of him, putted along at about 23 miles per hour under the limit. And he didn’t seem to have the desire to wick things up a notch. I followed as the truck exited a mile or so on taking note that Johnny Slow didn’t pull to the right to occupy the now open space in the slow lane. Still, I rested a safe distance behind and puttered along as the next off ramp / on ramp came and went.
Could I have passed this guy on the right? As a credentialed Drivers Education and Training instructor, I make it a habit never to pass on the right unless the driver in front of me is signaling for and making a left turn.
At a slight rise with a gentle right turn in the freeway, a nice long gap had opened up in the HOV lane to my left. I’ll just slip in there, goose it, and pull back into the lane, I thought to myself. And I did.
CHP Officer Terry is a very nice individual. He conducts his business with a high degree of professionalism and courtesy. With a radar gun, he’d been standing on the shoulder next to a black and white Ford Explorer when I crested the rise. In less than a minute, the big Explorer was in my rear-view mirror with its roof lit up like a Fourth of July parade.
“Do you know why I pulled you over?”
“Yep. Using the diamond lane to pass that guy going about 40.”
“You do know you’re not supposed to do that, right?”
I handed him my license and fumbled for the registration. Although I should have a very checkered driving career, this would be my first California citation in over 47 years of driving.
“The good news is that there are no points and no traffic school associated with this.”
“I used to teach traffic school,” I said.
“I’ll only be about five minutes and you’ll be on your way.”
I’ve met a number of CHP officers both as a school principal when introducing law enforcement to elementary students with the “Stop On a Dime” program where I got to drive an old Crown Victoria they used to use; and as a customer of the service department at BMW motorcycle dealerships when they were having their bikes serviced. Nice folks. Good talkers. Always interested in whatever civilian they were engaging in the waiting area. I like ‘em all.
And I like Officer Terry. He returned my license and registration with a newly minted citation and explained the process. “They take diamond lanes pretty seriously in Sonoma County. I think this’ll be about 351 bucks.”
Then he asked if I had any questions.
“Why, yes,” I said. “I do.”
“What is it?”
“Well, I noticed you’re in an Explorer. How do you like it compared to the Crown Vics?”
Terry laughed. “Honestly? I feel like a soccer mom.”
I laughed as he added a few words of lamentation about “not even having Eco-Boost in this unit. The young guys get the hot rods.”
Then he said, “Thank you for being so courteous.”
I replied, “You weren’t the one being stupid. I was.”
We shook hands.
“I’ll wait here until you’re safely back in the lane. Use the shoulder to get up to speed, okay? Be safe.”
The “bail” including “fees” came to $490.00. The check was made payable to “Superior Court.”
© 2016Church of the Open Road Press