Celebrating Traffic Tickets

Diamonds are not a girl’s best friend. And third time’s not the charm.

Pardon the cliches and my negativity.

Truth is, this particular Monday, it’s hard to be positive about much in the world. But I’ve got a blog post due so let’s distract ourselves for the next 300 words or so.

It happened like it has twice before: the cop sprang out of nowhere. Flashing red lights in my rearview mirror and it’s, well, I can’t repeat what I shrieked. I told Ellen no profanity.

His badge read Youngblood. No Officer Krupke here. You’re in Sugar Land, Melanie, not West Side Story.

I felt ganged up on.

He interrogated me as if I’d endangered lives: “Are you the only person in the car? Are you confirming that, ma’am? Are you? Repeat?”

I winked. It had worked in the last century. He repeated his queries as if wrinkles equal poor hearing. I wanted to ask him if he talked to his mother using this tone of voice.

Then I heard my father’s voice whisper in my ear, “the police are always right — when they hold the ticket. And it’s ‘sir, officer.’ ”

The young man said I was in the HOV lane, not the HOT lane. I replied, “Excuse me, Officer, I mean, sir, Officer? HOT lane?”

My mind raced with the unsaid: I’m not hot? Wait, what is this officer saying? Is it the weather? Did I just teleport to Mars? 

Later, in Defensive Driving, I learned that if you see a diamond on the road, you’re in the high occupancy lane. Meaning there must be more than one RoadBroad in the car. Toll tags don’t save a single in the double lane.

The six‐hour course taught me, too, how little I know about lane markings. As in the meaning of solid lines, double solids, and single dashes.

I missed one question in the exams. This picture illustrates what I still don’t understand: traffic can move left or right through dashes but never through any solid line? What about the far lanes? 

For nearly three years, I’ve driven the HOV every Wednesday for writer’s group. It’s a worthy $2.25 toll charge to drive single and save time in a still‐rush‐hour morning.

This time, busted, cost me $146: ticket fee, court costs, defensive driving course, plus a ridiculous $12 for my driving record.

The latter burned.

I remain a convict in Wyoming, courtesy of DH (see RB post, dated 3/3/19). The brutal black on white offers no hint of truth. Where’s that vital line: sleeping while unbuckled?

I’d say third time IS the charm for defensive driving. Except all I’ve learned is how little I know about diamonds.

But now — courtesy of me — you do. You’re welcome!

Stages on the Road

My past beckoned.

To the beach I returned.

Shooter & talent near the beach. Working, not looking for it.

From wet, windy, and cold Galveston Island, I said, “Reporting live from Virginia Beach.”

A longtime client had called. Their upcoming oil spill drill needed our team of roleplayers and camera crews.

The money was right. I was available. The road summoned.

A year ago, I left what I’d practiced for 30 years: providing crisis communications expertise to companies in trouble. We trained clients in all 50 U.S. states and 18 foreign countries.

Sometimes they had a big, immediate problem. Others worried about one occurring. Smart companies called proactively. Stubborn bosses crossed their fingers. I bit my tongue. 

Our clients included people mostly trying to do the right thing. They failed sometimes because humans are good at that. Companies mix up their priorities, forget who they work for, and leave the lasting damage for others to clean up.

At the beach, I learned nothing has changed. Storytelling in the business world remains the same: risk exists, problems occur. The only crisis is who’s in trouble today.

“Love Hurts” storytelling: on‐stage @ The Moth — Houston

An opposite sort of storytelling shows up on stage during Houston’s recent “Moth” night.

Simple rules: share a true story from your life. No notes. No props. 

Easy for an experienced crisis communicator. What’s a story but a tale seeded in crisis?

The night’s theme, “Love Hurts,” revives a Wyoming road trip — Trooper stops DH for speeding. I get the ticket. 

Twenty‐two storytellers sign up; ten names will be drawn.

Then I hear my name and remember the emcee’s earlier crow, “500‐plus of you came out tonight! We’re SRO!”

I walk to the stage. 

Remember lines. Remember gestures. Remember emphasis points. Remember eye contact. 

I begin. Sea of stranger eyes looking up, a long, wide, deep rectangle of black chairs. Primal Texas twang replaces broadcast voice. Knees wiggle, legs twitch.

Hands move, on their own, in all the right places. Eyes find friendly faces. Applause erupts in unexpected places.

I finish. Every line remembered.

I can do this. 

The emcee walks over, applauding; whispers, confirming: “YOU are a storyteller.”

Future and past merge onto a stage I never imagined.

Note to Reader: The words ‘shooter’ and ‘talent’ in the TV news business refer to 1) the camera person recording the story and 2) the reporter delivering it. Imprecise terms, one of which is less used nowadays. For obvious reasons.