I spoke too soon. Or maybe I jinxed myself by saying anything at all. I’ll explain.
On Monday afternoon, I got a traffic ticket.
A traffic ticket?! you may ask, confused because I have not driven a car in over six months.
Yes, a freakin’ traffic ticket. Want to know why? Because I did not put my feet on the ground at a stop sign.
I tried pretending not to understand French, but it’s surprisingly tricky to make mistakes that were trained out of me in French I, and the cop who had waved me over was having none of it anyway.
“STOP,” she said. “It’s the same in the United States.”
I considered telling her it wasn’t the same in the U.S.
Instead, I started babbling about how I go through that particular roundabout several times per week and at least once per week one or multiple cars nearly kill me there. “So then you are seeing,” I stammered, “That I am always making attention to my security. I do not go if an automobile approaches because I maybe slapped.”
“How do you expect them to respect the rules when you don’t?” she asked, adopting a snotty tone far too familiar to kindergartners and foreigners, in which someone addresses you as if you’re a complete moron, which, much though my French may suggest otherwise, I am not.
The penance? 90 EUROS.
Yikes. This woman seriously wasn’t kidding around. It’s a good thing the transaction took place in French. If I had had native language advantage, I probably would have sassed back and that wouldn’t have gotten me anywhere.
“Please!” I pleaded. “I’m sorry! But that is over 10% of my salary!”
That’s when it turned ridiculous.
“Fine,” she said. “22 euros.”
Point: thank God. Counterpoint: What kind of law is that flexible?!
“It’s for your safety,” she said. “The hospitals are full of bikers who got hit by cars.”
That’s when I couldn’t stand it anymore.
“If the hospitals are full of bikers, why aren’t you out here ensuring bikers wearing helmets?” I asked. “I’m the only person in Angers who wears a helmet!”
“It’s not obligatory,” she said.
“And why not?” I shrieked. “The rules are saying nothing to me. I know that I am a lot right because I am doing something for my health and for the planet. The cars, they do nothing! If the polices are making worries for bikers, no one is going to bike, and then the French will be fat as Americans and the planet suffers!”
Though I had trouble saying so in French—I probably could have explained myself better if I weren’t so irritated—I still maintain that I was in the right. The rules are the rules, sure, and yes, technically I should put my feet on the ground at every stop sign, but (1) I was making a righthand turn into a bike lane, at least 100 meters from even possibly being in anyone else’s way; (2) everyone knows that you shouldn’t come to a complete stop when you’re biking into a headwind because then you lose your momentum; and (3) charging a biker 90E —oh, JK, 22—for running a stop sign is an absurd waste of everyone’s time and money.