On the designated Saturday morning at 7:50, I arrived at the old building housing City Council Chambers/City Court, located on Public Square beyond an ornate fountain that sits on the narrow strip of grass designated as Public Square. The clerk who took my reservation a couple weeks prior had told me the doors are locked at 8:00 and tardy people are not only not admitted, they are assessed an additional fine.
At show-time, an officer stood at the front of the room and in a monotone voice, introduced himself and the other officer in attendance (who he referred to as “Mr.Personality”). The next 45 minutes delivered poor quality videos of dramatic car crashes and assorted police chases (usually European) and a droning delivery of a variety of topics – the proper use of turn signals (use them); the legal limit for DUI (.08 – attainable at a pace of more than one drink per hour, depending upon one’s body size); seat belt rules (yes, they can pull you over for not wearing a seat belt!); child car seat rules (age and weight guidelines change every year); speed traps; school bus laws; the owner’s responsibility even if their car is driven by someone else.
The sobriety check point speech was interesting. He mentioned if a driver approaches a checkpoint and does a u-turn, they won’t be pursued. This is good to know, because even though there is not a single sign stating so, u-turns are illegal in this city, and any other time you will get pulled over for a riveting roadside lecture and/or a souvenir ticket.
The most frustrating part of the class was the series of bar charts with microscopic font that illustrated some point about accident statistics that Officer Monotone was droning on about. Even if some other nerd like myself was interested in the statistics, there was no way to decipher the information displayed in a font size usually reserved for legal footnotes in lengthy, complicated contracts. Yeah, I often read those, too.
My favorite topic, aside from the Officer Monotone’s (questionable) commentary concerning his own (potentially questionable) beer consumption which he confessed to exceed the one beer per hour rate (WHY would he even tell us that?), was the new red light cameras which capture images of drivers running red lights “from four unique angles.” When you receive your ticket from the city, it is accompanied by a web link to imagery of the traffic offense “from four unique angles.” Officer Monotone said a driver can try and fight the charge, but the transgression will be shown “right here in this courtroom, on these many screens … from four unique angles.” He sure did love that phrase … “from four unique angles.” I now sit at stop lights trying to calculate the four unique angles.
And after 45 minutes, with no discussion of proper use of turn lanes (I’m pretty sure they are NOT high-speed travel lanes, people!), proper four-way-stop procedures, or other stuff that would have been helpful based on the crazy driving that goes on every day, he announced we were done, THEN he asked if there were any questions. One poor dude had questions, but the answers couldn’t be heard over the sounds of 100 people racing for the exits. I had even comtemplated asking my "Is it acceptable to park facing the wrong way on the street?" question, but it was hopeless at that point -- I knew the answer and the clueless transgressors had already sprinted for the door.
Driver school could have been worse, but it could also have been a lot more interesting and informative. But it’s over now ... as long as I can watch out for those left hand turns.