Monday, December 28, 2009

I Smell a Rat

So I've decided to take my chances in Court. Matt's law degree has come in handy after all, and he discovered that what Auburn is doing with the photo enforcement is actually against the law. It's not the photo enforcement itself that is illegal, but the amount that they are charging for the fine.

Please see RCW 46.63.170, subsection 2:

(2) Infractions detected through the use of automated traffic safety cameras are not part of the registered owner's driving record under RCW 46.52.101 and 46.52.120. Additionally, infractions generated by the use of automated traffic safety cameras under this section shall be processed in the same manner as parking infractions, including for the purposes of RCW 3.50.100, 35.20.220, 46.16.216, and 46.20.270(3). However, the amount of the fine issued for an infraction generated through the use of an automated traffic safety camera shall not exceed the amount of a fine issued for other parking infractions within the jurisdiction.

We looked up what your basic parking ticket is going for these days in Auburn, and we've discovered it is about $30. (Please see ACC 10.36.360).

I smell a stinky, stinky rat.

Sooooo, I'm going to go and argue first that it be dismissed because the amount of the fine, and thus the ticket itself, is illegal. Apparently there is some fancy schmancy legal name for this kind of government crookedness, the kind where they reach beyond the bounds of their authority, which I will be sure to memorize before my court date.

Isn't it amazing what people, organizations, and governments will do when they get greedy?

If my first argument doesn't work, then I will ask that I simply be required to pay the $30 that I should have been fined in the first place.

I've also discovered that there is legislation in the works against this entire process, and also several class action law suits in the State of Washington.

Shame, shame, shame on you City of Auburn and all of the other cities that are abusing this process. If you expect your citizens to play fair, you should too. You will get your full lecture when I show up for my court date.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fair Isn't Fair

I got a Christmas card from the City of Auburn on Friday, or rather, their version of a Christmas card which is actually a "Notice of Traffic Infraction."

As it turns out, I got pegged by one of those photo enforcement machines. I was speeding while driving through a school zone--36 in a 20. My infraction occurred at precisely 12:13 PM on December 10, 2009. They sent me full color photos of my car, and I can even view a video of the incident at The penalty for my transgression: $200.

I've decided that I don't like the photo enforcement machines. This is a new revelation, mostly brought on by the $200 fine. I don't think that the photo machines are fair--or rather, I think that they are too fair. All justice with no mercy. To me it seems that Justice, absent of her twin virtue Mercy, isn't just at all.

I guess I'm an old fashioned girl. I prefer the game of cat and mouse where the officers wait in their police cars, radar devices ready, waiting for some unsuspecting speeder to race by. Then the pomp and circumstance of the lights flashing, maybe even a siren. The heart of the guilty pumping as they pull over.

Then comes the all important moment--the moment that the photo machine has robbed me of--the fragile moment one has to persuade Mercy to overcome Justice. The delicate and fleeting moment that one has to weasel out of the ticket.

I'm certain that there are many ways to accomplish the weaseling. My technique involves being contrite, humble, and of a cheery disposition. I try to appeal to the officer's humanity by pointing out the honest reason for my speed, "the sun was out, I was listening to a great song, and I just didn't notice my speed . . . " or "I'm sorry; I truly wasn't aware the speed limit had been lowered here" or (and this is true and actually occurred) "I'm in labor."

But I didn't have my moment. I didn't get to humbly point out that the school zone lights weren't flashing and doesn't the 20 mph limit only apply at certain periods of the day? I have children myself (aren't they cute there in the back?) and I certainly understand how important it is to drive slowly through school zones to keep the little ones safe. I have definitely learned my lesson about paying closer attention. Oh, you are just going to give me a warning today? Thank you so much Officer.

There is no appealing to the humanity of photo enforcement machines.

So my next step was to call my attorney, aka, my husband.

"So if one were to get one of those photo tickets in the mail, can one just ignore them?"

"What happened?"

"Didn't you tell me that by responding you are admitting to the crime and if you just ignore it then it just goes away."

"No, I didn't tell you anything like that."

"Really? I could have sworn you said something along those lines."


"So . . . if one were to get one of those tickets, how would one get out of it?"

"I love that you think you can just get out of it."

Lame. Honestly, what good is a law degree if you can't help your wife get out of traffic tickets?

I am also bothered by one of the statments made on my Instruction Page: "As the registered owner or nominated driver of the vehicle described in this Notice, we have no choice but to hold you responsible for paying this fine." Really? No choice? Lies. They could have chosen to not issue this ticket. They could have thrown it in the garbage. When I read this it as if I can hear the little photo robot talking:

Have. No. Choice. Hold. You. Responsible. Pay. Fine.

It all seems kind of Orwellian--I really do feel like Big Brother is watching me.

I haven't given up yet. I could request a hearing. The problem is that I have no good legal argument. The fact of the matter is that I did commit this "infraction." And I have a feeling that my cheery disposition will not be very effective in Court.

