April 10, 2009


Category: News — Ira @ 6:38 pm


“C’est La Vie, C’est La Vie – That’s just the way it goes (That’s life).”

—Robbie Nevil, lyrics: C’est La Vie

I thought about it a few weeks ago, when I wrote it. That maybe I shouldn’t brag. Shouldn’t litter my blog with vain boastings. But I went ahead and did anyway. Now there’s plenty of time to repent at leisure.

Two facts used to be true. One: I hate cities. All cities, big or small. Two: I’ve never ever, ever been issued a ticket for any traffic violation. Of any kind. Never. It was a matter of some pride to me. Well, actually, a lot of pride.

Of those two facts, one still remains true: I hate cities. All cities.

It all started innocently enough last week. Thursday, it was. I had scheduled a day of continuing legal education. The annual requirement that I attend X amount of hours of legal classes, to maintain my law license. This one was in Harrisburg. Downtown. In the Harrisburg Hilton Hotel.

No problem, really. Harrisburg is a small city. Many would consider it not a city at all. I’d been downtown before, just not recently. That morning, I slipped in and parked in a large parking garage for the day. Went to the class and hung out with about eighty equally bored attorneys. Listening to a passel of state bureaucrats droning on and on about bidding on state building contracts. At least they served a decent lunch.

The afternoon inched on, and at last it was over. Free to go, shortly after four. I walked back to the garage, boarded Big Blue and paid my parking fee. Then turned left around the block and left again, on one-way streets and out of town.

I reached the light where I needed to make a last left onto my road out. A sign up at the light firmly proclaimed, NO LEFT TURN. No left turn? I couldn’t turn right, it was one-way. I had to turn left, or cross the bridge over the Susquehanna and beyond. I’d probably never find my way back. Wander forever, lost in the savage wilderness. Traffic was sparse. So just before the light turned red, I swung Big Blue to the left and stepped on it. Breathed freely. I was on my way out of the wicked city.

It was a trap. And just like that, he was on my heels, like a baying Blue Tick hound. Lights flashing, siren yawping. A cop. He’d been waiting. And he had me. Boy, did he ever have me.

I remained amazingly calm, as I stopped, right on the busy highway. No shoulder. As the cop emerged from his flashing chariot, I reminded myself of my own advice to my readers a few weeks back. He walked up to Big Blue’s window. Medium height. Fit, a bit stocky. Gray-haired, hatless, peering at me sternly.

“Your license. Proof of Insurance. Registration.” He said curtly. I said nothing. Fumbled for my driver’s license and handed it to him. Reached into the glove compartment for the Insurance and Registration. Unfortunately, in the past 18 months, each time new insurance/registration papers arrived, I just piled them all together in the envelope without removing the old ones. I had a serious jumbled mess.

I handed him the Proof of Insurance. “What else do you need?” I asked. And those were my only words. For a second, I thought about explaining to him that I wasn’t familiar with the city. That I had chosen to turn left instead of crossing the river, because I didn’t know the area. That I was forty-seven years old and had never ever gotten a ticket of any kind for any violation, and couldn’t he just let me off? Just this once?

But nah. It wouldn’t do any good. He was out to generate revenue for the city. He had me, dead to rights. Something told me he would savor and enjoy such desperate pleas. And I darn sure wasn’t going to beg any favors from the law. So I said nothing.

He stood there and I sifted through my papers until I found the proper document. And sifted and shuffled. For at least two minutes. I said nothing. He said nothing. I finally handed over the Registration. Still said nothing.

Discomfited by my silence, he finally spoke. “I stopped you because you didn’t obey the traffic sign,” he said querulously. I said nothing. He walked back to his car. Sat there and sat there. Probably checking out the red check marks that appeared beside my name, on my computer records (and no, I’m not paranoid).

At last he emerged and walked up to me with a little yellow paper. A ticket. He handed me my license and documents, then the ticket. “Follow the directions on the back,” he said gruffly. I took everything from his hand and placed it on the seat beside me. And said nothing. Not a word. He turned and walked back to his car. I shifted Big Blue into gear and got out of there. He got into his car and popped back into the spot from where he’d waylaid me. His trap.

Couldn’t blame the guy. Just doing his job. Although it was a trap. But that’s what cops do. I couldn’t do it. Ruin a guy’s day for a minor traffic offense.

I glanced at the ticket. $109.50. For one illegal left turn. Now that’s tyranny. Highway robbery by the state.

I got the ticket because I’d bragged publicly about my perfect driving record. I’m convinced of that. Things have a way of balancing out. Oh, well. It was great while it lasted. And all good things must end, and all that. An illegal turn is probably one of the most benign tickets possible. If any ticket can be benign.

I bet I took the prize for being one of the least communicative traffic stops in that cop’s career.

And I still hate cities.

A few thoughts on last week’s post. It was intense, brutal to write. And draining to read. I sure couldn’t produce something like that every week. Wouldn’t want to. Always, after immersing myself into something at that level, it takes a few days to shake off the encroaching fog of brooding sadness that settles in. But I knew when I heard the devastating news that Monday morning that it would have to be written. For my own benefit, to work it out of my own system, if for no other reason.

The angel thing dropped into my lap about mid week. And just topped off the story line. I tried not to insert myself, just narrate those particular details. Such a story could only emerge from the Amish or similar related plain groups. In my opinion, anyway. Signs and wonders are a staple of their cultural history. I make no judgment as to what was actually seen, if anything. Or if, as some believe, only the child’s eyes were opened to see what others could not see.

