“Wrong Turn on Red”

By Jerry Zezima

In their chart-topping 1965 hit, “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” the Byrds sang, “To everything, turn, turn, turn.” To which they might have added: “Except if you make an illegal turn, turn, turn.” In which case you’ll end up in traffic court.

That’s where I found myself recently after getting a notice in the mail saying that I had been caught by a red-light camera making an illegal right turn at a traffic light.

Accompanying the notice was a series of three photos I was sure would vindicate me because they showed not only that it was perfectly legal to turn right on red, but that my brake lights were on at the intersection. Since the fine was $80, I decided to fight the charge because I had an otherwise clean driving record. This involved paying strict attention to traffic laws, being respectful of other drivers and, most important, not getting caught rolling through right turns at red lights.

I showed up at the Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency in Hempstead, N.Y., and beheld scores of other alleged scofflaws who sought justice because they were, according to the U.S. Constitution and TV shows like “Law & Order,” innocent until proven guilty of running stop signs, speeding and, of course, making illegal right turns.

I temporarily surrendered my driver’s license to a stern security officer and stood in line, where I met a woman named Surbi, who was there because, she said, “I parked in front of my house.”

“Did you get a ticket the day you moved in?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “I’ve lived there for six years.”

“I hope you don’t have to pay six years’ worth of parking tickets,” I said.

“I couldn’t afford it,” Surbi said. “This one alone is $120. And there’s not even a ‘no parking’ sign on the street.”

After we were ushered into the courtroom, I sat next to a young woman named Lauren, who admitted that she “rolled” through a stop sign. “I was being tailgated and didn’t want the guy to plow into the back of my car,” she explained.

“Tell it to the judge,” I suggested.

“I will,” Lauren promised.

I showed her the photos of my car at the intersection. “This is Exhibit A,” I said.

“They’ll get you anyway,” said a young guy named Jacques, adding that he had six tickets totaling $1,700 but that he could prove he was a victim of identity theft and that the car wasn’t his.

Among the other people in the courtroom was a young man who was holding a toddler. An old lawyer said to him, “Did you rent that kid to get sympathy?”

Just then, my name was called by a court clerk named Laura, who took me to a hallway, sat me at a table with a computer screen and pulled a shocker: “We have a video of you at the intersection,” she said. It showed me braking but not coming to a “full and complete stop.” Laura said I could pay the fine or see a judge, who would either uphold the fine or dismiss the charge.

“I know my rights,” I said, though I guess I didn’t because I had evidently made an illegal right. “I’ll see a judge.”

She was the Hon. Elizabeth Pessala, who was indeed honorable but went by the letter of the law when a smug traffic prosecutor showed her the video.

“It’s a good thing you weren’t stopped by a police officer,” Judge Pessala said. “The fine would have been $218 and three points off your license.”

“Guilty as charged, your honor,” I confessed.

I paid the fine and drove home very carefully. After all, I didn’t want one bad turn to deserve another.

Stamford Advocate columnist Jerry Zezima is the author of “Leave It to Boomer” and “The Empty Nest Chronicles.” Visit his blog at www.jerryzezima.blogspot.com. Email: JerryZ111@optonline.net.

Copyright 2014 by Jerry Zezima



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How to Get Your Kids to Bed in a Few (Dozen) Easy Steps

All it takes is a practiced routine, a few (dozen) simple steps, and the patience of a saint to guide your kids to a night of dreamy splendor.

1. Begin The Countdown to Bedtime warnings at 15 minute intervals, at least two hours before you actually want them in bed.

2. Tell them 10 times each to use the toilet, wash their hands and faces, brush teeth, get PJs on.

3. Threaten to cancel/throw away something — anything — fun if they don’t get in the bathroom RIGHT NOW to use the toilet, wash their hands and faces, brush teeth, get PJs on.

4. While they paint the bathroom in toothpaste and spit, search house for the cherished toys they MUST have in bed in order to sleep, for it is guaranteed each one has been removed from the sacred spots in their bedrooms and are in different corners of different floors of the house.

5. Herd kids to their bedrooms.

6. Watch kids jump on the beds, playing a risky game of Dangerously Uncoordinated at Nighttime Chase.

7. Tell them to JUST CALM DOWN FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS DECENT in the voice that makes the I’m Serious vein bulge in your neck.

8. Hustle the kids into Big Kid’s room.

9. Listen to Big Kid read a book while batting away Little Kid’s constant interruptions with a number of eyebrow-centric threatening looks of deflection.

10. When done, tuck him in and watch Little Kid tackle Big Kid to kiss him good night, despite his protests, riling him up until he accidentally knocks Little Kid off the bed, who starts crying due to minor head injury that is probably fake.

11. Physically remove Little Kid from the floor beneath Big Kid’s bed.

12. Blow kisses and I Love Yous to Big Kid, ignoring that he’s pretending to wipe them off, then carry sobbing Little Kid under one arm while closing the door with the other.

13. Go to Little Kid’s room.

14. Fantasize about long hot showers while she spends 14 minutes deciding between two boring and terrible books you both have memorized.

15. Cram yourself into a tiny spot on the bed between a Pillow Pet and a stuffed bunny the size of a Great Dane to read a book in your Sweet Bedtime Voice while getting interrupted twice per page with random observations/questions about life in an attempt to delay the inevitable.

16. Close the book and ask Little Kid to get under the covers.

17. Feel the breeze as Little Kid dashes out of the room in a blur to the bathroom for a cup of water.

18. Take deep, cleansing breaths as you hear the water splashing out of the tiny paper cup onto the hall floor as Little Kid walks back to her room.

19. See Little Kid realize once she arrives in the bedroom doorway that all of her water is now gone, and intercept her attempt to get more water by getting it yerdamnself.

20. Tuck her back into bed.

21. Cover your ears when she starts her nightly sonic boom of squeals that you forgot to check all the night-lights, then walk around the bedroom with her behind you to closely confirm that each of the 17 night-lights are, in fact, in working order.

22. Tell her to get back into bed in the required nest she created with pillows and various toys.

23. Give kisses and hugs to her.

24. Give kisses and hugs to various toys around her room.

25. Shut off the light. (Finally.)

26. Hear your name cried out the moment you close the door.

27. Listen to her explain that she is pretty sure she forgot to kiss her other parent, then admit “Oh yeah, right” when you remind her that she already did so four times.

28. Re-do the kisses and hugs to both her and her various toys.

29. Close the door more quickly this time.

30. When you are in the bathroom sitting on the toilet with the shower running, hear quiet knocking on the door.

31. Listen to Little Kid explain through the space below the door that she’s scared of the dark/not tired/doesn’t see her favorite bear in the bed.

32. Walk her back to her room wearing a towel and a look of hopelessness.

33. Kindly point out that the nightlights are bright enough to give her a tan/she’s been awake for 14 hours/the bear was next to her the whole time.

34. Get her back in bed-nest.

35. Trust your gut when she begins weeping that she really REALLY needs to poop RIGHT NOW.

36. Follow her to the bathroom where she immediately poops something a carbo-loading lumberjack would be impressed with.

37. Toss her back into bed (with love).

38. As adoringly as possible (and through gritted teeth) say, “I LOVE YOU GOODNIGHT” and run the hell outta there.

39. Gobble up the kisses she blows at you, blow some back, close the door one last time and enjoy the silence as she rolls over, satisfied that she has tortured you enough for one day.

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Originally published by Kim Bongiorno on Let Me Start by Saying.
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