Photo Finish

Three cheers for the efficiency of the Traffic Division of Denver County Court!

This horror story started when my mom called me at the office the day before Thanksgiving. She was firmly bivouacked in her seasonal holiday trench of hysteria, overwhelmed by all there was to get ready, and she demanded that I go to Child's Pastry Shop on South Monaco and pick up some goddamn pumpkin pie and dinner rolls. Never mind that I was working, never mind that it was still only early afternoon -- when my mother is in one of those moods, you just do as she says, because if you don't, she will stab you in the face. My dad has the scars to prove it. They're kind of bad-ass. And so I went and fetched that pie like the little holiday bitch boy that I am and dutifully drove that pie back up Monaco to Montview Boulevard, where I turned and headed towards my hysterical boyhood abode.

Then snap! A blinding flash of light caused me to seizure.

When I came to moments later, dragging several mangled neighborhood children snagged to the undercarriage of my vehicle, I realized I was a victim of a photo-surveillance machine, that giant Orwellian fuck you created by the City and County of Denver powers-that-be when someone posed the question, "Hey, what can we come up with that's more annoying than the Denver Boot?"

I railed against the injustice of it all. This was Park Hill, the neighborhood where I'd grown up, where Chauncey Billups and I officially reign; I should be able to drive a Hummer through front lawns if I fucking want to. I should be able to snort meth in the master bedroom of any house and then have at the housewife out of principle! And on top of that, I was delivering pie to my mother the day before Thanksgiving! That's a goddamn Norman Rockwell painting, City and County of Denver, and you're going to punish me for it? But alas, I was going 37 mph in a school zone (20 mph) and so Big Brother caught me and sent me my yearbook photo.

When it finally arrived in the mail, though, my anger disappeared. I look like such a flaming asshole in the picture that all matters of injustice quickly vanished into thin air. They could have fined me $17,000 and I would have just sent them the check -- after selling blood, semen, then my little sister to get the cash -- because the man in the photo on the ticket, who is not me, deserves it. He wears aviator shades, he holds the wheel with one hand, he has the Hollywood stubble of all dickwads and he is absolutely shouting into his cell phone. It's really quite awful.

So I sent the check, paid my $80 fine for looking like an asshole. Simple enough. But what should appear in my mailbox two weeks later? The exact same ticket. Now look, City and County of Denver, I'll let you call me an asshole once because I was acting like one and you were right. But you call me an asshole twice, unprovoked, and we's gonna have us a little problem. And if I need to, I'll call Chauncey for backup, bitches.

But I held off on calling the Chaunce and instead placed a call to the "Court Questions" number listed on the ticket. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. Thirty-five minutes, to be exact. I couldn't wait any longer, so I hung up. Then I tried back later, and waited 27 minutes before I hung up.

Today I called again and waited only 17 minutes before I got myself a worker-bee peon who chirped in my ear about how they received my check and that second ticket I got -- with a payment coupon attached, mind you -- was just a reminder. "Have a good day!" said the peon.

No, bitch, you have a good day. And tell those geniuses you work for to take that money set aside for Photo Enforcement Courtesy Reminder Letters and give it to the snowplow division. Maybe then we can all get back to driving on snow-free roads and you can get back to taking our pictures.

Bitches. —Adam Cayton-Holland

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun