I’ve been getting some unexpected mail from the District of Columbia, lately. The Metropolitan Police Department has been sending me full color pictures of my car in action.
While I’d like to think officials there just want to show me how great my car looks rolling down crowded city streets, that’s not their intent.
Unfortunately, I’ve been caught driving over the speed limit.
More than once.
So far, the correspondence has just amounted to warnings. Otherwise, the fine I’d be obligated to pay would be nothing compared to the price I’d pay at home.
My wife retrieved the first warning from our mailbox last month. When she opened it and saw what it was she piled on her own admonishment. It made me feel like I just scarfed down the last couple of snacks intended for our daughter’s school lunch.
But while she was annoyed, I was fascinated. I’m a gadget guy, so I was impressed with the pictures. They were crystal clear, especially the one zoomed-in on my license plate.
My wife rolled her eyes and sighed when my response to the warning was, “that’s actually pretty cool.”
I may have left her exasperated but the implications of those glamor shots didn’t totally escape me. Obviously, a new wrinkle had been thrown into my commute. There was a new speed camera in town and I was determined to figure out where it was before it took aim at me again.
In case you think I’m a lead foot who is only concerned with getting around the law, I should clarify that I’m no Speed Racer, the iconic 1960s cartoon character. While on the interstate, I usually set my cruise control close to the posted limit. But this new camera was located somewhere downtown, a place so grid-locked who new speed limits could actually be broken?
It took me a couple of weeks but I finally got a fix on the object that threatened harmony back home. The sun wasn’t up yet when I caught a flash in my rear view mirror. And, as if to confirm its location on my route to work, the camera unleashed a flurry of flashes as other law-breakers blew past it.
I was relieved to find it and to know others were being busted. As paranoid as this sounds, I was beginning to think of it as my own little Terminator. Just as Schwarzenegger was programmed to target a specific person, I feared that speed camera was programmed to detect only my car. At least, it wasn’t shooting bullets.
That speed camera isn’t the only thing compelling me to watch what I’m doing on city streets. It turns out my car gave me a warning, too.
I was on I-70 chugging up South Mountain the other day, when my car suddenly decided it didn’t want to go anymore. It went from 65 mph to somewhere around 20 mph in a matter of a few seconds. The engine was still running but the gas pedal would not respond.
And, it was even more frightening because my sudden slow-down could easily have turned into a chain reaction crash with all the cars lined up behind me.
The guy at the dealer told me that he was surprised, given the low miles on my car, that the catalytic converter had gone bad. He added that bouncing around on the notoriously rough downtown DC roads contributed to its demise.
Fortunately, my car is still under warranty, so at least that put the brakes on a costly repair bill.
And while I’ve yet to pay a speeding ticket, if I’m not more careful in downtown D.C., I’ll end up paying the price in more ways than one.
My wife might believe city roads are responsible for some wear and tear, but she’s not going to believe they make my car go too fast.