I got my first ticket in 1969. I was driving from work, down the access road between Chamblee Dunwoody Road and Savoy Drive. I had a 1968 Austin Healey Sprite, yellow in color. I was the coolest guy at the Sing Food Store, where I worked. There were only two of us that night and the other guy’s license was suspended, so that made me the coolest guy by default.
I drove out of the parking lot, turned right and headed down the hill toward my house. My friend was behind me. We hit the access road and I remember looking at the speedometer as it hit about 60 mph. It was summer and I had the convertible top down and enjoying the breeze as it hit my coolness.
Just as I got that really nice, laid-back feeling, thinking about what we were going to do that night (remember, this was back when we were young enough to stay up past 10 p.m.), I saw the blue lights behind me. I never saw the cop. My buddy didn’t, either.
Twenty minutes later, minus any coolness we’d accumulated earlier, we drug our butts home, each with a 60/35 ticket.
I knew that if my father found out about the ticket, he’d take that cool car away and I’d be riding the bus come Monday morning. That just couldn’t happen! The little sports car wasn’t mine, it was my father’s. He let me use it with the following conditions:
There were other stipulations, like don’t drive downtown because the “evil” hippies would capture us and confiscate the car. (Do some of you remember the “Great Speckled Bird” and how Peachtree and 14th streets looked on a Saturday night?)
With all that free love going on downtown, how could a few misguided suburban lads in our Members Only jackets miss? We’d blend right in! So, every Saturday night that we could, we’d head downtown, only to find the free-love thing apparently was meant only for other hippies. The only love sent our way came from a couple of hookers, with four teeth between them, and a drunk named Oxbo in the parking lot of the Krystal on Peachtree.
The time-honored code of silence
Well after the ticket, we conspired not to speak of it, raise the necessary funds and appear in court. I saved money from my convenience store job and, on the morning of the court date, we put the plan into play. We went to school, and then left in my friend’s car, headed to Decatur to traffic court. We appeared and paid a fine. I don’t even remember how much it was, but we scraped up the funds, paid the ticket and left the courtroom about 10:30 a.m.
Not wanting to waste a nice spring day, we decided to skip the rest of the day, so we drove to Lenox Mall and walked around. When we decided to leave, we drove to the entrance and — just about the time we were going to turn left — my friend freaked out and pointed to the car approaching. It was his mother driving. And my mother in the passenger seat. Of all the rotten luck!
Without speaking, we instinctively reacted to the threat.
I guess when you’re in a state of near panic and have no plan, your first seconds are spent trying to become invisible. It rarely works. We stayed low, counting the seconds that we assumed it would take for the car to pass. Slowly we raised our heads.
We were eye-to-eye with two parents with the “angry-mom-from-hell” look.
Although they didn’t see us duck, we never had a chance because we were in a Ford Torino, baby-blue convertible. She recognized the car and wondered why it was abandoned in the driveway of Lenox Mall.
We admitted to skipping school, but kept to the code of silence. For me, I don’t think I admitted that ticket until more than 20 years later.
It’s a horrible feeling isn’t it?
I got my second ticket several years later in 1973 in San Diego. Four-way stop sign violation. I was in a 1960 Ford Falcon, orange in color, jacked up in the back and riding on bald tires capped with chrome-reverse wheels. Not nearly as cool as the Austin Healey.
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been pulled over. It’s a lousy feeling, but most of the time we’ve earned it. Whether or not you get a ticket may depend on several things: the cop (obviously), your attitude, where you got pulled over and any number of other things, sometimes including just dumb luck.
Stay around the speed limit, use common sense and, believe me, most of the time the cops don’t give you a second look. (Forget this in rural areas.)