Thingish Things

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Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Mar• 28•11

It was bound to happen, and so it did. Red-light cameras, those disquieting eyes in the sky imported to New York City from the Soviet Union two decades ago, have leapt the divide onto American highways.

The unlikely importer? Ridgeland, South Carolina (pop. 2,579). The town 20 miles north of the Georgia border has hidden cameras in its bushes along I 95, Associated Press reports. Pass Ridgeland traveling at excessive speed – who doesn’t? – and, presto-zappo, you can expect a hefty Ridgeland speeding ticket to greet you at your mailbox when you arrive home, along with a photo of your face and license plate traveling together at said speed. If you don’t like it, drive 1,500 miles back to the Ridgeland courthouse and protest.

It’s like shooting Buffalo from a train.

Ridgeland isn’t the very first town to do this — nor will it be the last. Cedar Rapids, Iowa wins that award. It began a test project with speed cameras last year. Officials from both towns swear up and down that their intent is to slow traffic while in the vicinity, which is about as laughable as saying cigarette taxes are about the health of smokers.

It’s all about revenue of course, and Cedar Rapids and Ridgeland are in the driver’s seat as far as collecting it for the foreseeable future. They’re going to make a fortune – until every revenue-starved town with highway frontage starts doing it and America’s thruways are subdued.

There’s probably some German word for why this is so maddening. If there’s an English one I don’t know it. The closest word I can think of is “bullsh*t,” but that doesn’t quite capture it.

It’s for when you’re doing something you know you’re  not supposed to do — something EVERYBODY does ALL THE TIME — and then some jackass comes along with a night stick and singles you out for punishment. Like when the “safety patrol” officer in grammar school, the kiss-ass kid in spectacles whose mother was PTA president, wrote you up for “skipping steps.” You just kinda wanted to pound him.

That word.

Some laws are supposed to have flexibility, aren’t they? Do we bust jay walkers in Times Square? Do we measure and weigh people at the DMV when they fudge their weight and height? Is there no such thing as a wink in this country any more?

Maybe not.  Maybe what we are witnessing is the beginning of no-fun America, where every ticketable offense gets enforced to suck dollars out of the populace.

I wonder if Ridgeland and Cedar Rapids are up to code on everything…


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  1. Your Friend says:

    When my wife and I were in Italy a couple of years ago, we got a GPS system in order to help us get around. It was my wife’s idea and it’s one I encourage for all international travel. In Italy, this system alerts you to every place where there is a speeding camera and the good people at Hertz in Pisa explained this to us. I asked the good people at Hertz why the government was willing to alert people to this, wouldn’t they make more money if they didn’t? I got one of those “poor American” looks and they explained that the local governments just actually want people to slow down where there are cameras like this. What a novel and benevolent thought. Not a thought that I’m guessing has passed the stunted minds who are deploying this device in Ridgeland. So here’s a campaign to get started — boycott Ridgeland. They’ll lose more money in tax receipts at the gas pump and diner than they will ever make with these cameras.

  2. I remember being amazed at a theater in Ireland where the price of a beer or lemonade was exactly the same as it would be at a store. I asked had they never heard of a “captive audience”, and they looked at me like I was a jerk.

    I’m in for the boycott. No bass-fishing in Ridgeland.

  3. Me says:

    You’re just still peeved that I wrote you up for skipping steps!

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