Good Grief, A Surprise Arrives in the Mail

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Things were going so well.

The summer had been cruising along, I’d seen a few good movies, even a concert or two. Naturally, as July turns to August, we all lament how brief the summer is and vow to make the most of the final month.

Sitting on the porch with Louie the Labrador, enjoying the tranquility with a fresh Cup of Joe, we were listening to Steely Dan Radio on Pandora when the mood was broken by the approaching mailman. Louie and the mailman don’t seem to get along, but then again, it’s Louie’s job to protect the house and announce, with authority, that someone is approaching.

Along with the usual bills and unwanted solicitations was a letter I almost dismissed as junk mail—Red light Safety Program. It was a red light camera violation and it was addressed to me. Oh no.

Staring at the envelope, I knew it had to be a mistake. Inside was a document containing several photos of my car in various time lapses. The car seemed to be making a right on red at the corner of Conklin and Route 110 in Farmingdale. The citation was a month old and, quite frankly, I can’t even remember being in that area. I checked the calendar and found out it was a Sunday afternoon. What would I be doing at that corner on a Sunday?

It was certainly my car, it was certainly making a right on red, and I assume it was me behind the wheel. The photos clearly showed my brake lights on. Now, I’m angry. I don’t mind getting a ticket if I violate the law and get stopped by a police officer—they are doing their job. But this? This is an intrusion of my privacy. Maybe they purposely take a month to notify you so you have no recollection and therefore can’t dispute it. How can you dispute what you don’t even remember doing?

Dispute it anyway you say? Of the 411,008 citations issued in Suffolk County in 2015, barely 2 percent of drivers disputed them and only 0.09 percent had them dismissed. You have a better chance of being struck by lightning.

Not only is there a $50 fine, they tack on a $30 “administration fee.” What is that all about? According to the citation, “A $30 administration fee will be added to all violations occurring on or after April 1, 2013.” What catastrophic event occurred prior to April 1, 2013, requiring an additional $30 administration fee on every red light violation since? What are we doing here, buying concert tickets through Ticketmaster?

Wait a minute—there’s a link in the notice to the actual video of the violation. This is going to prove once and for all that I made a stop before making that right. Maybe I will be able to dispute it after all, even with a 0.09 percent success rate. As Han Solo once said, “Never tell me the odds.”

Watching the video is bringing back my memory. Of course. I was heading to the seafood place across from Republic Airport for lobster tails to bring to a barbecue. I can see my car approaching the corner, the light was already red, but I was making the turn, so I slowed down and, and, and…guilty as charged.

Man, this started out to be such a nice morning, now I’m getting depressed. Guess Big Brother is truly watching. Finally accepting my fate, I clicked on the link to pay the fine. Of course, there is an additional $4 fee to pay online.

In just an hour, I went through all five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance. After putting $84 on my credit card, I went back out to the porch to sit with Louie. While all this craziness had been going on, he still seemed to be relaxing and enjoying Steely Dan on a beautiful Saturday morning. He might as well have been sleeping on the top of a dog house.

Good grief, Charlie Brown.

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Paul DiSclafani is a columnist for Massapequa Observer.

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