But, never fear, I will think of something. I am as creative as I am stubborn. In the mean time, I will watch my speed. And so will Big Brother.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Black Santa

Okay, okay. I know that my last post was in April. I'm not a very successful blogger it would seem. Thank you to my three followers that have been nagging me to write something else; you make me feel like someone actually cares about what I have say on here.

I've been in a funk. I've been waiting for something to happen to snap me out of my haze--something that I just HAD to blog about. And it finally happened. And it is irresistable. So here you go:

I've been troubled by the Santa thing this year. I don't know how other adults feel about this, but I don't really like lying to my kids about the existence of Santa. It is the only lie that I tell my children--and for some reason I feel like participation in this enormous ruse is mandatory. I don't know anyone that says, "You know, our family is going to opt out of the Santa thing and just tell the kids from the start that he isn't real." I think other parents would be horrified: "You are ruining the magic of Christmas!!" I haven't decided if this is true or not, so for now the default answer is just to participate.

I started to be really bothered by Santa several weeks ago when Cora said to me, "Mom, so are Jesus and Santa basically the same person?" As a deeply Christian person, I was troubled by this question and wanted to help her understand the difference between Jesus, who is the Savior of the world, the person responsible for her salvation, and Santa, a mythical character born out of legend and clever marketing schemes.

So following her question an emphatic, "No!" burst from my mouth, which was about the be followed by "because Jesus is real and Santa isn't!" But I stopped. I forgot. I couldn't fully utilize the teaching moment in the way I wanted to because Cora still believes in Santa. (Or so I think.) So I mumbled something about how Santa's purpose is to help us remember Jesus. Santa is to help us to remember to be generous and blah blah blah.

I don't really believe that Santa's purpose is to help us remember Jesus--because a huge part of me thinks that Santa and his big belly are symbolic of the rampant consumerism and greediness that are completely opposite of what the Lord taught us with his life and his birth. Plus, I am troubled by the haziness created by mixing up Santa with Jesus. I've had a few non-believers make smug comments to me in my life about how I'll figure it out soon enough--as though as one matures one discovers that Jesus is just as fake as Santa is. I guess it shouldn't be a big surprise that there are so many cynics in the world today--with Santa and Jesus all mixed up in the same Christmas pot it does get hard to see truth from fiction. So at some point I guess it is easier just to decide it is all fiction.

But despite my conflicted feelings, I still participate in all of it. I have my tree up, my snowman stockings are hung, and I have indulged as much as our budget would allow in the rampant consumerism I was decrying in the last paragraph. And although internally my relationship with Santa is rather bittersweet, every year we take our girls to sit on his lap, ask for a gift, and get their pictures taken.

And this is where it gets interesting this year.

We always go to see Santa at the Nordstrom in downtown Seattle. You have to wait in line for hours, but they give you crayons and pictures to color, and they have free cookies and cider. The photographer is good. We already have three years of pictures lined up on our piano with Santa and the background the same, and our girls changing, growing, and aging in the pictures. I like this tradition because it gives me an opportunity to document our lives.

On Saturday night we decided on a whim to go and do the Santa thing. We put the girls in dresses, curled their hair, loaded them up in the car and drove all the way into Seattle. We jumped out of the car and raced to the end of the line, which was long enough to be out the doors and running along the large display window that Nordstrom converts into Santa's living room every year. We just made it before the 8 pm cutoff. I breathed a sigh of relief and turned to have a look at Santa.

Santa was black.

As luck would have it, we had hit African American Santa Night.

I expected the questions to come right away, but they didn't. No the girls just stared through the display window, puzzled. They were trying to put this one together on thier own.

They liked this Santa. He was very friendly and waved at them. He even got up and showed off some of this dance moves, and Cora laughed and laughed as he did the robot. The black Santa had soul.

Finally, Sydney couldn't stand it anymore. "Mom, why does Santa have dark skin?"

"Well . . ." I said, choosing my words carefully, "I think that maybe this is one of Santa's helpers." That satisfied Sydney, because she was eager to be satisfied. She likes believing.

Cora never asked about it. Cora, who is already a perceptive child, had just been told by our red-headed neighbor Allison that Santa didn't come last year and she instead caught her parents putting presents under the tree. I think that the black Santa might have been the final confirmation that Cora needed for the truth she already suspected. But I'm not sure that she is quite ready yet to admit she doesn't believe. And I'm not sure that I'm ready for her to admit it either, even though I will be really relieved when she does.

As for Maryn, she barely noticed Santa and whether he was black or white, blue or green. She was all about the candy cane and the rocking horse she got to sit on for the picture, which she dubbed a rocking "cow."

I am grateful for the black Santa. I think he allowed me the opportunity to be honest about my lie, without ruining the magic. I think he allowed everyone in the family to experience Santa in the way that they needed to this year.

So, what the heck . . . Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas!