The day before I got the ticket, I was driving along a two-lane county highway doing about 50mph when the truck in front of me swerved violently to the right, exposing the car and driver who had apparently decided at the last minute that he/she/it wanted to stop suddenly and turn left, without the benefit of a turn signal -- or even brake lights, for that matter.
This left me with about 2.5 car lengths to figure out what to do, since slamming on my brakes was likely to end with me in his back seat. So I followed the truck. I figured if this giant 4x4 had enough room to get around him on the shoulder, than I did too. The one thing I didn't count on was the extremely large pothole that the giant truck skipped over, and that I, in my Honda Fit, drove into and basically never came out of. My front tire made a noise like a paper bag popping, and I limped into the parking lot of a Dodge dealership with the front end of my car making a pleasant noise reminiscent of someone grinding cinderblocks into a bushel basket full of empty coffee cans.
I got out to assess the damage. The sidewall of the tire didn't look bad, so I thought maybe I'd gotten off lucky. I grabbed the jack, and right around the time I got the front tire off the ground, a guy from the dealership wandered over.
Seeing me with the front of the car jacked up, the lug nuts loosened and the tire almost off, he said (and I quote) "Got some tire trouble?"
Obviously he was an automobile expert, and an asset to Dodge corporation dealerships the world over.
"Yeah, I hit that giant pothole outside of your parking lot and got a flat," I said pleasantly. "But I'm good, I've got the spare, and I'll be out of your way in a minute or two." He nodded, then continued to stand there and watch me, like he had something else to say.
"Am I in the way?" I asked, since I was sort of blocking part of the entrance.
He said "No," and didn't move. I guess it was a slow night. I pulled the tire off and looked at the back. It was bad. The sidewall was blown out, and the edge of the pothole had caught the lip of the aluminum rim and bent it toward the center. I could tell that this was going to cost me.
"Wow, that's pretty bent up," said the genius.
"Yeah, it sure is," I replied.
"That's never going to straighten out," he said.
"Yes, you're probably right," I said.
"You're going to have to get a new one, and those aren't cheap," he said.
Jesus Christ. At that point, I would have given my left nut for an air wrench, or maybe a pit crew. I just wanted to finish up and get back on the road.
"Nothing is cheap on cars anymore," I said, popping the donut tire on and tightening the lugs.
"Can't leave one of those on for long," said the genius, nodding sagely at the donut.
I didn't bother to reply. I just dropped my car back down to the ground, tossed the ruined tire and rim in the car, and drove out of there without looking back. I'm sure my flat tire made for some fascinating dinner conversation for him later on that night.
The next day, I priced out a new rim and tire and the total with mounting and balancing was going to be close to $400, which was complete and utter bullshit; but unless I wanted my car to be a rolling Sesame Street song, I had to do it. I sucked it up and ordered it. Stupid Honda and their stupid expensive crap. Stupid people turning left, stupid potholes and stupid me for not seeing it.
It was going to be a few days before it showed up, and I didn't want to run the donut on the highway for my 2 hour daily commute, so the next day I took my 94 Miata to work.
This is the car that I only drive on really nice days, and I had just put it back on the road for the summer. I glanced at the inspection sticker from inside the car, counted the months backwards and figured out that the month with the hole punched in it was July, so I had some time. The registration was good until 2011, so I was ok there.
It's 5:30am in the morning. I'm doing the speed limit. I'm the only car on the road. Well, that's not entirely true, because the sheriff's deputy was also on the road, and he happens to see me pulling away from a stop sign. He also happens to be about 22 years old, and has nothing better to do at 5:30 in the morning than to pull me over. So of course, that's what he does. He informs me that my inspection sticker had expired, and he asks for my papers. I give them to him, and he disappears back to his car for about 20 minutes, probably to read the manual on proper procedure. When he comes back, he hands me my license and registration and says, "honest mistake, maybe the judge will do something for you," and then hands me my ticket.
Now I'm late for work as well. Stupid kid playing cops and robbers. Stupid me for not knowing the difference between 09 and 10. Stupid morning and aforementioned stupid list from the day before.
Fast forward to last night. I go to court, the judge asks me what I plead, and of course I have to say guilty because, hey, the inspection stickers aren't even that color anymore, and she says, "The fine for driving an uninspected motor vehicle is $50."
I have time to think, "Oh, well, that's not so ba--" and she adds, "...however, there's a mandatory New York State surcharge of $85."
WTF, New York. Just because? Way to trump up some bullshit charge to fill your coffers. How about you take some of that extortion money and maybe keep a state park or two open? Fuckers. Sometimes I really hate this state.
The guy before me in line got reamed even worse. Some girls he knew called him at 1 am drunk at some bar out in the boonies, and wanted him to come pick them up. So he did. Along the way, he apparently drifted over the double yellow on some deserted 2-lane back road in East Bumfuck, and some douchebag cop pulled him over for it.
Stone sober, rescuing some drunk girls, he ended up with a $250 fine and 2 points on his license. Nice guys finish last, I'm telling you. The judge did commend him for his efforts, and take the opportunity to make a little speech about designated drivers, so I'm sure that made him feel good about his decision.
Anyway, after I got over my sticker shock, I went to the cashier's window, paid Carlo and crawled out of the courthouse and into the street.
Grand total of this little escapade: $520.
I will regale you with tales of nature later on this week. She is a harsh and disgusting mistress, as you will see.