Tuesday, August 7, 2018

YDP Fought the Law - Part One

Last week was We Fest; a huge country music event that descends on our little hamlet of Detroit Lakes every year.  It brings about 100,000 people to town, and with them come an army of police to help keep the peace that could be disrupted by such an influx of fun-seeking country fans.

Police are borrowed to augment the local ranks, and their show of force in their numbers is a formidable one.  Likewise, they're extremely aggressive and quick to ticket the smallest of transgressions.  The message they send through their actions is a simple one: do not jack around or you'll get busted.

It was in this environment in which I was driving last week.  It was 1:15 PM and I was returning from We Fest where I had gone to pick up my credentials, as my employer requires that all of their leaders take a stint at working our booth out at the event.  I was returning in a line of cars and driving on the road that ran on the west side of Big Detroit.  This is the most popular stretch of road in the town - it holds a number of popular bars and butts up to the famous mile-long beach.

Because of its notoriety, it is a favored stretch of road in which to ride a bike, walk, or run.  Indeed, I had just ridden the stretch that morning as part of an early bike ride around the lake.  I had run it and biked it dozens and dozens of times.  Unfortunately, while being a scenic stretch, it is also a dangerous stretch, as the shoulder of the road is scant.  Despite a slow posted speed of 30 MPH, shoulder traffic and vehicle traffic come into close contact on a regular basis.  That being said, there are some conscientious drivers that generously move over and afford room, which I've personally appreciated a ton.  Hence, when I drive that stretch and encounter a biker or runner, I always move over and give them a large buffer, as that's how I like to be treated.

Thus, upon my return, I happened to come upon two female bikers on my shoulder, and I immediately went into caution mode.  The situation was greatly exacerbated by the bikers riding abreast - a stupid thing to do in that section of road.  Indeed, the biker on the left was mostly on the fog line.

As I approached them, I noted no traffic in the left lane, and despite being in a no passing zone, I moved my vehicle 2/3 of the way into the left lane and passed the bikers.  Once safely past them, I moved back into my lane.  As I was doing so, I encountered a Minnesota State Patrol officer approaching in the opposite lane, and he immediately hit his lights.  As I passed by him, he conducted a U-turn and proceeded to pull me over.

"That's OK," I said to myself.  "I know what I did was the safe thing.  I'm sure he would tell me to stick closer to my lane and send me on my way."  

I have a buddy that's a cop, and I am very deliberate in my interactions with police.  My hands are always kept on the steering wheel where the cop can see them at all times.  I always refer to them as "officer" or "sir."  I never complain or ask to explain myself unless I'm asked first.  

I figured the cop would ask me what I was doing, I'd explain about the bicyclists, and I'd be on my way.  Instead, he approached me.  "I pulled you over for crossing the double yellow line.  Do you have proof of insurance?"  I did and handed it over to him.  "Is the address on your license correct?"  I answered in the affirmative.  "Wait here."  And with that, he departed and returned to his cruiser.

In the meantime, the cyclists had caught up to us and had to dismount their bikes and walk around us as there was so little room.

"OK," I thought to myself, "he'll pull my driving record, see that I haven't had a ticket in nearly twenty years, and will send me on my way.  No worries!"  

As he was in his car doing God knew what, I watched as car after car crossed the double yellow line to our left, giving the officer and me ample room.  Because that's the safe thing to do in that situation.  I felt that gave me even more opportunity to walk out of this with a warning.  

Instead, I noticed the trooper walking back to my car with a piece of paper in his hand.    Minnesota Highway Patrol are notorious for being hard asses, and if they're going to pull you over, odds are they're going to ticket you as well.  Given the paper in his hand, it looked like things looked like they might fall on the hardass side of things.

"Mr. YDP, I'm citing you for illegal passing.  You have 30 days to resolve this matter.  This is an active road.  Please drive more carefully."  And with that, he turned and left.

That was it.  No "do you know why I pulled you over?" or "could you explain what you were doing?"  No chance whatsoever for me to plead my case or explain my actions.  Just a bleeping ticket.

I was shaking I was so furious.  Maybe I had crossed those lines, but I did so because it was the safe thing to do.  This guy was making an example of me because that's what the cops did when We Fest came to town.  This guy clearly wanted to arm me with a story to tell my friends about how you just don't jack around this weekend.

What a dick.

I returned to work, dropped my credentials off with HR as instructed, and also slapped my new citation on the counter.  I regaled the story to the entire HR staff that stood there dumbfounded.  Nobody could believe that the encounter went down the way I explained it.  

With that, I headed up to my office to look up my ticket and determine my fine.  It was $125, plus whatever would happen to my insurance.

I seethed.  I was going to fight this one.  I did indeed cross those yellow lines, but I wasn't drunk, wasn't a scofflaw, had my insurance and tabs in order, and did so to protect those two riders.  Cops literally live and die by the way they're treated by those that pass them while they're standing on the side of the road.  How could this jerk not appreciate that?  I planned on telling him so in court.

But damn, what a hassle.  It was just all so unfair.

All the more reason to raise a stink in court.  I was gonna fight the law...

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