Hard Driving
by Patricia Draznin

“You have performed an illegal operation and will be shut down.” This is what my computer tells me when I confuse it with too many functions, like checking my email and eating a sandwich at the same time. Illegal operation? Moi? I’m pretty sure I’m a law-abiding citizen. Maybe I don’t always stop at the yellow light. And maybe that $30 pasta primavera wasn’t really a business lunch. But I dot my T’s and cross my eyes. I almost never swear, except for once in the next paragraph. And I hardly ever speed, except for last summer driving across Tennessee.

A state trooper snagged me driving 80 in a 70 zone. “Just passing those slow trucks,” I flirted with the diligent officer, who responded to my repartee with a pink citation for $124. Damn! Driving is an expensive habit. I had just gotten stopped in Fairfield last winter doing 30 in a 20 zone, and as I explained to that officer, how realistic is 20, anyway?

As much as I dreaded paying the $124, I was more concerned about my driving record. My dad suggested I call and offer them 50%, AND ask them to forget about the ticket. My father lives by the theory that everything is negotiable. He once negotiated with the IRS for a discount on a penalty—and they went for it. So I called the county clerk but she seemed unfamiliar with my dad’s theory and assured me I would have to pay the $124. However, they could withhold the violation from my record if I took a four-hour driving safety class in Des Moines. BINGO.

I sped to Des Moines for a class I will always remember as the longest four hours of my life. But not as long as for one of my classmates, a middle-aged trucker with a $500 ticket for driving 106 mph—for all we know, through a hospital zone. Having taken the course 11 times, he asked the instructor if he could, how you say, pay a little extra and leave, presumably to get back on the road breaking speed limits. The instructor declined. Apparently Iowa safety instructors do not recognize the opportunity to “work a little overtime” when they see it. So the trucker sat through the course for the 12th time and, along with the rest of us, watched videos about airbags and head-on collisions and prayed for a power failure.

On the upside, the course taught me some powerful life-changing facts that continuously come to my rescue as icebreakers at parties:

  • Defensive driving saves lives;
  • Defensive driving saves time;
  • Defensive driving saves money—which you can then invest in a top-of-the-line radar detector.

There’s plenty more where that came from, which I can spout on demand and often do as a passenger in other people’s cars, since I’m now an authority on driving safety. I also receive a lot fewer party invitations. This gives me a lot more time to use my computer and perform illegal operations.

Copyright 2003 Patricia Draznin


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