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Monday, April 30, 2007

From the "No good deed goes unpunished" department

It was months ago that I agreed to an invitation from one of my seminarians to speak this morning to The Most Holy and Sacred Order of the Society of St. Blandina - the outrageous tongue-in-cheek name for a group of seminarians who are women at General Theological Seminary ("The Seminary") in New York City.

I had originally planned to take the 9:39 AM from Chatham into Penn Station, then the subway down to 175 W. 9th Ave at 21st. Street in Chelsea, the neighborhood with pockets of campy charm.

However, I missed the train, so I hopped into my car and took the Lincoln Tunnel in to 40th Street at 9th Ave and then down to 21st. I had been assured that "at that time of day" parking on one of the side streets would not be much of a problem.


Never trust anyone who has lived more than a year in NYC. They so desperately want you to believe the absolute best about the city they have fallen in love with that they would stand on the grave of their grandmother and tell a big fat lie and not even feel an ounce of remorse.

So, I make it into the city in great time - no traffic jams, no construction stalls, no rubber-necking at an accident or car breakdown. Not even at the Tunnel.

So far so good.

I'm at GTS and, of course, there's no place to park. By my fourth time around the block, I decide to call my seminarian and ask for the location of that parking garage with the decent rates. Was it at 27th between 8th and 9th or 26th between 9th and 10th?

Now my troubles begin.

I turn at the corner and there's a cop directing traffic around a truck that has broken down. He smiles and waves me on, I'm thinking, around the broken down truck.

Not so. I should know by now that it's never a good thing when a NYC cop smiles.

The next thing I know, I'm on 21st street and there's a blue bubble light flashing in my rear view mirror. It's my friend. The cop. Except, he's not smiling.

"License and registration," he barks. "Sure thing," I say, trying to make small talk while I find the paperwork.

"I'm just trying to find a parking place. I'm going to be speaking here at the seminary in about 20 minutes. Here you go, sir," I said, handing him my life on paper, "But can you tell me why? I mean, certainly, I was not speeding."

"Yeah, but you were talking on your cell phone while driving, lady, and you didn't pull over when instructed by a NY police officer."

"You're kidding me, right?" I asked, astonished.

"Just give me your license and registration and your insurance card. Now," he barked.

"Of course," I said, "but officer, you didn't tell me to pull over. You were directing me around the truck, weren't you?"

"NOW!" he commanded.

Okay, I'm dead dog meat, I thought. I opened my mouth and hurt myself.

He kept me waiting for 20 minutes. TWENTY minutes. I gotta give it to him. At least he was paying attention to what I had said.

I actually watched him leave the cop car and go to the nearby deli and get a cup of coffee. No joke. Then, he walked to my car, WITH THE COFFEE IN HIS HAND, and handed me my paperwork - and a summons.

My offense? Driving while talking on a cell phone.

My fine? $50 plus a $40 surcharge.

No joke.

"Thank you, officer," I said, trying to sound appropriately contrite and repentant.

"Just so you know," he said, sipping his coffee, "if you appear in court to plead 'not guilty', if you are found guilty, you will be charged an additional $100. And, if you appear in court to plead 'guilty', you may still be charged an additional $100 charge for taking up the judge's time."

He sipped his coffee again and said, "It's all there on the ticket. Just so you know."

With that, he turned on his heels and walked off.

My time with the seminarians turned out to be wonderful and I'm really, really glad I had the opportunity to talk with them.

You know, for all of the foolishness of the church, and the long, sad legacy of racism, sexism and heterosexism in our hallowed halls, I'm just glad I'm not in the NY City Police Department.

I'm even happier I don't have to live with that miserable human being who is paid to "protect and defend" the people of that great city. Just imagine being his partner or wife or child!

Oh, and I guess I won't be driving and talking on my cell phone in NY City anymore.

At least, not when there's a cop in sight.


Eileen said...


That officer has earned a new name:

Officer ASSHAT.

God told me so.

JayV said...

It's true, Elizabeth, it's the law now in NY State. I'm off to NYC this weekend to celebrate my birthday and a friend's graduation from NYU. Flying down from Vermont, taxi from the airport into the city. So, I won't have to mess with the guys/gals in blue. (One hopes.)

I won't have time to come to St Paul's - busy schedule in the city! As it happens, my brother and his family live in Florham Park; my parents ashes actually rest in the collumbarium at St. Paul's.

Kenneth Wolman said...

You know New York and yet you drove into Chelsea? Oy vey. Even really bright people can have a lapse of judgment. I know, I've had more than my share. You just got one of the lapses I must've missed.

On April 4 I spent 13 hours behind county bars for back alimony gone to warrant. I don't have too high an opinion of the police. I would prefer a Hobbesian (or Calvinist) State of Nature where we all fended for ourselves. It might not be any worse than letting an armed imbecile out on the street wearing a 9mm pistol to add to the overall chaos.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

JayV - email me privately at E M Kaeton at aol dot com with their names and any special anniversary or birthdays, and I'll make sure there are fresh flowers in their honor.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Elizabeth, what a sad story. Life is surely not fair. Oh, but you knew that already, didn't you?.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Elizabeth---I'd take it to court. It would be worth the $100 to pull him off the street and make him spend a day in court. He'll either not show up, or you can just smile and tell him that at least you've saved some other poor motorist from being harrassed.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Trust me, darling, I am seriously weighing my options and this is clearly one of them.

VTcrone said...

E+ I would send Mayor Bloomburg a copy of your story, since he is always concerned about NYC's image.
While drivers talking on cell phones makes me want to scream, I no doubt would have been on my phone were I the one creeping through traffic, trying to find a place to park.
About a year ago, my husband received a parking ticket from the City of NY. The problem was, he was NOT in the City on that day, or any other time around that date. The fine ws for over $100, so he appealed it by mail. He got another letter that said "admit your error and your fine will be reduced" or file another written appeal, which a judge will review. However, if the judge denies your appeal the fine will be even higher. Rob appealed again and the judge sided with him, so no fine. :~)
So, you go girl!

the cajun said...

He could have given you a warning, but that's not when they smile. Their gestures are vague and always misleading.
I have to say, in defense of the law, I have almost been broadsided here twice in the past 3 days. Not a good percentile. The last was by a well known realtor who, while still on the phone flipped me the bird.
I followed her to her office and gave her a lashing. While she was apologetic, she relied on her need to be in constant communication with her office and clients.
Whatever did we do before cell technology? How did we survive?

Love and cheers