Staff column: The real speed doesn't matter in Wyoming
A couple of weeks ago I was driving eastbound in southern Wyoming with my cruise control set on 75 (which happens to be the speed limit) and came over the top of a hill just outside of Evanston. There on the right, at the bottom of the hill I was descending, was a dark brown colored car parked off to the side of the road.
I didn't know what was going on, but being a courteous driver, and thinking that someone had broken down, I pulled into the left lane on I-80 and slowed down. As I passed I saw it was a Wyoming State Patrolman. I pulled back over into the right lane and sped back up to 75. In my rear view mirror I could see him pull out and jam on the accelerator. He came up quickly behind me and put his lights on. I pulled over, thinking "What the hell is this about?"
The trooper got out and approached the vehicle on my right side. I rolled the window down halfway because I had a puppy in the truck with me, which started to immediatelly growl. I held the dog back as the officer stuck his head close to the half opened window.
"Do you know how fast you were going when you crested that hill?" he asked.
"Yeah I do. My cruise control was set at 75 and that what I was doing," I said.
"No, no," he said. "What were you doing before you saw me."
"Seventy five before and after I saw you," I said. "I don't come through here much and I didn't even know you were a officer until I passed you."
"Yeah but you slowed down," he said.
"Yeah I did. That's because the law in Utah says you should slow down and pull over when someone is on the side of the freeway."
"I clocked you at 86," he said. "Registration and license please."
I already had pulled my license out of my wallet and had the registration in my hand almost before he pulled me over. You know what to do when you see a partrol car running up on you like that. I also accidentally handed him an old college ID that I have had for 20 years, thinking it was my concealed carry permit."
"I have a concealed carry permit and my pistol is right here in my jacket," I told him, observing the rules I was taught in CCP classes.
He just smiled and handed the old college ID back.
"I'll be back in a minute," he said.
"I looked down at the card he had handed me back.
I slapped my head like I could've had a V-8.
"Wrong card..." I said to myself incredulously. My dog even looked at me like I was an idiot.
When I see a car pulled over on the freeway I always think about what might be going through the person in the vehicles mind. Some are hoping that the cop doesn't find the dope in the trunk. Others hope that their wife doesn't find out where they were. Some wish that they had taken another route. Others hope that somehow a bank robbery will take place nearby and the cop will have to take off and forget about the ticket. For me, I was thinking about a warrant that was issued for my son last year (he shares my name) and hoped that the court really did repeal it when we had cleared up the problem and there would be no confusion.
I could just see myself sitting in the Evanston jail all weekend.
The officer returned, this time to the left side of my truck. I guess the vicous six month old puppy was a little scary.
"I have written you a citation for 11 over," he said. "Please sign here."
"I wasn't speeding," I said. "And oh by the way I gave you the wrong card. Here is my conceal carry permit."
He smiled and ignored my offer to look at the card.
"I think you need to look at your cruise control if you believe you weren't speeding because it must have gotten away from you," he said as I signed the agreement to appear. "You can just pay this by mail before April 26th."
"Thanks," I said as he walked away. Then I thought to myself, "What the hell am I thanking him for. He just gave me a bill for $110."
I pulled away and set my cruise control at 65 instead of 75. I reached the crest of another hill and the vehicle picked up one mile per hour going down that hill which was longer and steeper than the one I had been nabbed on. I stayed at 65 clear to Rock Springs. During that period of time I was was tail gated by no less than thirty cars that couldn't get around me fast enough. A number of big semis also made me feel right at home, sitting on my bumper just like on Highway 6 in the canyon.
Since I got my license when I was 16 I had never had a speeding ticket. That is 43 years without one. The reason? I am a poky driver. My family hates riding with me because "When are we going to get there?" is a moot question that I always answer by saying "When we arrive at my speed and in my time."
A few days after I got the ticket I was coming home along the same route. I had my wife, who had another, much newer vehicle, set her cruise for 75 along the same route and I stayed right behind her. Up hills or down hills my cruise control was right on all the way.
And incidentally, along the way, I saw two cars pulled over by the Wyoming Highway Patrol in similar places I was ticketed. Both vehicles had Utah plates.
I could go fight the citation on April 26, the day my court date is set. But to drive to Kemmerer, sit in a courtroom for hours, lose the case and then drive back just isn't worth my time or the consternation. It will just make me more angry. If I had actually been speeding I would take my lumps and shut up. But I wasn't.
So I will pay the fine by mail but I will also do something else. Almost yearly I go to an event in southwest Wyoming where I spend at least hundreds of dollars while there. I will not be doing that anymore. I also have relatives who live in Wyoming and while I cannot stop visiting them, I can stop spending any unnecessary money there that I don't need to. I will fill up my vehicle's gas tank before I cross the state line, take food with me and generally not go to any stores.
What is the old saying? I don't get mad, but I get even? Well I got mad and now I will get even, and over the years that little $110 fine isn't going to hurt me much, but it will hurt Wyoming businesses. No one there will really notice of course. I have no illusions about my little role in the scheme of things.
But satisfaction will be mine; and afterall, isn't that what counts when an injustice is aptly corrected?