One Inity

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Copper’s courtesy call

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Leaving Santa Cruz on the two lane coastal highway number one, we were quickly gaining a tail as the thanksgiving traffic quickly caught the 45mph bus in the 55 zone. Of course most everyone wished to hurry along at 65 or more. After pulling out here and there to let the masses pass, we pulled out into a beach access rest area to make lunch, use the wc and again let our tail dissipate. As we rolled to a stop a blonde mum approached the bus and asked for a word.

offending slow coach

‘Think of this as a courtesy,’ she begins, ‘Do you live in California?’ (BC licence plates went un-noticed?) ‘I’m a police officer, off duty, and I thought i would let you know that on duty I would have pulled you over and given you a ticket for holding up traffic.’ She made it clear that there would have been no room for negotiation had she been uniformed. She continued to explain that in the state of California, a driver is required to pull over and let past trailing vehicles if they are unable to do the speed limit and there are five or more vehicles. I began to ask clarifying questions, explaining that the bus wasn’t capable of 55 miles an hour.

‘Well the speed limit is 55 and if you can’t do that then you gotta get outta the way.’ I mentioned that the signage read “maximum speed” or “speed limit” not mandatory speed, and she told me that it wasn’t actually a limit but rather had something to do with the average speed, and that I should really be going more than 55 to stay on the right side of the law.

Changing tack, I explained that I was a conscientious and courteous driver, having been a professional in the past, and that I was careful not to wait too long before using an appropriate turn out to allow others to pass. Again, my comments were dismissed without thought, her tone now getting stern, reinforcing her commitment to ticketing me had she been on duty. I was getting a bit riled up now so I asked how often I had to let them past – ‘must I pull out every time there are five cars?’ Of course, regardless of what is available – official turnouts not required – and even if I had just returned to the road after allowing people past, should five more cars arrive on my tail I would once again be obligated to pull out.

The off duty cop’s tone and reluctance to reason, combined with her ridiculous inability to consider the remotest fraction of circumstantial discretion really irritated me. As with the power tripping security guard in SC, I could feel my frustration begin to simmer, my heart racing, hands shaking and sweaty as I struggled to maintain composure in the face of this irrationality.

Now I appreciate that this lady took the time to pull of the busy highway on Thanksgiving to advise me on the laws of this beautiful state. What gets to me is the infuriating manner in which she carried herself throughout the entire exchange. We could have had a friendly conversation as equals, it would have taken less time and left both parties in a far better mood. Instead, sadly, she simply reinforced my experiences with Californian authority – condescending, patronising, so titillated by their power role in every encounter as to never indulge in rational discussion. Perhaps it is the institutional framework that forces these characters to toe the line fanatically in fear of hierarchical reprisal. Perhaps it is simply the corrupting nature of unquestioned authority.


Written by Sean Bozkewycz

April 30, 2011 at 18:22

Posted in rants, travel

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