Tuesday, August 18, 2009

On not getting pulled over in Ithaca


I have never been pulled over by the police while driving, not once, not ever. And that is still true, technically, even after yesterday.

We spent the morning at Ithaca's astonishingly efficient DMV getting our drivers' licenses and car registration figured out. Did you know that in New York, they take multiple drivers' license photos and let you choose which one you want? And if you don't like any of them, you can have them take some more and choose from those? I know, it's like Glamour Shots, right there in the DMV!

Anyway, we thought we had to turn in our Arizona plate (Arizona only requires one, on the rear of the car, which always made me feel like a renegade driver) so Jeremy spent a good 30 minutes wrenching it off the car. Then the Ithaca DMV told us they didn't need it, which was too bad because not only had he mangled the plate, he stripped the screws used to attach it to the car.

So we drove away from the DMV with our New York plates inside the car, not attached on the front and rear as they should have been. I figured it wasn't a big deal and we'd get some screws later in the day.

But that wasn't good enough for the Ithaca police. I pulled into a curbside spot in front of the library downtown later that afternoon to pick up a book while Jeremy and the girls stayed in the car. When I came out, there was a cop by the car who wanted to talk to me. He said it was a ticketable offense to drive around, at all, without plates. Of course I explained that we'd only had the plates for literally a couple of hours and we would put them on at our first opportunity. He told me that basically, that first opportunity needed to be NOW.

Just before I got back in the car, he told me my parking job sucked. His exact words were that cars need to be no farther than 12 inches from the curb, but his real message was clear. And he was right. I had pulled alongside the curb, to the left, on a one-way street, which is not a skill you get to practice that often, so our unlicensed car was crooked and sticking out into the lane of traffic just a little.

Fortunately, before he had the satisfaction of seeing me cry at being called a bad driver, the police officer's attention was distracted by someone driving the wrong direction down a one-way street.

Kudos to the Ithaca police for being so attentive and upstanding. I really am impressed not only that he took the time to tell me how to get on the right side of the law, but that he took my word in good faith and didn't give me a ticket.

Discussion question: My sister drove around Utah and Idaho recently for a few months with no license plates on her car without anyone ever bothering her about it. I didn't even make it two hours in Ithaca. What is the deal with that?

16 comments:

JackJen said...

I think it's a {good} sign that the police in Ithaca aren't all tied up with drug dealers and murderers and psychos.

We rented a car in Las Vegas that hadn't been registered yet (but NV has some sort of "pre-registration" for rentals or something?), so there were NO plates, and nothing but a 3"x3" piece of white paper taped to the corner of the [very tinted] rear window that said "NV rental registered."

We drove from Vegas to Salt Lake to Bountiful and back again and not a single police officer batted an eye.

(In MA, though, your plates actually get put on by the DEALER. So you can't drive an unregistered car off the lot. First you buy the car, then you purchase insurance for the car, then you take your proof of insurance to the DMV and register your car and get plates, THEN you bring the plates BACK to the dealer, he puts them on, and you can finally take your car home. When we bought our Outback, it took us 2 full weeks after purchase before we drove the car home).

shabba shabba said...

In Idaho you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, because the police know that the average Idahoan has the average policeman out-gunned with all the semi-automatic rifles in the trunk or the back of the pickup, ostensibly there to take down the stray moose or wolf or dog or child that strays onto their property or upsets them in some way.

Ithaca seems to roll with the "regulation" ideal. Different strokes for different folks.

Susanne said...

Great story. Sounds like a Barney Fife kinda place! Next time I bet you'll get caught for jaywalking! ;)

Matthew said...

The cops in Utah and Idaho figure the home teachers will deal with it.

Lilianne said...

I guess I'm on the other side of the issue - what a jerk for telling you your parking job sucked! ha! The first thought that came to my mind was, "Welcome to the EAST!" Land of the rude people.

Anyway, I digress. I got pulled over in Washington, DC at 4:30am after I dropped Jason off at the hospital one morning. If you haven't heard, Washington, DC's crime is pretty atrocious, and I'm pretty sure my "failure to come to a COMPLETE stop" (which I think I had) at a stop sign...at 4:30am in the morning...with no cars on the road...and then harassing me for doing so...was not something (in my opinion) that he should have wasted his time with! What a jerk.

Anyway, I'm glad you have a good attitude about the uptight cops, cause I wouldn't. I'm pretty sure when you get pulled over for going 5 over in some random spot and they DO issue you a ticket, you'll be pretty upset about it...

