The Nanny State

“Did I tell you,” my husband 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,” he 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 husband and son as they lumber into the flat, “What’s wrong?” I ask.

My husband collapses on the couch. Our son sits quietly behind him.

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

“Papa got a speeding ticket,” our son says solemnly.

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

“Nooo,” my husband 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-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.  They breathalyzed me.”

“What?” I half laugh/snort.  I stop myself as it’s clear he does not see the humor.

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

“Aw, of course,” I turn to him, “Was that a little scary?”

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,” our son 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.

A few days later, my husband calls me from work, “I just checked to see if I can contest this ticket,” he tells me, “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.  I suppose we’ll just have to pay it.  Maybe Australia’s running low on iron ore and needs to raise funds from expats.”

“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.”

I’m speechless.

“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?” I clarify.

“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 my husband over the phone, “How much did you say that speeding ticket was we never received in the mail?”

“$233, why?”

“I have another one here for $303.”

“That’s impossible.”

“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.”

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 call it even?



writer---currently in London


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