Sunday, August 16, 2009

Evergreen State Drivers

Living in California for pretty much all of my life, you get used to the rat race, I have to hurry to work type of drivers. We see them every morning on our way to work and again while driving home. When I ride my personal motorcycle to work, I usually zip to work doing a comfortable 75 mph. But even at that speed I'll have motorists creep up on my ass and I'm not even in the so called "fast lane".

Now I typically don't mind if someone creeps up on my ass while I'm in my car, but I tend not to like it when I'm on my motorcycle. I harbor those thoughts of having a hand full of ball bearings in my hand to toss up behind me to let the driver behind me know that they're too close. Just a thought mind you.

Recently while on a trip in Washington State, the wife and I picked up our rental car at the airport and drove from Seattle, around the south part of Puget Sound and up north along the Sounds west side to Port Townsend.

The speed limit is 60 mph on Washington State freeways. It took some doing not to drive the usual Californian style of 75 mph or faster. I found it easiest to put the cruise control on 65 mph. I was amazed that most if not all of the other drivers were going the speed limit or slightly faster like I was.

I thought to myself, "Geeze, those Washington State Troopers must be some hard asses and not give any breaks to speeding motorists".

Being well into the groove of cruising at 65 mph, and I'll tell you it sure seems like you're traveling at a snails pace, I was feeling pretty relaxed and taking in the beautiful scenery. My wife had a harder time adjusting to the speed limit than I did.

While driving through Tacoma, the traffic was bumper to bumper. I didn't experience the usual Californian "You're not gonna take that space in front of me" mentality when trying to move over. I found the drivers to be courteous and had no problem making my way over to the interchange.

After getting out of Tacoma, the traffic thinned and soon enough we were back up to that sound barrier breaking speed of 65 mph. Once again I was driving along, relaxed, enjoying the scenery and pace.

Driving northbound on Hwy 16 across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was very scenic to me. The contrast of the evergreen trees which dominate the skyline as well as the contrasting deep blue waters of Puget Sound and the light blue sky was calming. I drove along with not a worry in the world.

Hwy 16 is made up of two northbound lanes and two southbound lanes separated by a very wide median of green grass. The traffic had become very light. I think I saw more cars going southbound than I did going my direction.

As we neared the Bremerton Naval Shipyard on Hwy 3, I saw a Ford F-150 coming up from behind at a high rate of speed. So I moved over to the right lane to let speed racer zoom by. As the truck zoomed by, you could probably guess which state license plate was on it...... yep California.

I guess there are those who don't do as the natives do.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Who'da thunk

A couple of weeks ago I was doing some traffic enforcement along one of our roadways notorious for people going just a little too fast. It's a four laned roadway with raised center median with a posted speed limit of 30 MPH. The road has business parks along both sides and has some fairly moderate to heavy pedestrian traffic in the morning and during the lunch hour.

While I'm posted up at this location I see violations for the usual speeding, but also seatbelt and cell phone violations. I happened to see this car coming towards me and it changes lanes where it quickly passed the vehicle it was following. So I'm thinking the car is traveling at about 45 mph. I use that wonderful laser radar and lock in the cars speed at 47 mph.

At the time I witnessed this, there were numerous pedestrians as well as bicyclists on or about the roadway, totally unsafe speed for the conditions. Needless to say, I stopped the vehicle and cited the driver and sent her on her way.

I like to move around to different locations, kind a keeps the drivers on their toes not knowing where us evil two wheeled traffic enforcement devils will show up.

I moved over to one of our local boulevards near the north city limit. I see this SUV haulin' ass just as I was parking beneath a nice shade tree. I was able to get my laser radar out after the SUV had passed my parked location. POW!, 52 MPH in a posted 35 MPH roadway.

By the time I get my laser radar in its holster and onto the roadway, I see the SUV make a left turn into one of the business parks. I was able to catch up to the SUV as it pulled into one of the local auto shops. The SUV parked with me behind it and all of the pretty flashing lights.

The driver exits where I got his attention before entering the office of the auto shop. Of course he has no idea why I stopped him as he handed over his driver license and other paperwork. We have the usual conversation, "Do you know what the posted speed limit is on XYZ Boulevard?", "Do you know how fast you were going?" Of course he answered no to both questions which I was happily able to give him the answers to.

I walk back to my motor and began to scratch out the rag for his speeding. I see the driver throw his arms up as he was looking over my shoulder. I turned around and saw the driver I had cited previously in my shift as mentioned above. Of course she didn't recognize me although it had been only 20 minutes since I had cited her.

She laughed as she told her husband whom I was now citing, "You're getting a ticket too!" So I get the driver to sign the citation and gave him his copy. The wife looked at me and asked "Are you the Officer who gave me a ticket this morning?"

I know, we motor officers all look the same, helmet, sunglasses, uniform and boots. Of course I asked her, "Was it for speeding down ABC Avenue and you stopped in the parking lot of 'such and such' fast food restaurant?" She nodded her head yes. "Yeah, that would've been me."

There's a first time for everything and this was my first for ragging husband and wife on the same day about 20 minutes apart. Talk about a ko-ink-e-dink.

Being the thoughtful, compassionate motor officer that I am, I gave them both the same court date. Does a couple that gets cited together stay together?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Befitting Honor and Legacy

Today I sat in my comfortable recliner reading the Sunday paper, free to bitch about recent current events without any repercussions and enjoying my first amendment right. How lucky we are to be able to speak our minds freely, to protest against what ever we don't agree with.

What caught my eye was a picture of an Arleigh Burke class destroyer. Those were being introduced into the fleet prior to me leaving the U.S. Navy. The first of this ship class, the U.S.S. Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) was commissioned into service on July 4, 1991. They were and are a BAD ASS fighting ship!

What brought me to this thought was an article which I read. The article was about the U.S. Navy's newest Arleigh Burke class destroyer being christened. Nothing really special, I guess to most. What caught my eye was the name given to this fighting ship.

The name of this Navy Destroyer is the U.S.S. Jason Dunham (DDG 109). Jason Dunham was the subject of a book I had read back in 2005 written by Michael M. Phillips entitled "The Gift of Valor - A War Story". Jason Dunham's mother, Debra Dunham christened the destroyer named for her son.

So what's in a name? Every Navy ship has a history behind it's name. Especially those named after people. Yeah everybody knows who the U.S.S. Eisenhower, U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, or U.S.S. Truman are named after (at least I would hope so).

How about the names of whom were not as famous, but their personal sacrifice was just as much if not more than the famous names in our history.

Names such as;
Pfc. Oscar P. Austin USMC
Chief Engineman Donald L. McFaul USN
Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Edward C. Benfold USN
GYSGT. Jimmie E. Howard USMC
Navy Cook 1st Class William Pinckney USN
Chief Warrant Officer Donald K. Ross USN
Steel Worker 2nd Class (Diver) Robert D. Stethem USN

The Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers bear these names as well as many others in honor and remembrance to their bravery of thinking of others before themselves.

To most, me included these were names I had never heard of before, with the exception of Robert D. Stethem whom I remembered being tortured, then murdered by terrorists who had hijacked a commercial airliner and then just dumped his body on the tarmac. Petty Officer Stethem was returning home after an assignment in Greece.

So who was Jason Dunham. He was a son, a brother, he was a United States Marine. He sacrificed his young life for the ideals and morals he was raised with. He gave up his future to keep the fight against the global war on terrorism on their soil, not ours. He was a Marine that voluntarily extended his enlistment to remain with his platoon, to see that every man under his responsibility made it back home.

They all made it back home, because while fighting an Iraqi insurgent hand to hand, Cpl. Dunham saw him drop a grenade. There was no hesitation in his actions as he covered the grenade with his helmet and body to bear the brunt of the explosion to shield his buddies. Jason Dunham gave his life so that his men, his friends, his brothers in arms would be able to go home.

Too many people take their freedom for granted and those whom have made the ultimate sacrifice all too often fade away as the years go by. Let us not forget those who have guaranteed our way of life. And if you're interested, take a look at CMOHS.ORG - Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Open Mouth Insert Foot

I was sitting in traffic court the other day waiting for my case to be called. Being in traffic court is always amusing for us motor types. I've appreciated some of the funny and stupid things which defendants and officers have said.

My motor partner, Wyatt points out his defendant and said, "Boy she was a real bitch." His case gets called before mine, so I'm thinking this might be a little interesting.

Wyatt and his defendant are before the Judge. I watch Wyatt look over to the defendant as he smiled at her and nodded his head in way of a greeting. Well Missy just narrowed her eyes, hunched over slightly, pursed her lips and just gave him the nastiest glare ever.

Of course there was some chuckling coming from the rest of us who were seated. The Judge even noticed it as he leaned his head back, brought his chin to his chest and raised an eyebrow.

Wyatt and I have worked together for more than 10 years. He gives his testimony telling the Judge the events of this incident. After Wyatt had finished, the defendant is allowed to cross examine the Officer, in other words ask him questions.

She'd ask Wyatt a question. Wyatt would politely and professionally begin to answer her when she'd interrupt him and interject that he was mistaken or untruthful. The Judge of course would intervene and remind Missy that she needed to allow the Officer to answer her question without any interruption.

Missy would apologize, Wyatt would finish answering her question. MIssy asked Wyatt another question. As he was answering her, she again interrupted him saying he was lying and obviously had no independent recollection of the stop. Once again the Judge would remind her not to interrupt the Officer.

Missy's style of questioning and interruptions went on for some time. A typical traffic court trial will last maybe 5 minutes. This one went on for about 15 minutes.

Her questions pertained to the location of the stop, the violation she was alleged to have committed and the direction she was traveling. Throughout her line of questioning she was obviously trying to discredit Wyatt. So she finally gets through her questions and makes her statement to the Judge. The Judge listened to her very patiently.

When she had finished her statement the Judge asked Wyatt if he had anything further. Wyatt's reply, "Yes your Honour, Missy's testimony about the location, violation and direction of travel are all correct." The Judge looked at Wyatt and tilted his head to the side.

Wyatt finished by saying, "The violation and location of the stop is for the other ticket I had given Missy about a month prior to this one."

The Judge found her guilty and before sentencing, he always asks the defendant if they've had any tickets in the last three years.

Missy looked over at Wyatt and glared at him again, when she said, "Only the ones he's given me!"