Ticket to Ride

I was driving through a lovely hamlet in Vermont earlier this summer, the name of which I shall take to my grave. (It happens to rhyme with a brand of chocolate syrup, but you didn’t hear that from me.) I was motoring along at 40 miles an hour, and I thought I was traveling five miles above the speed limit.
Wrong. I was in a 25-mile-per-hour zone, and thus was speeding 15 miles per hour faster than I should have. Consequently, I was pulled over by a police officer, a very nice fellow who works for the town of (rhymes a bit with the synonym for jail used often on TV shows like “Deadwood” and “Bonanza”). He noted that I was speeding, and my car’s inspection sticker had expired. But he had mercy on me, and only busted me for the expired inspection. Total fine? $84.
On this very same stretch of road this summer, two of my friends and my wife were also pulled over for exceeding the speed limit. The results? Barrie Dunsmore was fined for speeding. Emily Day was warned to take it slow. And my wife was encouraged to be a little more careful in the future. Keep a better eye on that speedometer, maybe.
My point? Two men, two fines. Two women, two warnings.
It is interesting to note that my wife and Emily are both very pretty. Emily was wearing a low-cut shirt when she was pulled over, and my wife a short skirt.
But Dunsmore and Bohjalian? Well, we’re middle-aged guys. Not so pretty. And, obviously, no skirts — not that a skirt would have helped either of us in (imagine a city with a complex of buildings that sounds a lot like The Gremlin).
Now, obviously I am not saying that the women were getting preferential treatment on this patch of pavement because they are female and the police officer was male. Even if I thought such a thing, I certainly wouldn’t write it because then I would be just asking to get a whopper of a ticket the next time I am driving through (a town with a two-syllable name that would sound surprising in Vermont, if that second syllable weren’t reminiscent of our bovine friends). It would be like I was begging to make a contribution to the village coffers of (first syllable is the word for small, flowerless plants that grow on rocks and moist ground, and around the trunks of trees).
Moreover, the experience of my friend Patrick Clow really muddies the water. Clow is male and received a mere warning not far from this particular expanse of asphalt … but only after the following exchange:
OFFICER: May I see your driver’s license and registration, Ma’am?
CLOW: I prefer sir.
Did Clow receive just a warning because the officer was abashed for presuming he was female? Or did the officer actually believe he was a woman despite his denial — a woman, perhaps, whose nickname was “Sir?” Clow does have longish hair with a stylish wave to it, and — like his 3-year-old son — a very nice smile.
Still, he is male, and he did not get a ticket.
So, if I am not suggesting that in the town of (rhymes with the German word for housewife) you may be more likely to get a speeding ticket if you are male than female, then what am I saying?
I believe I am saying that it is always best to abide by the speed limit. There is a reason that we are encouraged to drive at certain speeds along certain roads. And, by all means, if you happen to be driving through (rhymes with the American Indian term for a discussion of some importance), proceed at the speed limit — or, if you must speed, be sure to wear a short skirt.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on August 19.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.

2 thoughts on “Ticket to Ride

  1. KIRK DOUGAL says:

    DEAR Chris, Dorthoy Duffy sent me this. A few years ago while driving west out of Woodstock, Vt. I was issued a ticket by a Sheriff. $ 125.00 i was speeding only a few miles over the speed limit. This was the time we were looking for your house.
    Our Ski Club ” North Shore Ski Club ” still has a house in Rochester, Vt. I love that area. Oh My cell phone service in Rochester. Kirk Dougal A reader of fine books. My sister in law has a new book coming out. http://www.ruthdoanmacdougall.com

  2. NoLuckWithCops says:

    Umm….I guess if one is obviously female and yet, still gets the ticket, this is telling one something (insert sad exclaimation of pain that rhymes with grouch). Maybe it’s these Jersey cops, too. And Jersey drivers. We are a sick sick bunch. I’d LOVE to just drive the speed limit (and often do!), but most of the idiots who drive in this crazy state are maniacs on the road. Just sheer, road-raged maniacs. It doesn’t matter Where people are going or even how Short the trip may be: everyone appears to have a mandate to speed like the roadrunner on, well, speed.

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