But I could be wrong.

JackJen said...

Wow, Lillianne--I feel like I should invite you up to our place in Boston to show you some real New England hospitality....and to try to redeem the reputation of East-coasters everywhere!

Anytime you're ready for a lobster bake, just holler and we'll be ready! =)

Lilianne said...

JackJen! Did my bitterness towards my experience in the East come through too sharply? Don't get me wrong, I really met wonderful people there. They are some of our closest friends now. But I would say that overall, people were not very friendly towards each other - especially in customer service/civil service jobs. I found living and working there absolutely exhausting.

I don't doubt that there are wonderful, wonderful people that live in the East- such as yourself! I just think the West coast peeps, in general, are a little more easy going and thus might not find it a necessity and/or pleasure to ruin someone's day by harassing them on how to park! :-)

I hear New England is so beautiful. I really hope to make it back someday to visit! And if i ever do, I'm taking you up on that offer!

JackJen said...

You'd better. =)

Suzanne Bubnash said...

On one of our eastern trips I picked up a Budget rental car in S. Carolina & noticed it was missing the front plate & thought oh well, that's how they do things in SC. We headed north to Baba's house & it wasn't until a stop in Virginia that I noticed there was also no back plate. And no registration or documents of any kind in the glove compartment. Mmmmmm, they really do do things different in SC.

We traveled through 9 states visiting & sightseeing along the way and no one cared about our lack of legitimacy. Until we crossed the Vermont state line. I swear we weren't in VT 15 minutes until we were pulled over by Brattleboro's finest. They threatened to impound the car right then & there w/ 4 kids & all our stuff, but when I explained it was a rental blah blah blah they got our motel room number and came there to write a ticket to Budget, w/ the agreement that first thing the next day I would trade the car in for another. But next day I found there wasn't another rental agency of that variety for a long way's away, so for several days I slunk around like the criminal that I was, not wanting to waste vacation time traveling to take care of business.

Finally got it ironed out when passing a major airport a few days later & Budget wasn't happy being slapped w/ the ticket, & having to trade our van for another (I insisted on zero drop charges because the situation wasn't my doing). But we were able to happily finish our vacation in a legitimate vehicle for the original contract price.

Teresa Jane said...

Ah, the things I love about Idaho! We do finally have plates, though!

Liz Johnson said...

I dig it. I agree with JackJen - it's good that the police have nothing better to do than critique your parking job.

You've NEVER been pulled over?! Geez, I'm impressed. I once got two tickets in less than 24 hours (not my finest day).

Kat Clark said...

I'm excited to hear the first negative thing you have to say about Ithica. Like the first thing you decide you really hate. I know that is very pesimitic of me but I really do want you to not like something and I don't know why? Even when we lived in Hawaii, which was our own personal paradise, I had things that I hated. The list was short but still. So cough it up lady. What is it?

Britney said...

Good work on not getting pulled over. I've not yet had that lovely experience either, and I'd like to keep it that way.

Crazy that they were on your case about the license plates right away.

Bridget said...

I think he stopped to check out the car because of the combination of it being recklessly parked AND no license plate. He told me it smacked of a stolen vehicle. It seems to me that he could have seen the plates in the window and, oh I don't know, the wholesome husband and two kids inside the car - to figure out that was probably not the case.

But good on him for doing his job. Lili, I think the circumstances of your DC pull-over are slightly more ridiculous. That sounds more like a pretext to me.

Kat, there is something I don't like, and perhaps I will blog about it soon :).

Melody said...

What can I say? Your blog is addicting. I started reading the other day, and I couldn't stop. I have been slowly reading all of your posts (Wow! Ken Jennings!). Hope you don't mind. Maybe you should write a book.

So, I'm surprised that you have never been pulled over before. I was pulled over the first time in the Driver's Ed car. I know embarrassing right? Turns out I didn't even do anything wrong. My Driver's Ed teacher was the high school football coach, and the police officer was friends with him. He just wanted to ask about the big game that night, but he still turned on his lights and siren and everything! Then he came up to my window and said something like, "I bet you want to know what you did wrong? Well, nothing. I just want to talk to him!" and then he walked over to the passenger window. RUDE!

Other than that, I've been pulled over 3 or 4 times for my brake light being out. We got rear ended a few years ago, and there is a short in the system. It sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.

esodhiambo said...

NYers like law and order.

And there is nothing I know of to hate about Ithaca. Unless you hate winter.

Welcome to the neighborhood.

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