Saturday, January 15, 2011

Moving violations – American, French, Italian

Friday evening. The 2nd workweek of January is over; however, I’m not anticipating the worse-to-come period accountants call “year end.” For my area, this lasts from mid January through February, with aftershocks occurring through April. Tax has nothing to do with my job – tax accounting is something else, entirely.

Seated at my computer desk, sipping a whiskey, I look out the window. Early evenings are dark in January, so I can’t see my little Tuscany/Umbria, only lights on the hill. I wonder when I’ll receive my options on what to do with the citation I received for the “California stop” I wrote about in my 1/5 post. I said I haven’t had a moving violation in 11 years, and that’s true, in the United States.

I got a speeding ticket in France, 2008. My traveling companion warned me those electric dot-matrix-type road signs warned that speed limits were being enforced. I scoffed. Later, driving from Brittany to Paris, I saw something in the rearview mirror. “A motorcycle just pulled out from that hedge, and is following us. What do flashing blue lights mean?” I asked.

“Pull over!” my friend urged.

The officer wanted only me out of the car, and spoke only in French, so I said, in English, slowly: “I’m sorry; I don’t speak or understand French. Mais, mon ami – oui.” I pointed to the car. The officer okayed my friend to approach. Since we were not French citizens we had to pay on the spot. Knowing the Euro was at least 1.40 to the US dollar I attempted humor, pulling out American cash. He apparently understood, and with a wry chuckle, said something that sounded like, “No thanks, I know how much those are worth these days!” Later, we were told the 90 Euros we paid, for the speed I was driving, was quite reasonable. I’m thankful for that -- another friend told me he got a ticket in Mexico around the same time and the officer told him he too must pay on the spot. “How much is it?” he asked. A pause, then, “How much do you have?” the officer asked back. Yikes.

A year before my French speeding ticket I received another ticket, this one in Perugia, Italy, but I never learned what it was I did. I was notified in the mail that our car rental agency made an additional charge, several months later, to provide the Italian police with information on who’d rented the car. Attached was a notice from the police, with the words non pagare; don’t pay. All I understood was that on a certain date, at a certain time, our rented car did [something] when it was clearly marked not to. I couldn’t find the verb for what I did in my dictionary, so to this day it remains a mystery. I do remember we found parking reasonably easy in one lot, when all the others were full.

Nothing in the mail yet on my “California stop.” And I’m still at 4/8.

- PJ

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