Reporter masters art of dodging first speeding ticket

March 21, 2016 — by Fiona Sequeira

Reporter reflects on speeding and successfully dodging first ticket. 

The Saratoga-Cupertino area is not exactly known for its nightlife. But around 1 a.m. on the Sunday morning following winter formal, I found myself driving home from Donut Wheel on North De Anza Boulevard, where a few of my friends and I had headed after the dance for a midnight snack.

Perhaps spurred on by my sugar high and the enticingly empty city streets, I proclaimed to my date, senior Farbod Moghadam, who was in the passenger seat, “Let’s be spontaneous!” and stepped on the gas pedal, watching the speedometer rise to a casual 65 mph in a 40 mph zone. Approximately 10 seconds — seriously, 10 seconds! — later, my heart sank as I heard the high-pitched whir of police sirens behind me and had to pull over. In the rearview mirror, I watched with dread as a thick set officer whose bristly mustache rivaled that of Einstein approached me. I unrolled the window and awaited the worst.

“Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask to see your vehicle license and registration. Please step out of the car. What was the last beverage you consumed?”

“Uh … milk.”

The cop’s accusatory expression softened with slight amusement, but his expression quickly changed when I accidentally triggered the car alarm.

Seriously, I thought. This is really not helping your case.

The officer glared. In my defense, I had just started driving my bright yellow ’02 VW bug, and wasn’t exactly sure what each combination of controls on my keys did.

After I managed to quell the alarm, the cop asked me to perform a series of tests to ensure that I was not in fact intoxicated. Even though I was not inebriated in the slightest, I felt panic rising in my chest. What if I stumbled on any of the tests and caused undue suspicion? I was determined to pass with flying colors and convince the cop I was no wild child.

First, I had to follow his finger up, down and sideways with my eyes. Simple enough. Next, I had to approximate 30 full seconds in my head while the cop timed me. I began counting — one alligator, two alligator, three alligator … but somewhere around 16 I got distracted, lost count and panicked. How long had it been? What if I gravely miscalculated and took too long? This was it. I was going to jail. My parents were seriously going to disown me for this. Alas, when I called time, the cop nodded in approval.

I sighed in relief. The universe was on my side.

Finally, I had to recite part of the alphabet backwards. That’s when I really started to worry — truthfully, I wasn’t sure that even in my very sober state I could complete a task that I thought only happened in TV shows. I decided to break down the 26 letters into sets of triples, and began: “Z-Y-X, W-V-U, T-S-R, Q-P-O …” I was on a roll.

Inside my car, Farbod was struggling to suppress his laughter. But he was also a bit scared; he was 17 and thus technically out past Cupertino’s midnight curfew. The penalty for that? Being escorted home in a police car. Awkward.  

After I proved I was sober, the cop’s attitude toward me shifted considerably and we engaged in friendly banter. Fortunately, because I am 18, I was not accountable for the city curfew. But the verdict still lingered: Ticket or no ticket?

“Do you even know how fast you were going?! And your lights weren’t even on!”

“The speeding, I can’t really explain. I was just feeling it,” I began. “But I just started driving this car and don’t really know how to work the lights.”

“Do you think you deserve a ticket?”

“Yes. I was speeding and should have known better.”

I braced myself for the worst. My parents would not be pleased about my very expensive evening. But I knew I was in the wrong.

“Honest. I like that,” he said, pausing as he played with the ends of his scraggly mustache. “I think I’ll let you go this time. But be careful out there.”  

My heart soared. I felt like I could have been in one of my favorite episodes of CBS show How I Met Your Mother, where each of the characters successfully talks their way out a ticket.

As I got into my car to drive away (Farbod was laughing at me all the while), I was proud of myself. I had reached a milestone of adulthood. More exciting than the fact that I was accountable for my actions was the fact that I successfully dodged my first ticket.

And that, my friends, is how you do it: Just be honest.

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