Having grown up in Southern California, my understanding of speed limits has always been: add 5 miles per hour. But when I lived in France and was complaining grievously to a German friend of mine that the local understanding of the speed limit seemed to be either 15 miles an hour below it or just slightly faster than the car in front of you, leaving me sandwiched in the middle, simultaneously stymied and honked at, she laughed and said but the limit is just the maximum speed you’re allowed to drive at, it doesn’t mean you have to go that fast. Having always felt burdened by the duty of driving 5 mph faster than the speed limit, so as not to irritate everyone else on the road, this was a revelation to me that, fifteen years on, I’m still trying to wrap my head around. Shouldn’t I be doing my best to keep the flow of traffic going and stay out of everyone’s way?
That being said, now that I’m a frumpy, middle aged woman, I’m one of those irritating drivers who sticks to the speed limit on the roads around where I live, mostly because they’re mostly, imho, a bit high given how narrow, curved, and likely to be covered in ice, puddles, mud, foxes, deer, mice, bunnies, birds, bicyclists, or all of the above. Spouse, on the other hand, although he’s not a horrible driver, is one of those drivers that I hate and think are horrible human beings when they’re behind me: the ones who seethe and fume when I’m going anything less than about 15 miles over the speed limit and then pass me aggressively on a blind curve (at least he has not yet gone so far as to be one of the ones (young male sexually frustrated drivers from Brittany, I’m looking at you) who has then purposely nearly clipped my bumper returning to the lane and then slammed on the brakes, bringing us both to a complete stop, and then dared me to get out of the car and duke it out with them, and, yes, this happened to me more than once when I lived in France, a country I am now not only never going to set foot in ever again, I’m never going to eat its cheese nor drink its wine nor cook its puy lentils nor, harrumph, do anything else to support its GDP, not that I’m still bitter or anything like that).
Which is all to say that from time to time, Spouse gets a letter in the mail from a speed camera, generally one of the ones on the autobahn between here and his parents’ place (because the autobahn only has brief stretches where there is no speed limit). These last few months, though, the letters have been coming from between here and one or the other neighboring towns.
Now, ordinarily, I think speed cameras are unfair. OK, they’re not tripwire attached to machine guns pointed at the Iron Curtain unfair, but, still, it seems inherently authoritarian if there isn’t a human element involved (although, actually, at least, lacking the human element, there is no possibility for discrimination, provided that the cameras are distributed fairly). Also, goddammit, the only ticket I’ve ever received in my entire life was from a speed camera that caught me doing 21 miles per hour in an 18 mile per hour zone that, being outside of town and nowhere near any buildings or crossroads, should have by all rights been a 45 or 60 mile per hour zone. Grumble. At least it was only a 15 euro fine and I didn’t have to identify myself as the driver. So, technically, I have never received a ticket. It just got sent to me as the owner of the car and as long as it got paid for, The Man did not need to know who the driver was.
But the latest letter from a speed camera to Spouse got hit him in exactly the right spot. It caught him doing that incessantly annoying (not to mention unsafe) 20 miles per hour over the limit on the roads here whose speed limit is 45. That one was more expensive (70 euros) and he had to fess up because someone had to take the 2 point hit to their license and it sure as hell wasn’t going to be me (also I don’t look anything like the guy in the picture).
As long as Spouse doesn’t accumulate something like 13 more within the next 2 years, it’s okay. After 2 years, those points will go away. But yesterday, when we drove to the beach and back to go for a walk because the sun was shining (finally!) and it was Sunday, I realized that Spouse has a new and better but admittedly also slightly irritating habit: driving 10 miles an hour under the speed limit.