It finally happened. I was doing everything right, even wearing my helmet. And it wasn’t my fault. I know, you out there think good old Skids is just whining but if I hadn’t had Guantanamo Bey on the back of the bike, none of this would ever have happened. As it is, I had to go to traffic school.
All right, I can admit when I’m wrong, and maybe going a little past the speed limit wasn’t exactly the right thing to do, especially at three in the morning past the Santa Monica Police Station. But if Guantanamo hadn’t yelled “nuke the pigs,” I’m reasonably sure we would not have been stopped. Even so, they didn’t have to send out cruisers. You would think in a so-called progressive city like Santa Monica (I mean, they have a sister city in Japan. If that ain’t progressive, I don’t know what is.) they would at least have the decency to pull over me, Skids Poppe, Los Angeles’ premiere motorcycle opinionist, with a cop on a bike. Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to have my bike stopped in front of a police cruiser? Then, to make matters worse, the guy is a relative of Governor “The best politician since Nero” Wilson and didn’t like my last column. Go figure.
And then the weird part happened. The cop decided if he gave me a ticket, then I would write a column about him and he’d get gruff from his puss-brained comrades. So he’s going to let me off with a warning. I smiled understandingly and went to put my helmet back on. Guantanamo now realizes this is the opportunity he’s been waiting for to let the establishment know exactly what he thinks of it and ends his tirade (which my publisher won’t let me print here) by throwing his own helmet, of which he has spent several minutes issuing his distaste, through the side window of Officer Friendly’s car. Now guess who’s going to traffic school?
Has anyone out there ever tried to find a decent traffic school? What am I saying? Stupid question, don’t answer it. Anyway, for those of you who say you have no idea what kind of living hell it is (and I don’t believe you), I’m going to describe the entire process. After you go to court (which I understand you don’t even have to do if you just send in your money, but why miss the fun, I always say) they give you this list of “Acceptable Institutions for the Higher Learning of Motor Vehicle Safety and Operations” which you may attend in order to have the traffic offense which out you there taken off your record.
They have schools which offer comedians, all the chocolate or pizza you can eat (two separate schools), foreign languages, singles (that’s the one Guantanamo chose, he got a ticket, too). They got ones where you can do your laundry, take a cruise, go to Vegas (I swear) and musical. What they don’t have is one for us two-wheeled perpetrators. I had to choose one of the others.
They give you a list so you don’t have to look through your phone book (yeah, see where your tax dollars are being spent.) to find the one right for you. It’s kind of a holistic thing. Where I’m from, all traffic schools were state-run and led by prisoners on outreach programs, bald with bad teeth and tattoos reading ‘I don’t have breaks’ across their backs trying to get out for public service What could be better? You didn’t get a chance to go to surfing traffic school or comic traffic school, where your instructor is dressed like Spider-Man and one of your arch enemies is ‘Mr. Red Light.’ I couldn’t cope with any of that so I chose the school most of you would have chosen if you were in my position (I like to bond with my readers). That’s right, I went to Pizza School.
If I had to spend eight hours listening to some ‘can’t get a job’ actor telling me how I could safely drive my motor vehicle in and out of traffic the least I could do was be eating pizza at the time. This wasn’t to be. They didn’t serve the pizza until ‘lunch time’, some predetermined time known only to our instructor and the CIA and had no bearing on what was considered ‘normal’ lunch time anywhere else in the free world.
So, without pizza, at eight o’clock in the morning, I’m facing the prospect of spending time with Instructor Bob and an angry stomach.
We start off with getting everyone’s names, occupations, and their crimes and asking , if they’re sorry. When the class gets around to me, I dutifully tell them who I am. I had several fans in the class who told the instructor who I was. He asked me if I was sorry for speeding in front of the police station and being party to the breaking of an officer’s window. I said, “Sure, I guess so. Can we eat now?” He didn’t seem to think I was truly sorry and had the entire class stare at me until he believed me. It took a while.
Finally we meet everybody and I move to sit next to Speeder Susan (Instructor Bob’s nickname, not mine). She was attractive and at ten thirty, without pizza and a guy named Instructor Bob screaming at me to repent, I needed whatever I could get to keep myself there. After I moved, Instructor Bob began what he called ‘Traffic School Jepoardy’. I dutifully informed him that if I had wanted to answer questions, I could have gone to Game Show Traffic School with Pat Sajak. Since I was there, I wanted pizza, not puzzles. (ooh, alliteration!) Instructor Bob was having none of this, so we played the stupid game and being the journalist that I am, I took notes to pass along information so you, my faithful readers, wouldn’t have to go through this hell I went through.
Quickly, because I’m running out of space: The legal speed limit for a steamroller is 6 MPH; Lane splitting is legal on freeways, as long as you don’t exceed 10 MPH over the speed of traffic around you; You must be completely through an intersection when the light turns red, or they will stop you; Yes, you must wear a helmet. I asked.
Oh yeah, we finally got the pizza, but there was no meat on it. Cheese pizza, what could be worse. I am definitely not going back.
Skids would like to thank the members of the Pulitzer committee for preventing his embarrassment and shock at accepting an award by not nominating him.