If you suffered through the first installment of Why I Hate Louisiana and You Should, Too, then this is technically Volume 2. I don’t know if I can properly tell this story. It seems less and less funny to me as I age, for some reason. But this is the story my friends seem to like best. Perhaps everyone thinks that jail is really what I deserve. The more I run into lawmen, the greater the chance I’ll land in the slammer.
It was some year, early to mid nineties. If you really get curious about the date, you can probably look me up in the county records. I’m sure there’s a record of this incident. I do know I was married, so it was post-1993. And I didn’t have children, so it was pre-2001. So there you go. I’m guessing it was winter of 1995.
Again, we were driving to Texas. Since we didn’t learn our lessons from the out-of-gas fiasco, we found ourselves on the long stretch of bumpy concrete that Louisiana tells you they are fixing when they merge you into one lane. Don’t buy that one. They never fix their roads. I’m not sure what that merging thing is all about. Maybe it’s some sort of cover for a drug ring or something.
At any rate, it was well after midnight and this time, we were driving from Tampa. The trip was now a sixteen hour trip, at best. About 2 a.m. I saw flashing lights in my rearview mirror. Well, pooh. Todd was reclined and sleeping in the passenger seat. I was reclined and sleeping in the driver’s seat. Going 73. OK, ok. 73 in a 65 zone is still speeding. Let’s just get that one out there. But it isn’t CRAZY speeding. So I was a little surprised to be seeing a cop. I pulled over and Todd and I tried to straighten our weary attire and look presentable and innocent.
The lawman came to the window, which I had rolled down.
“See your license and registration, ma’am?” He asked, tipping his wide brimmed hat. Nice touch, officer, but your manners mean nothing to me right this second. I handed him all the proper documentation. He walked back to his car, did the whole checkity-check thing, and then came back.
“Do you know how fast you were going?” He asked.
“Um, 70ish, I think,” I answered.
“73,” he answered. “Do you know what the speed limit here is?” He asked again.
“65,” I said again.
“No ma’am,” He said. “It’s 55 in this section.” Nice, I thought. A speed trap. How very Louisiana of you. Why am I surprised? “I’m going to have to write you a ticket,” he said, not sounding the slightest bit human as he spoke. Of course you have to write the ticket. Because to get a warning, I’d have to be either in Texas or Mississippi. Nothing can go well in Louisiana. I sighed and slumped forward, waiting for him to write the confounded ticket. My conversation with him was over. I would speak when spoken to and that was it.
Ten minutes later, I rolled the window up , threw the ticket into the back seat of our Camry as angrily as I could at 2 a.m., and got back on the road, driving much slower this time around.
I don’t remember anything about the rest of the trip or the trip home. And because it was the middle of the night and I threw that ticket into the back seat, I don’t remember what happened to the ticket, either. I do know this: I didn’t pay it. I thought about it a time or two. I even thought about pursuing a copy of it. But I couldn’t even remember which law enforcement agency had endowed me with it. So I did what any stupid 20something year old in denial would do: I just went about my business and forgot about it.
And then one day, 6 months later, I needed to be in Tallahassee on business. I liked these business trips. I worked from my home. My co-workers in Tallahassee were my friends. I liked going up and working with actual people. So I was excited about the prospect. But my car, which was a 84 Nissan Pulsar, wasn’t driving so great. My company was going to pay for me to rent one. You know where this is going, don’t you? The day before my trip I was standing at the car rental counter with my license, ready to pay for my car and drive away with it. They took my license and were gone for a few minutes. When they returned, the lady said, “I’m sorry ma’am (there’s that ma’am thing again), but your license is suspended. We can’t rent you a car.”
“What?? What do you mean my license is suspended?” I was in disbelief.
“You have an unpaid speeding ticket in Louisiana from back in November. ”
Ohhhhhhhh no. All that forgetting I did was now coming back into focus and forming a distinct memory. Being pulled. Throwing the ticket into the messy back seat. Somehow losing the ticket. Deciding it didn’t matter. And here we were now.
I honestly don’t remember what I did from that point on. I did not rent that car. I’m guessing I drove my dumpy little Nissan up to Tallahassee. And yes, I drove it without a valid license. There were no getting to the DMV that day. I tried that. I was told I needed to talk to Louisiana. Awesome.
My co-workers in Tallahassee thought the first installment of this story was really fun. It’s fun when someone else gets and refuses to pay a speeding ticket. I personally wasn’t giggling so much. But I finally had a phone number to call to straighten the mess out. So the first chance I got, I sat down in someone else’s cubicle and dialed that number. I still remember what the person’s desk looked like in that cubicle. And I remember the sound of the voice on the other end of that line. That phone conversation made quite an impact on me.
“Yessir, I need to inquire about an unpaid speeding ticket I got last November.”
“Hmm,” the guy said. “November.” Don’t you just love it when you can tell someone thinks you are a loser? “What’s your full name, ma’am?” He asked. I told him. He typed stuff. There was silence. More typing. More silence. And then,
“Ma’am, are you aware that there’s a warrant out for your arrest in the state of Louisiana?” When he said these words, I sort of got that dark and fuzzy feeling you get when you think it might be best to just go ahead and pass out. For the most part, I was a rule abider. If there was a grade to be made, I made an A. If there was a game to be played, I aimed to win it. If there was a ticket to be paid, I didn’t usually toss it into a place where it would never be seen again. But I had. And this man had said the words. So I came to my senses enough to speak and said,
“What does that mean?” I know that seems obvious, but to me it wasn’t.
“Well, that means if you were to drive through our state and get pulled over again, you’d be taken to jail.”
“So then what do I do to fix this?” I asked.
“Well, the ticket was $92. And the fee for non-payment is $50. So if you pay $142, you’ll be in the all-clear from us.”
Fair enough. I paid $142 that day. I was thankful it wasn’t $142,000. With my luck with Louisiana, it really could have been. I drove back to Tampa, paid another fee to re-instate my license. And then I went and sat in a corner for like 6 weeks. Not really, but I did think about it.
Naysayers have told me this entire ordeal was my fault. I can accept that in a court of law I could not convict Louisiana of any crime here.
But this whole ordeal started with a speed trap.
And a speed trap is evil.
And evil needs to be purged.
Therefore, I draw my former conclusion.
Louisiana should secede from the nation.
Thank you very much.