I have been learning a few things in online traffic school. Yes, I got a ticket, on the freeway.

Okay, okay, here’s the story. I’m not excusing myself; I’m just telling you what happened. From the beginning.

My sister died over five years ago. Sad enough. In fact, devastating. She was what you’d call elderly, but, still. My closest relative and the last person who really knew me all of my life. Her husband, my brother-in-law, died almost a year ago. They couldn’t do his cremation and interment right away because there was a backup due to the pandemic, and also because the US military is just not in the business of organizing funeral arrangements, and Charley, bless his kind and thrifty heart, had wanted to save the heirs money by getting the cheap or free military cremation, funeral and interment for both of them. I’m sure LaVonne didn’t care. She didn’t want a ceremony.

The location for the military cemetery was also problematic. I had talked to Charley about this when he was in the process of putting my sister’s ashes there. It was way, way, way off the freeway, 15-20 miles, nowhere near any town that any family member would ever have a reason to visit. Plus the place was closed on weekends, and only open M-F (not holidays, I take it) from 9:00-4:00. This presented a problem for anyone who was working, plus all of the small immediate family lived hours away. So for both any family gathering or ceremony or if you got the feeling you wanted to put flowers in the mausoleum… well it was going to be, at best, difficult.

The military buried my sister’s ashes and they were supposed to put them in the mausoleum. Charley drove to the place to visit her resting place, they couldn’t find her ashes, and finally told him they’d been buried. He was furious, had them dig them up, drove out there again and picked them up and put the urn on his mantel, where they sat for nearly five years until his death. (We were all requested to pay our respects to her at each visit, to stand in front of the mantel which also had an 18 x 24 inch photo of my sister hanging above it, and talk to her. This was exceedingly awkward if not creepy. I know he meant well, but I could talk to my sister at home, and indeed occasionally do have dreams about her where she talks to me.)

So finally, about six months after his death, his daughter and my niece arranged to have the ashes interred, in the ground, in a cemetery that was conveniently located and is visitable by any of us who may go to the Sacramento area, which we do have reason to do from time to time. If we had waited for this location’s mausoleum, it would have been months more, and naturally the family wanted to literally put everything and everybody to rest.

Of course, on the Friday arranged for the small family ceremony to inter both of them, in a lovely spot near some oak trees, my husband Richard and I were running on time, but just barely (that’s the “of course” part), and I did not want to be late. I am almost always a few minutes late for nearly everything but movies and airline flights. This is the one thing my sister truly didn’t like about me, and it did not matter that I could leave in plenty of time and then run into horrible traffic on the drive to the Sacramento area. Sometimes it took us four hours to drive 150 miles.  She would be angry with me until after we ate, no matter when we ate. So for this last time, when I was going to read a eulogy for my darling but demanding sister, I did not want to be late.

I drove, because Richard (also, bless his heart) tends to drive 2 to 5 miles under the speed limit and I tend to drive 2 to 5 miles over. I know that people are rarely ticketed for going less than 10 miles over the limit, at least in California. We were tooling along, listening to music, Richard engrossed in his phone, and I was in the fast lane, following a red Corvette with what appeared to be an oldish man driving, maybe 60’s, going a consistent 50 mph. The speed limit on California freeways is generally 65 mph. When people tried to pass him and get into the fast lane in front of him, he sped up to maybe 70. I was getting a picture of this fellow’s personality. Control freak, vindictive, and other less demure terms. So finally I went over two or three lanes to the right, seeing an opening up ahead, and sped up in the slow lane. I was immediately detected by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) I had not seen on the side of the road but I sure saw the red light flashing; I do tend to watch everywhere when I drive. I just missed him. And now, there were vestiges of construction, which had not been there for miles before this location.

I pulled over, and the tears welled up. I kept it together, though. The patrolman was actually nice. He took my license, while Richard gave me The Look, the Why Did You Do That? look from the passenger seat. Fortunately, he Did. Not. Say. A. Word. I of course had to tell Richard the story about the red Corvette, which he did not find interesting in the least. That was like a “yeah, but,” story. A Whattabout.

The CHP man came back and said, “What happened? I see your record is pretty clear…” or something to that effect. Then they spilled out, the words and the tears. “I’m on my way to my sister’s funeral…”

He was clearly sympathetic, dipping his head a moment, and said, “You know this is a construction zone. So the fine is higher. But I’ll write this up so that you can have it taken off your record with traffic school.” Very kind.

I didn’t tell him about the guy in the red Corvette. Cops do not appreciate those kinds of stories/excuses. I happen to know that it is illegal to impede traffic by going far under the speed limit, and also to speed up purposely when someone’s trying to pass you. So of course, I couldn’t mention that either. The cards were in the Jerk Corvette Guy’s favor since it was a construction zone, which he may have realized long before I did. I’ll say this once: he still should have been in the slow lane.

We were the next to last to arrive at the cemetery. We had a lovely ceremony. My euology was a tad too long but not too bad, and honored both my sister and my adopted brother. We cried. We hugged. Our side was somewhat dressed up and Charley’s side decided to go casual and jeans, but that was appropriate. Charley would have liked the blend, and so would have LaVonne. “Be comfortable” was the general theme on both sides. Afterward we separated into two family units, one to Texas Roadhouse, where I’d once been with my brother-in-law, and I’d thought they may have been serving roadkill ( I had shrimp and iceberg lettuce salad, the most healthy and vegetable-laden food on the menu), and our small family unit drove to an upscale Asian place where we had delicious food, outside on a patio away from the unvaccinated masses inside. (Or pretty delicious, anyhow.)

So here’s what I have learned in online traffic school. I’m 75% of the way through the course. Someone told me I should have just skipped to the tests, but, I’m one of those people with old-fashioned ethics.

Useful items: 1. When there’s a middle left turn lane between other lanes, you cannot drive more then 200 feet within those before turning left. This could be a real temptation when traffic is stopped for say, two or three blocks and that lane is open. 2. It’s OK to turn left over a double yellow line. The one place I have been doing this was from a driveway and across one lane of traffic, left into another lane, which avoided 2 stop lights with left turns, and 2 blocks of driving out of the way. But that business closed, and I’ll never need to go there again. But maybe that bit will come in handy.

Interesting and surprising item: No one I know would ever drive into the dirt divider on a freeway separating the two directions and make a U-turn. I’ve seen people do it, usually a CHP, and a couple of times a risk taking individual driver. But I could see where if traffic was dead-stopped for a bad accident and you had someone in the car you were taking to a hospital, or some such emergency… or even the thought that heck, almost no one was coming the other direction and otherwise you were gonna be stuck here for hours… I could see doing that naughty U-turn. But guess what? The penalty for that is jail time. No, not just a citation, or license suspension, or anything else you could imagine, but jail or prison.

So I did learn something from my transgression.

And you can bet I have not sped in the last five months and do not plan to. Well, I have to be good for at least three years, but honestly, the last time I got a ticket… well, actually it was only a couple of years ago and was because I thought I was going to be late for the Social Security office to close, and I needed to get a form in to them. (Then when I got there they were closed, even though their sign said I was there during opening hours. I mailed the form, certified mail.) That local policeman wrote me up for not following a local sign, not for speeding. And before that, it had been over twenty years; 35mph in a 25 zone on a street that was fairly new to me. For that, in a business zone, traffic school. Go figure.

I’m not saying I’m right. I’m just saying that’s what happened.

For anyone who doesn’t get the little old lady from Pasadena reference, it was a surf song. Look it up. It’s catchy, but not a great song. But that could be me.