Life By Design: Tell it to the Judge

Out of nowhere the cop was standing next to my parked vehicle.  "Are you going to open the window?"  







  I wanted to say no but thought better of it not wanting to get cuffed for resisting arrest, or fleeing the Trader Joe’s parking lot, creating a slow-mo O.J. chase down the Post Rd. 

I opened the window before clicking off my parents, the culprits behind my being clearly followed and shiftily apprehended.  I gave the imposing officer my driver’s license as I tried to explain that the call was to discuss a dying relative.  Wasn’t it unethical to hang up on one’s parents?

Fumbling for my registration the officer settled for the insurance card and went to his vehicle parked somewhat behind me across two parking spaces.  I got out of the car to wave my registration card at him which I found folded in half, not in my wallet.  He waved me off like a guy who you promised you aren’t cheating on, but doesn’t buy it anymore.

I worried that I never saw him following me.  Could he do that?  Was it worse to think that you could have a squad car on your backside and be oblivious?  Wouldn’t that be the number one reason for his disinterest in engaging my type?

 Back in 2001, New York passed one of the nation’s first hands-free cellular laws.  Since that time, the New York police department alone has handed out over 300,000 tickets at around $100.00 a pop.

It could have been more.   A lady traffic cop once blew her whistle in my window and then through clenched teeth yelled, "I’m standing right here and you are still on your phone", as she directed vehicles toward the Williamsburg Bridge.  While cradling the phone between shoulder and ear I explained that I was getting directions to N.J. and was really in a pickle.  She waved me on, her eyes rolling to the back of her head.

Then I got my minivan that has a built in blue-tooth.  I was hands-free.

Couldn’t the Village of Mamaroneck officer hear my story: dying relative, a new phone not programmed into the car because the last phone mysteriously went missing on a family vacation costing me the out- of- town lost phone headache and $188.00.

The Mamaroneck officer came back to my window and tossed the ticket at me.  He walked back to his squad car without a word.  I had a flawless record. 

Sure I had been stopped by the police, but I had never gotten a ticket.  In fact the offenses were actually serious in hindsight, but I was younger then, and I don’t say that only because I was less wise, but because I was better looking.

There was the time I was stopped going 85 miles an hour in a 65 zone but was spared the ticket-forget the Open Container law, this was Texas!- but was let off complaining that as a poor college student I wouldn’t have money for that, and to buy my family Christmas gifts.

Then many years later driving up a long stretch of lake front in Chicago, I was stopped near my home town, dreading to appear on the infamous DWI pages of the local paper.  But I gallantly not only walked the straight line, but when asked to do the alphabet I did that, and I did it backwards, a trick my grandpa taught me. Sold.  Good thing my striking young person looks distracted that officer from noticing my gal pal in the car splashing her wine against the window.    

Having taken the unofficial, ‘driving while chatting’ poll, anyone with any sense doesn’t.  If you must, you do the lap-drop when a police officer is around, making my $185.00! infraction a perfect self-loathing platform.  Who gets trailed to a grocery store parking lot and nailed?  I had seen the high school kids and gone around them.  I hadn’t hit the random carts littering the lot. 

I’ve even been nailed lately for leaving my car sitting in one of the Rye pay station parking lots for a total of 10 minutes, tops.  I fought one and lost, explaining on the back of the ticket that the then new Pain Quotidien had really slow service.  Clearly this was not a Judge Who Lunches reviewing my claim.  When I ran into an ousted city council person I asked him how often they really check those things, he said never, and I promptly got another ticket the following week for not feeding the meter at all.

Bad ticket karma?  A girlfriend told me years ago her auto had a ticket on the windshield.  The offence?  Leaving a baby unattended in a parked car.  When she told the judge that there was a nanny who was also asleep in the car, she was forced to pay the fine anyway.  Shouldn’t the officer have noted the abandoned infant and contacted the proper authorities?

It’s random.  When my dad was stopped for speeding on the way to his father’s funeral-the alphabet grandpa- the officer let him go, instructing him to be cautious.  On the same highway years later he was stopped on his way to his mother-in-laws funeral.  He got a big fat ticket, the officer clearly not believing that his lead foot was grief induced.

I ended up paying the $185.00. They want it by check or money order sent certified mail.  I was told that no one cares why you were on a phone and that telling it to the judge is a big waste of time.

I called the police headquarters at the Village Of Mamaroneck and explained that I was doing a story and was curious about their policy.  This officer assured me that in most cases you are given a warning on first offense but that the officer has the right to pull you over if he sees you on the phone.  When I explained that I was parked and that the officer did not discuss the ticket with me, he said, "you can plead not-guilty".  When I told him that I had paid the fine, not having the time to appear in court, he said nothing.  

I should have asked him whether he thinks New York will impose an Aggressive Driving law.


Kim Berns is a writer and interior designer living in Rye.


  1. So if you killed someone because you had an accident while driving and talking on your cell phone but it was because you were talking to your mother about a dying relative, would that be okay? It sounds like you were just upset at being caught.

  2. And who wouldn’t be upset at being caught? Is there really ANYONE who never talks on their cell phone while driving. We’ve all done it. However, with all the new reports regading the danger of distracted driving I guess we all need to try harder to abstain, especially in front of the kids who as early drivers may not be so well equipped to avoid mistakes on the road.

  3. Is this “article” for real? So the author admits to drunk driving in her past, speeding, obnoxious parking infractions (the service at Pain Quotidien was slow – really?) and then at least two offenses where she was caught talking on a cell phone while driving, and we’re supposed to feel sympathetic? I can’t even believe this got published.

  4. What a great article – and I can’t believe these comments. Who hasn’t talked their way out of a ticket? I fondly recall the time I eluded the local police and hid in the bushes while they searched the house! :'(

  5. I think the problem is that some people have confused the ideal that they aspire to with the reality of youthful indiscretion. It’s clear the drinking was done as a teenager and ancient history. As far as getting a parking ticket for forgetting to feed the meter or running out of time — do you live in this area? I do and consider the parking officers to be the devil. Driving above the speed limit? — an American pastime. Frankly I find adults under 70 who follow the speed limit exactly annoying. But I guess that’s just me . . .[i][/i]

  6. Wow! Lighten up fellow commentors (is that even a word?). I think this is a cute and light-hearted look at getting a ticket, not an episode of America’s Most Wanted. Glad to say I haven’t gotten one yet 😉

  7. No sympathy. Whatsoever. For the infractions. Or for the “lightheartedness” of the description. Or the “oh come-onnnnnns.”

  8. We are a mobile computational society, but we are also a responsible society. That is the kernel of the ethical aspect of this discussion, not hanging up on your parents. My wife got tagged last year and deserved it. We payed the fine without complaint.

    In New Jersey during 2003, they had over 500 crashes and over 300 injuries with 2 fatalities directly due to cell phone use. Ironically, brainless Heidi Montag’s equally brainless cosmetic surgeon Frank Ryan died using a cell phone while driving this August. If you want consider these individuals as peer’s, by all means be my guest. Please avoid driving on Murray Ave. during school days when you chatter nonsensically with your BFF’s while exercising your special “rights”.

  9. This writer, who BTW does not live in Larchmont, epitomizes the self-entitled behavior that has overrun Larchmont in the last 10 years. A glut of new residents and visitors who all think they are SO special that rolling through stop signs, double parking on Palmer “just to run into Citibank”, driving over the 20 mph speed limit through school zones while chatting on their mobile phone or just being more buddy than parent and allowing/tolerating teenager’s access to their home liquor cabinet is just [i][b]fine[/b][/i], because THEY are SPECIAL. They deserve special priveledges.

    Get real. Our country needs strength from all its citizens now more than ever and the whining/irresponsible behavior will only continue our downward spiral. So, sit at Bradley’s; watch Rome burn – then just whine how “unfair” it is. The writer’s behavior was a disgrace to law enforcement and the rule of law that our forefathers died to create. How about pulling over to the side of the road? Was it SO important that you had to arrive at Traders Joe’s at that moment?

    I think we should bring back stockcades! With such an obvious wealth of “well-educated” Americans living in our village, I can only hope that something tragic will not be the catalyst of bringing these special people to their collective senses.

  10. Sorry, no sympathy here. If you need to talk, especially about something as emotional as a dying relative, pull over and park. My mother (in her late 80s) has it right: she won’t talk with anyone while they’re driving. She hangs up.

    And FYI, aggressive driving is already against the law and has been for years. If there’s an offense that should be punishable but isn’t yet, it’s gabbing on the cell phone while you’re crossing the street on foot, oblivious to the fact that the light has changed or that an emergency vehicle is trying to get through the intersection (I’ve seen both.)

  11. Glad the police are doing their job. 🙂

  12. Let’s not forget that Trader Joes also happens to be next door to Central School. How are we supposed to give you sympathy when you tell us of deliberate speeding, driving while intoxicated and now driving while on the phone. You’re lucky you haven’t killed anyone yet. You also have the nerve to ask about aggressive driving laws, as if your actions are any better. You are a menace, and a spoiled brat- and your long winded and self serving recollections posted here should serve as an embarrassment the rest of your life. What a great opportunity for you to change your selfish ways.

  13. No, it isn’t right. Period. Cell phone use behind the wheel is about the most dangerous thing a driver can do, right up there with passing on the right or passing a yellow-blinking school bus. Please pull over. The world, the office, your child or your mom can wait 2 minutes. Do it, please.

  14. I’m shocked to see these responses. If you’ve read this column before you’d know it’s full of sarcasm and humor. Come on people! 😮

  15. I am among those who happen to think the article is amusing. The author is not advocating breaking the law. She just sounds like a real parent, working mom, multitasking and trying to do too many things at once. That’s the unfortunate reality most of us live in. I have had the unpleasant experience of scrolling many comments to articles in various publications of late. I’ve notice that it is generally the angry and disgruntled minority who take the time to write and use the opportunity to vent.


    How long have you lived in Larchmont? You sound like one of the SPECIAL people who live here : “a [i]real[/i] parent, working mom, multitasking and trying to do too many things at once” – is that your excuse (whining) for sympathizing with the author breaking the law and putting other people’s lives in danger? YOU are in control of your reality. Just like YOU are in charge of how much you drink before driving or overeating and not excersing or any choice you make using your brain and self-control. Trying to turn and attack the people who take the time to comment on the ridiculousness of even printing this type of a piece: “the angry and disgruntled minority who take the time to write and use the opportunity to vent.” is also a baseless argument. Antonio Anselmo, for instance, is a solid citizen of the community – volunteers on local youth sports board and coaches several sports teams. Look inwards and judge before you point the finger. The majority of these comments (74%) are against the bad behavior of the writer. Clearly most people did not find it satirical.

    editrix: anti self: theLoop does not publish personal attacks, and I am afraid you are getting close here. (And you are not the only one) PSullivan’s views, as yours, are both reflected in the discussion here. there is no reason for you (or anyone else) to go down that tiresome road of “those people in Larchmont.”
    My personal opinion? The story was a humorous and well-written reminder that we shouldn’t talk and drive. And sometimes we do.

  17. I am not often in town during the week, but was sorry to see George Latimer reading at a traffic light. Okay, is it specifically illegal? No, but just as dangerous. Two people had to honk at him to go when the light turned green.

  18. didn’t the writer say she was parked… the parking lot of TJ’s? am i missing something here?

  19. I prefer not to waste my time arguing with someone who advocates bringing back the “stockades” and then claims not to be angry. However, I will take a moment to point out that as of this writing 998 people have read this article. Only 18 people have commented. Seventy-four percent of 18 is hardly a majority of readers. Oh and by the way, I am “special” and very, very happy.

  20. Great story and very well written. Who needs the state to dictate who, when and how you speak on your phone in your own car? Typical big brother bs. The negative commentors are the same people who would love to have the state come over and wipe their mouths when they eat. In my OPINION, my car, my phone, my call, your salary, my taxes. The police definitiely have better things to do but the writer hit the nail on the head, it is a great revenue stream for the town. How else are we going to cover the costs of bureaucracy? Don’t we have enough policing already in our lives?

  21. I am by no means “guilt-free” in this kind of situation having spouted crocodile tears of my own running a red light in Boston at the tender age of nineteen (got a wink and a warning for being both cute and convincing), hence the choice of Snow White as my name. That said, I’m not saying that hoping for pats on the back and new friends. It’s just a silly story about getting out of a ticket.

    This article is smartly written and told in a funny self-deprecating way that forces you to think about what the author has done, which is clearly wrong (according to current laws). She’s not asking you to empathize or condone her actions, she’s just commenting that while in the past it was easy to get off with a warning, obviously now it’s not.

    Furthermore, the article isn’t carte blanche for people to dump on “special self-entitled people of Larchmont.” What a gross generalization! I take offense to that being a Larchmont resident and a multi-tasking mom (plus my tennis whites are in the laundry and I’m take a hiatus from Starbucks). That was tongue-in-cheek for you literalists, btw. I am not self-entitled, but I do make mistakes sometimes, like answering a text while waiting for the ridiculously long light at Chatsworth and Myrtle. So yes, I’m guilty too, but I’m not going to throw stones in a glass house. What I am going to do is not use my cellphone while driving in the car.

    The author is right – currently, getting a ticket is more random than not…whether the cop is heading to Dunkin Donuts, or whether it’s his paddle tennis buddy breaking the law, or whether the driver is driving with an oxygen tank (I’ve seen that), then they may not get a ticket.

    The point is, the law is the law. Get off the phone, or pull over. Try harder. I think that’s the message here.

  22. Everyday I see people fully engaged in phone converstaions while driving. Everyday I see younger people texting while driving or sitting at a light. Have we all gotten so ADD that the constant need for facebook updates and email exchanges are now mandatory every 30 seconds ? Can we all not just concentrate on driving ? Because that seems tough enough when you are driving 20-30 miles over the limit, or not using your turn signals, or even the phantom brake. I mean really, are we all that ADD that we cant just stay off the phone or text for 15 minutes ?

  23. I don’t break the law so I don’t get tickets

    therefore I don’t complain about the police because they do a fine job of pulling over lawbreakers like you.

  24. Scariest thing I have seen yet was on the Hutch last evening in bumper to bumper traffic @ approx. 7pm – guy in car next to me writing (or emailing?) on his Ipad which he was simply holding over his steering wheel!

  25. Laws are meant to be followed …. even by you. Boo hoo…to your complaining. Congrats to our police.

  26. It is stunning that by saying “I ended up paying the $185.00” it sounds as if the writer of the story thought that there might actually be a basis for fighting this well deserved ticket. The person who told you no one cares why you were on the phone is right. I would say, be thankful to get off with $185 fine.

    Having witnessed far too many drivers swerving over the lines on the Boston Post Road while on the phone, I feel the ticket should be even higher!

Leave a comment