- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2003

This is the nuttiness of the red-light cameras in the city: You are inching along in bumper-to-bumper traffic, when you come up on a green light at a snarled intersection.

You are moving at the approximate rate of one centimeter an hour. There are a zillion vehicles in front of you, a zillion vehicles behind you, and frustration all around.

You have crawled into part of the intersection now, just as the light turns yellow, the driver in front of you as seemingly stuck as you. Wait. The car is moving forward, negotiating a few feet of precious asphalt. Hallelujah. Maybe now you have a chance to escape the evil eye of the camera.

But wait again. No, this can’t be. The light is turning red, the front of your vehicle is protruding in the intersection, and the wild-eyed fellow behind you has his steering wheel in a death grip and is in no mood to be patient with a person who is momentarily out of sorts because of the prospect of the camera.

Beep-beep. Great. The guy is a real feel-your-pain type.

Cars are now preparing to approach from the driver and passenger side of your vehicle. They are not feeling your pain, either. They have lives to lead. You are an annoying obstacle to that objective. You would be better off being a highway cone at this point in the communication process.

Beep-beep. Right. Thank you very much. Appreciate it. You are a beautiful human being, too.

So you end up doing what any harried driver might do. You break the law. You run the red light and hope against hope not to see the burst of light in your rearview mirror. No burst this time. How about that? Lucky you.

Take that, Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

The person you saw parked in front of City Hall the other day, wiggling his fingers in your direction while his thumbs were pressed against his cheekbones, is the same person who has come down with an obsessive-compulsive disorder involving parking tickets and the automated-enforcement system.

So nanny, nanny, boo, boo, mayor.

Not today. Not this time.

However, we can discuss the latest parking ticket.

One question: What do you think of the parking ticket/wallpaper look in a room?

Is there a chic factor in the idea?

You, you, you’re good. No, you’re good, parking enforcement.

You see these dutiful public servants hiding behind all the bushes and trees in the city and you don’t know whether the mayor should give them a raise or a can of bug spray.

In the budgetary spirit of the city, one possible cost-cutting measure concerns the two-line waste of ink on the ticket, which reads: “Assaults on parking enforcement personnel are fully prosecuted.”

Not to question the thoroughness of the city, but is there anyone who thinks you receive one free punch on a parking-enforcement officer in exchange for a ticket?

To be honest, you just don’t see that many parking-enforcement officers wearing trunks, head gear and a mouthpiece.

At least give the mayor credit for his brief attack of honesty around the subject of the cameras last year.

No, he said, the cameras are not exclusively about saving lives.

Yes, he said, revenue is an element in the program.

Saving lives is an overrated justification anyway.

Seriously, how many lives can you possibly save when everyone is traveling at the rapid rate of one centimeter an hour?

In the event of a collision, you can’t even sustain a good scratch on your vehicle.

Even so, given the way the system works, no motorist should leave home without a neck brace and the phone numbers of several prominent personal-injury lawyers.

If you are destined to be in a fender-bender because of the stress-inducing combination of impatient commuters and cameras, you might as well be prepared to collect compensation from the city.

You could make the legal case that the uncertainty of it all led to one vehicle tapping into another vehicle, which resulted in severe damage to your neck and spine. It hurts just imagining the scenario.

Rule 1 around the city’s arteries: Never trust the most innocent-looking intersection.

Rule 2: Never trust a driver who is wearing a neck brace and who has the name and telephone number of a personal-injury lawyer on a bumper sticker.

Rule 3: Do not jab at the officer writing a parking ticket unless the person has a trainer at his side and is doing the Ali shuffle.

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