It was a sight I hadn't seen in a long time. The Highway Patrol car was behind me on the on-ramp, lights blazing.
Thinking I had done nothing wrong, I moved over to the left on the on-ramp to let him by. But he didn't go by. Instead, over the car's speaker system, he directed me to pull off to the right. So at 8:24 a.m. on the 405 Freeway on October 5, 2006, I was charged with a violation of 22107VC — an "unsafe turning movement."
Let me explain: there were two left-turn lanes onto the 405 Freeway. I was in the far left lane. Another motorist — the one who is the real law-breaker — was still in the intersection when the light turned green, leaving his van's tail-end in my turning lane. The other lane turning left was empty. So I moved over into that other lane to avoid hitting the van's rear end. This whole thing happened right in front of the Highway Patrol officer who chose to ticket me for an unsafe turn. What a bunch of crap.
I have learned from this experience to always stay in your assigned turning lane.
Weeks later, after work, I was in Long Beach at a Pick-Your-Part warehouse looking at a sad 1963 Dart. It could be saved, I thought. Wisdom, however, prevailed and the Dart is probably long gone. On the ride home, however, I stopped for fuel and a fountain drink at the big Shell station in Long Beach. I was in the store when chaos erupted at the cash register. Remembering that I was in Long Beach and thinking about the gun play in the LBC, I stayed behind the chip display toward the rear of the store. If the bullet was going to get me it would have to go through the nacho chips first.
It became obvious that there probably wouldn't be any gun play that day. The customer that was causing all the commotion with his friends — three guys and two girls — simply wanted his $100 bill back. One sharp Shell employee had noticed the customer had handed him an irregular $100 bill. The customer and his group of friends were trying to get the questionable bill back and pass another one that would be okay.
One of my friends in Las Vegas who has gaming devices in his service stations was not shocked by this story, by the way. According to him, the slot machines that accept U.S. currency need to be upgraded often because they are frequently filled with counterfeit money. The $100 bills that are made in Asia are reportedly hard for an employee to spot — but the banks in Las Vegas have no problem identifying them. Those banks routinely debit my friend's business account for bad U.S. currency. The bills go to the government and he is out the money.
Back to the crisis at the Shell station in the LBC. Finally, the five customers decided to leave the station and just walk out. Two of them disappeared in the truck fueling area and three drove off in an Escalade. Now, in comes the cavalry: two Long Beach police and a California Highway Patrol. The suspects are long-gone and only the witnesses are left.
I pay for my drink and plan on heading back to the quiet little town of Anaheim. At the door of the convenience store, they are stopping the customers for information on the five suspects. I get the Highway Patrol officer and I realize I am still pissed off about the ticket I got on that Northridge on-ramp. When the officer asked me "What did you see happen?" my answer was "A group of black customers in a dispute with the Shell employee. Some left in a black Escalade and I believe they executed an unsafe turning movement. That's 22107 of the Vehicle Code."
That was the end of my interview.
My buddy is also a bit testy about the Vehicle Code. I was the first to get the ticket and photos from an intersection camera. It showed my friend driving the van he borrowed from me and my son. The automated red light enforcement system got four pictures: one of the van with the license plate; a close-up of the driver; one of the vehicle at the limit line; and one showing the vehicle in the intersection when the light was red. The Vehicle Code violation numbers are 21453(A) or 21453 (C). I wonder what 21453 (B) is?
This ticket for running a red light is $341 plus the cost of traffic school. My unsafe turning movement was only $141 plus the cost of traffic school. Where does all this money go?
I got a nice letter from the Chief of Police of Fullerton after I ratted out my friend, reporting he was behind the wheel, not me. Part of the camera program allows that if you lend your vehicle and it's photographed, you have to rat-out the real driver with an affidavit of non-liability or you are responsible for the ticket. Once I did that, Commander Spaulding, Chief of Police, requested dismissal of the charges against me, the vehicle owner.
Now on to Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week. I really didn't see that much at the show as I was in meetings most of the week.
I did talk to a fellow at the AAPEX Show who wants me to do a product test with a mirror back-up device. Basically, it is a mirror on a magnetic pole that helps you guide your tow vehicle under your trailer hitch. Another company will be sending me their video camera to be mounted on a license plate frame, so stay tuned for my tests. Backing under a trailer hitch has never been easy for me.
One thing I learned is that Dodge is trying hard to get into the police car business with their Charger. Right now, the Ford Crown Victoria is the vehicle you most commonly see driven by law enforcement. That's the same vehicle that got me in Northridge for the "unsafe turning movement."
I always need material to write about and I'm sure going to traffic school may hold some interesting insights. The question is: which one to go to? Here are some of my options: AMEN Traffic School, Chevy Chase Traffic School, Snack and Chat Traffic School, Cheap School, Hosanna Traffic School, Zion Traffic School, The Original Hip-Hop Traffic School, I'll Never Speed Again Traffic School, and Golden Driving and Traffic School. And don't forget The Gay Community Traffic School in West Hollywood. I haven't gone to traffic school for a while. This will be an adventure.
For you non-Californians, please don't laugh at us Californians too much. Today I learned that a California firefighter had a prank pulled on him. Apparently, he was tricked into eating dog food by his coworkers. He got the nickname around the station house of "Dog." He sued and is asking for a $2.7 million judgment. Well, for $2.7 million, call me Dog and bring on the Purina! Bow-wow!
I hope everyone has a nice holiday season. Drive safely — and avoid unsafe turning movements.
Originally published in the December
2006/January 2007 Automotive
Copyright 2006 by KAL Publications Inc.
Covering the California auto parts aftermarket since 1928.