Erica and my daughter became best friends at the beginning of middle school. Through the girls' common after-school activities I got to know Erica's parents quite well. They lived in town and drove a leased Volvo station wagon.
The booming real estate market has been very good to Erica's father. In fact the business was so good by the time the girls got to high school, Joe was able to get himself a Ferrari and move his family into a $1.2 million home on South Street.
South Street is one of those meandering roads with tight bends and brief straights as it follows the river bank. Old estates spread out on both sides separated by acres of woods and fields. It's also a fun road to drive.
That's why one sunny Sunday afternoon I decided to take South Street on my way home from Home Depot. Just as I passed Joe's driveway, a police officer stepped out of the shadows.
"License and registration," he said. "I have to give you a ticket for speeding."
"Common officer, can't you write me a warning?"
"I can't. We have to write citations, because a local resident filed a complaint," and he pointed to Joe's house.
Later that week Joe came to my house to drive the girls to a field hockey game.
"You have to help me," he said, before I had a chance to say anything. "Last Sunday I took the Ferrari out and somebody called the cops. They said residents were complaining about speeders. But I wasn't speeding. Honest!"
"Last Sunday I got a ticket as well," I said. "Seems that residents on South Street were complaining too."
Joe's face got as red as his Ferrari and he drove off without saying another word. I haven't spoken to him since.
At my hearing a few months later I had the cop acknowledge he didn't track me long enough to establish speeding as prescribed by law. The judge was unimpressed.
"I feel you were exceeding the speed limit," he said.
"But your Honor, the officer failed to establish that, " I replied.
"The court finds you responsible. Next!"
And what happened to Joe's ticket? Erica told me her father got the cops to drop the charges against him...
The moral of the story isn't about the rich versus poor, about money, politics or corruption. The moral of the story is that every time you complain about "them," the authorities will be more than happy to punish YOU.
Every time you complain that "they" speed on your street, the authorities will be happy to find some speeders. Every time you say "they" run red lights, "they" don't wear seat belts, "they" are endangering us, the authorities will gladly step in to punish us all.
"They" are not the enemy. The enemy is us.
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