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Things Moms Can Learn in Traffic School

October 31, 2009 Family Travel No Comments

Busted. Not for the first time either. Usually I get nailed for speeding, but this time I forked up $187 and eight precious hours of my life for a “California Roll.” That’s vehicle code for the maneuver where my full and complete stop was slightly lacking in the full and complete department.

I just want to say, in my defense, that it was a right turn in a residential neighborhood—with no traffic. Well, there was one motorcycle cop, but I didn’t see him hiding in the bushes. I would have cried if I thought it might have helped. But MotoCop was a tough nut, and it wasn’t worth scaring the children.

So here I am stuck in Traffic School from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on a beautiful Saturday. My husband is complaining because he has to baby sit all day. I sweetly remind him it is not called babysitting when the children belong to you. It is called parenting. Besides, how hard can it be to take the little Paynes to the beach? Would he rather be incarcerated at South Court instead?

I grab a seat in the last row of the courtroom along with everyone else intending to break traffic school rules with impunity. We slink down in our seats. Our instructor “J.T.” works the room, encouraging us to bond with declarations of name, occupation and infraction. When we get to the end of my row, Tim admits he owns the Salt Creek Grill. I perk up at the thought of free appetizers for all 82 of us delivered at break. Unfortunately he doesn’t pony up the pupus. Not even a stack of 20 percent off coupons for his brand new best friends. I’m a little irritated. After all, if I owned a restaurant, I’d share.

It got worse after lunch. Way worse. Did I already tell you the rules of traffic school? To help you remember, they all start with the word “NO.” No food, drinks, gum, reading material, cell phones, sleeping or anything else that could be construed as fun. At least they allow unlimited bathroom breaks. I take full advantage of this lapse and escape at least once an hour. I think my seatmates are getting annoyed because one lady left the strap of her handbag hanging out. So of course my foot gets caught and I go sprawling across the row. Anything to liven up Traffic School.

We settle down to watch police chase videos when Tim starts flashing candy he has sneaked in past the deputies. For me, it is like seeing a file in a cake. I want it. Bad. There is contraband chocolate and Starbursts, lots of Starbursts. This time I really am going to cry. Once again, Tim does not offer to share. Thanks, buddy, for nothing. My mind wanders. Maybe I could get a job writing for the “World’s Scariest Police Chases.” That’s the name of the video we are watching. I’d have to try really hard to come up with a more torturous line than “this juggernaut from hell is about to leave the road for the last time.” I don’t mean to imply there aren’t valuable lessons to be learned from traffic school. I’m learning plenty. Here’s a math problem: If each traffic school classroom generates approximately $20,000 dollars in income per day and there are about 24 classrooms running each Saturday, how likely are you to get off with a warning the next time you get pulled over for a traffic violation?

Some other things I’ve learned today: People who can’t tell a red light from a green may be drunk — or they may be sober and think blue socks go with brown pants. Only water or the feathers from a live bird may be tossed out your window. It is cheaper to speed in Garden Grove than in Rancho Santa Margarita. Less infrastructure to finance. Household hint — Rain-X beads water off windshields AND shower enclosures. Starbursts come individually wrapped so they can be shared.

It’s time for our last sign-in sheet. JT asks us if we learned anything. We nod like a bunch of bobble heads, so eager are we to get away. He smiles calmly as we bail out, “See you back here in eighteen months.” Next time I’ll try the tears.


Jody Payne

Mom Living Out Loud

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