Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate
May 24, 2012
I just can’t seem to stay out of trouble with the law.
I guess when I say “law” what I’m really talking about is speeding. It seems I was born with a lead foot.
It is so not my fault. Despite his better judgment, my dad taught me how to drive in a Porsche. He thought it was important I understand how to “handle a car” and “drive stick.” At 15, he had me careening down a curvy back road in West Simsbury, Conn., the kind of road with no lines on it, surrounded by nothing but big old growth trees that created a canopy of leafy green, the smell of pine, the sound of crickets as we whizzed by.
“Throw it into second gear and gun it around this next corner,” Dad would cheer.
He taught me how to do a “rolling stop” in second gear. He taught me how to hold the steering wheel so the leather would slip through my fingers after I straightened out from a turn. He taught me how to appreciate fine German automobile engineering.
“Listen to that,” he’d say, turning the Blaupunkt stereo down. “Hear that purr?”
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The one thing he neglected to teach me, however, were the rules of the road.
It was a disaster from the start. Within the first three months of obtaining this license I clearly did not deserve, I had three car accidents, and one of them was in our own driveway.
I loved the high-pitched whining sound my Subaru made when I went in reverse, so I would practice backing up just so I could hear it. Then one day I managed to back into the biggest tree in our yard. Dad kicked that tree so hard he almost broke his toe, hopping around on one foot, going, “God damnit, Alison!” at the top of his lungs.
Though it’s true I did sort of get the accidents out of the way early on, it was the speeding that stuck with me.
There were many court dates in front of many judges who seemed annoyed by my very existence.
“You don’t look like you have lead in your shoes, young lady,” the judge said at my first court appearance. My mother was with me and she was mortified that she had to accompany her 16-year-old daughter to court. She took this whole law-breaking thing very seriously.
“Mom, it’s just traffic court,” I said. “Relax.”
“Don’t you dare tell me to relax,” she hissed. “You’re grounded for a week.”
The judge was pretty nice, told me I’d have to pay a fine, and that was it. It wasn’t that bad.
Fifteen years later, I would stand in front of a judge in Denver who wouldn’t be as gentle. “You know what I should do? I should throw you in jail!” he bellowed, growing taller by the second. The guy was all pissed off because I missed my last court date.
“I live in Aspen, so it’s not so easy for me to get a ride down here,” I explained.
He did not like that one bit. “We have people who come from three states away and you can’t make it here from Aspen?” The way he said “Aspen” made it sound like my living here was the real offense. “You think you can just waltz in here whenever you feel like it?”
That’s the day I learned it’s not always a good idea to tell people you’re from Aspen, especially if you’re going to follow it up with an excuse.
All I could think about was my mother, who had gone to Starbucks to get us lattes and was waiting for me outside. I could just picture the paddy wagon driving by her Lexus, me screaming through the sound proof windows, my arms and legs in shackles.
“Oh, forget it. My bailiff is too busy for the likes of you,” he said, as if this was some kind of punishment and not a get-out-of-jail free card. He granted me the continuance, and when I showed up for the next court date, I didn’t even have to approach the bench. They reduced my ticket to the minimum fine and lowest points and sent me on my merry way. I’m not sure what the lesson is there, exactly, but I’ll take it.
I bought a Jeep Wrangler in 2005 for the specific purpose of not wanting to get caught speeding anymore, and it worked. Those Jeep driving years were blissful years. You can go 40 in a Jeep and it feels dangerous, it feels exciting. There’s no need to speed.
Then I got married and let me be the first to tell you, riding in a Jeep is a whole different experience than driving it. It sucks.
We needed a family car, so I bought a used Audi Allroad, and now my troubles with the law have started all over again.
It is so not my fault when I get pulled over for speeding in this car. It’s so fast and so smooth, there is virtually no difference in the sensation of going 30 versus going 90. Plus, when the twin Turbo kicks in, there’s no real way to control the pickup.
I tried to explain this to the nice police lady who pulled me over on the way to Denver a few months ago. She just smiled and handed me a ticket.
Somehow the ticket got buried in my desk drawer, and when I finally found it, it was past due. Trying to do the right thing, I wrote a check anyway and sent it in.
They sent it back to me. I mean, who does that? Who turns money away?
Now it’s OJW this and court date that and it looks like when it comes to my lead feet, I’m back in the saddle again.
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