Saturday, I took a trip up to Chattanooga, TN to visit the Tennessee Aquarium. This probably doesn’t sound like the start to a great car related story (and it really isn’t), but I’ll still try to keep it somewhat interesting.

Anyhow, the reason I mention this is because I did have a bit of an automobile related story happen during the trip, and unfortunately it wasn’t really a good one. Basically, Laura and I were in route to the Aquarium and had almost arrived. The trip had been quite fine up to this point (with the exception of getting mildly lost trying to find our way to a really strange Bojangles in north GA for morning biscuits and being pounded by heavy rain most of the drive), but as we got to the main exit for the Aquarium, things got strange. I made my way over to the far right lane to exit but quickly slowed as I saw a police car appearing to merge back into traffic (had his left blinker on and it seemed as if he had just finished pulling someone over). I got behind the police car and waited for him to merge, but he slowed down as if he wanted me to go around him. I slowly proceeded around the car (he was partially blocking the lane, but not nearly enough to make it seem like he was trying to keep me from getting off the exit), and then immediately saw another officer in the middle of the lane.

At this point, I was a bit confused but still didn’t think anything bad was going on. There was a SUV in front of me that looked as if he had been pulled over, so I waited for the officer to move or wave me by so it wouldn’t look like I was trying to run him over. I was finally waved down, but instead of being told to go on, the officer asked for my license and insurance. This was making things seem even more odd, but figuring we were the first customers at a routine traffic checkpoint (there was nothing at all to indicate any reason for the exit to be closed – no wrecks, fires, or gun fights going down), I handed over my documents. The officer seemed friendly and didn’t mention me violating any laws, so I was courteous and waited around to be set free. This started to take a while however, and eventually the officer came back to my car and asked me to pull over in front of the SUV.

Strange. Laura and I joked about being ticketed for confusion, but still didn’t think any law-breaking had gone on so we anxiously awaited my documents to be returned. After what seemed like another 10 minutes or so, I saw the officer walk my way with what clearly appeared to be a ticket in his hand. I got a bit worried, and as he approached he informed me that I was being cited for “violating a traffic device”.

“Huh?” was my initial thought. There was a moving police car with his blinkers on trying to merge at the top of the freeway. How is that a traffic control device? I tried asking the officer these questions in a friendly manner, and he didn’t seem to pay me much mind, other than telling me I need to appear in Chattanooga court at 10 AM on a random Tuesday in March. I was completely blown away at how ridiculous this scenario was turning out to be, but figured it would just be a cheap $10 or $20 ticket that I could pay by phone and just be done with it. I quickly pulled out my phone and pulled out the Chattanooga city fee listing and was even more angered.

Apparently everything in that city (aside from not wearing your seatbelt – only $10) is pretty much a $119 fine. Many of these choices were way cooler than avoiding a traffic device as well: Speeding up to 25mph over, operating an improper vehicle on a roadway (this particularly sounds kinda fun), wrong direction on a one way street, or driving on a sidewalk would have been some of my other more exciting choices for the same price (or even less for a couple of those).The most annoying thing now is that if I were to even try and fight it, it would involve a ~4 hour round trip and probably even staying up there the night before, which would quickly cancel out the savings if they even did drop it in court (and since it would be my word against the officer’s, that isn’t even overly likely).

I guess if there’s a moral to all of this, it’s to do something really outrageous when you’re in the Chattanooga city limits and at least make your ticket worthwhile. Next time, I think I’ll take an improper car (maybe some kind of fully built drift machine) the wrong way down a one way street while on a sidewalk. Way cooler than this made-up revenue generating “traffic device” scam that we got caught in this time.

Ridiculous.

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