The Nanny State

“Did I tell you,” M asks me one evening, “our Company Manager’s had $1000 worth of speeding tickets since we started the tour in Australia?”

“What?” I reply gobsmacked, “Is he a maniac?  I’ve never had a speeding ticket in my life and I’m oldish now.”

“I haven’t either,” M says, “I have a perfect driving record, I’ve never had a ticket.”

“He seems so managerial, your company manager. That’s shocking.”

After we uttered these fateful words, the following series of events occurred:


this, is not the same as…


…this. this is much less.

“Hey! Did you guys have a nice time at the Science Museum?”  I ask M and G as they lumber into the flat, “What’s wrong?” I ask.

M collapses on the couch. G sits quietly behind him.

“Are you guys ok?  Somebody say something, please.”

“Papa got a speeding ticket,” G says solemnly.

“Ok…but you weren’t in an accident were you?”

“Nooo,” M moans.

“Well, what happened?”

“We were stopped at a light in this tiny rental car and a semi truck pulled up right behind us and nearly touched our bumper.”


“So when the light changed I sped up so I could change lanes.  I needed to get in front of the car in the left lane so I could get away from the truck…and I got pulled over.”

“Oh well,” I toss it off, “you’re a defensive driver. That’s a good thing. You couldn’t have been going that fast.”

“I wasn’t, the limit, apparently, even though there were no signs, was 30 kilometers an hour.  That’s like 18 miles an hour!  I was going 60km/h which is like 35mph.”

“Well, I’m sure you explained the situation, it’s not like you were careening down…”

“No, E…they breathalised me.”

“What?” I half laugh/snort and stop myself as I see M does not find this humorous.

“It was terrible to have to do that in front of G,” he adds, “it’s hard to explain to a five year old.”

“Aw, of course.  Was that a little scary G?”

He nods.

“You know what though?” I add, “It’s good for the police to keep the roads safe and make sure no one is drinking and driving…at 1:30 in the afternoon…going 35mph…but, Ok…so how much was the ticket?”


it doesn’t look real does it? but it is.

“Four hundred dollars.”

“What???” my neck cracks from the force of my outburst.

“Four hundred and seventeen dollars,” G adds.

“Plus I get three points on my license, and it’s suspended for a month!”

“A month?  You’ve got to be kidding me??!!”

In the United States it is customary to drive 10mph over the speed limit at all times.  I don’t know why.  It just is.  You have to drive your car through someone’s house and leave the scene of the crime to get your license suspended.

“E, I just called to see if I can contest this ticket,” M tells me a few days later, “if I do and they find me guilty I’ll get a criminal record.  If I get a criminal record, I can’t have a work visa.”

“Well then.  I suppose we have to just pay it.  Maybe Australia’s running low on iron ore and needs to raise funds from expats.”

“Yes…there’s something else,”  his voice is firm and official, “When I called to pay the ticket, they told me I can also pay for the outstanding $233 ticket as well.”

“Ok…this is getting a little…”

“Apparently they mailed it to me and we didn’t receive it.  I was 10km/h (6mph) over the speed limit in the tunnel.  They have cameras in the tunnel to clock everyone’s speed.”

“So you just paid $650 for two speeding tickets amassed in the last month.”

“Yes.  That’s correct.”

What makes this news extra special, Dear Reader, is we don’t have a car here in Australia.  We’ve rented one three times since we’ve been in Melbourne.  Once was for a day trip, the other two times were for overnighters.



we’re catching up to you lady!

Two weeks later:

“Hiiiiiiiiiii!” I trill to M over the phone, “So how much did you say that speeding ticket was we never received in the mail?”

“$233, why?”

“Well, I have another one here for $303.”

“That’s impossible,”  M says as matter of factly as if he’d just said, ‘My hair is brown.’

“It says here you were 15km (9mph) over the speed limit, but under 25km (15mph) on some off ramp and they photographed you.  Oh and you have three more points against your license.”

“Ok…you know what…,” M stammers, “that’s it…we’ll just…we’re just…we’re just going to get a Segway.”

So I would like to formally apologize to the Company Manager.  It was wrong of us to judge your character based on the amount of Australian speeding tickets you have.  Please forgive us, and now that we’re nearing $1000 too, maybe we can just call it even?


In Memory of Dr. Sacks

11338666083_0d337ed72a_bAt 3, when our son became so thrilled with the periodic chart (thank you Toca Boca), I wasn’t sure it would last.  Now, at 5, his obsession with the elements remains.

As expat New Yorkers, all the way down in Melbourne, Australia, we live and breathe RadioLab podcasts.  I learned in one special episode, about a month ago, Dr. Oliver Sacks loved the periodic chart so much he had one in every room, even his bathroom.  He had a bedspread, a T-shirt and a prized possession…a wooden box, from Russia, with a real example of each of the elements inside its own wooden cube.

I told G right away.

As a child who carries a laminated TocaBoca element chart (above) to school in his backpack every day, who hangs the periodic table up in whatever city we’re in, who wears an elements t-shirt to bed and who desperately wants a periodic coffee mug to match…he insisted we needed to go to Russia right away.  We need our own wooden periodic table box.


“Why don’t we look up some photos of Dr. Sacks’ table first?” I offered.  We searched online to find photos of Dr. Sacks with all his periodic accoutrement.  His kind face with his white beard was all very compelling to a 5 year old.  I explained how curious Dr. Sacks was, how kind, how he used his beautiful mind to help human beings understand themselves better.  I explained his gift for story telling, his ability to weave the scientific terminology of Neuroscience into mythological tales.  I also explained how Dr. Sacks was going to die soon.

He was very curious about this,  “Is he scared?  Where will he go?  Maybe he’ll get better before he passes away.”

We suggested he should make a video for Dr. Sacks.  He could explain how, he too, enjoys the periodic table and maybe that will give him some joy in his final days.  Of course we had no idea how we would send Dr. Sacks a video, but the process of making it seemed life affirming, death affirming, periodic chart affirming.

We dawdled.  M shot some video.  Life interrupted.

On 28 August, G said, “We should send Oliver Sacks that video.  I think he already passed away.  I think he’s going to pass away in August.  Or maybe he’ll get better.”

Before M went to work on the 30th (Sunday morning here…but Saturday evening in the Northern Hemisphere) he said, “I put that Oliver Sacks video together.  It’s really sweet.  I don’t know where you’re going to send it, but…it’s there.”

Later that day I pointed out Dr. Sacks’ autobiography in the window of a book shop.

“Oliver Sacks?” G grinned,  “You should buy that right now!”

I didn’t, but as he was very much on my mind, I tucked G into bed that night and opened the video.

What should I do with this?


I opened my browser and there smiling out from the New York Times was Oliver Sacks who had passed away 30 minutes before I sat down.  G was still awake so I told him.

“I told you he was going to pass away in August,” he said, “can I see his picture?”

He studied it very closely and smiled, because how could you do anything but when you look at this photo?

“G,” I asked, “even though Dr. Sacks never saw your video, do you think you’ll think of him when you study your periodic table?”

He beamed and nodded.

And so Dr. Sacks, wherever you may be, we’ll put this video out into the universe along with you.

Thank you.  We could ask for no finer role model.


Spam Spam Spam Spam

While my heart will always belong to the Spamalot of the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, it was a huge treat for M to get to Assistant Direct the show for just a three night run at the Hollywood Bowl.  In the span of two weeks he flew from Melbourne to LA, taught the show to a group of actors who had never done it before and then flew from LA back to Melbourne.  His jet lag still runs deep, but he took some great photos.



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