My source was close to the event, and credible. After hearing the details, I double-verified two facts. One, that the child claimed to have seen angels. And two, that he told his mother of it before anyone knew anything of the accident. Both those things happened. It’s remarkable, any way you look at it.

And in its own way, it provides some solace to the grieving families. Let them grieve, let them ponder these things in their hearts, let them grasp and hold on to what small comfort they can from the ruins of this tragedy.

The story surged into the Amish world and went viral Saturday night as it was read aloud on the Amish chat line (Who even knew there was such a thing?? Someone’s come a long way, baby.) to more than 900 Amish/Plain people. A friend called me as the reading started. I got on the line and listened. It was mildly startling, to say the least, to hear my written words read aloud in a halting Dutchified voice. But the reader did an OK job, considering his audience of 900 silent listeners hanging onto every word. Afterward, they tried to figure out who wrote it. Nobody seemed to have any idea. I briefly considered identifying myself, but thought better of it. Wouldn’t want to be responsible for any heart attacks.

The post got a record number of hits. Just shy of 3500. By far the highest weekly count ever. By now, I would guess there are few Amish in North America, with the possible exception of the Swartzentruber groups, who have not heard the angel story. Either from my blog or from their own sources.

For the affected families, after intense shock and the rush of funerals, now comes the aftermath. Of days and weeks and months and years. Of jolting awake in the middle of the night, thinking it cannot be true, cannot have happened. Of getting up each day and realizing it was not all just a bad dream. Of facing and dealing with the new reality again and again. Of the empty places in their homes and lives that will haunt them for years.

They need our prayers and the community’s support. And will for a long, long time.

The boys of summer are back. Finally. Baseball has arrived. Slurp, slurp. The season opened Sunday night, when my Braves whacked the Phillies (World Champs, no less) 4-1. The Phillies managed to get their lone run in the bottom of the ninth. The Braves took two out of three, and should have swept. But lost the third game late. They will have closer troubles this year again, I fear.

For a few days, at least, I could crow at work, lord it over the arrogant Phillies fans.

I’m no basketball fan, but this year I watched all of ten seconds of March Madness. In the championship game, I tuned in to check the score. North Carolina was blowing out poor Michigan State. So back to baseball it was. Thank goodness March Madness is over for one more year.

A blessed Easter to all my readers.

Welcome to the world: Alexia Magdalene Miller. Born March 28, 2009. Welcomed by Lowell, Dorothy (my niece), Kali and Hunter.

Alexia Magdalene Miller


(No Comments) »

  1. Boy, you would have rocked the boat last Saturday night if you would have identified yourself, as everyone in the Plain World knows about your Dad.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — April 10, 2009 @ 8:59 pm

  2. Write a mean piece about cops…get a ticket a couple weeks later…yeah, probably just coincidence. :) You would have a cow where I live. I live in a suburb of St. Louis and we have cameras at almost all of the traffic lights now – in the suburbs! The ticket comes in the mail ($100) and it’s got a picture of the vehicle caught in the act, AND a website to go online and watch the vehicle run the light or whatever it was. The ticket goes to the vehicle owner, not the person because they don’t know who was driving. My daughter got two tickets, five days apart, at the SAME signal. We watched it and yep, she didn’t stop all the way and rolled right through a “no right turn on red”. She was $200 poorer but a little wiser.

    The cameras are kind of creepy though because when a light turns yellow, you never know if you should slam on the brakes or speed up to get through it. That’s pretty dangerous. At nighttime it looks like the paparazzi are near because lights flash when a car doesn’t quite make it through.

    Another one bites the dust. I liked your post and you handled it like a man – double kudos.

    And WELCOME BABY ALEXIA – what a little pumpkin.

    Comment by Bethrusso — April 10, 2009 @ 9:07 pm

  3. WOW, Bummer about the ticket! In Tampa or anywhere in the Sunshine State you would have to shell out $125.00 to $ 151.00 if the violation begins with a FL. Statute.

    Right now, I’m watching my Rays and the BAL. “dirty” Birds they are down 5 to 1 OOOHHH Evan L. #3 just hit a shot…it’s GONE !!! We are now down just 2 runs. (5 to 3).

    I would like to say …”signs” are everywhere if you take the time to look and believe. It’s been all about the angels lately… the Amish young men and the pitcher Nick Adenhart of the LA Angels, may they all RIP.

    Happy Easter everyone!!!

    Take Care,

    Comment by Michelle V. — April 10, 2009 @ 9:45 pm

  4. Wouldn’t blame you one bit for not speaking out on the chat line. Who knows which way the wind would have blown?

    Comment by Monica — April 10, 2009 @ 9:57 pm

  5. Well I’ve never boasted about NOT getting a ticket or anything…but still got one a few years back… funnily enough, it was a trap, too. Went to pay it and told the clerk, I’ll bet you get a lot of people at that spot. Where, she asked- looked at the ticket and said, Oh yeah…and actually had the grace to look embarrassed. Not that she could do anything about it.

    Comment by Ann — April 11, 2009 @ 10:30 am

  6. In a word … Ha! … my last ticket was eastbound on 340 just after Spring Garden Church … by the time the officer approached my car I was laughing so hard because the thought running through my head was … “I wonder why Spring Garden put a reflective stripe on their gas tank?”…

    Comment by Glo — April 11, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

  7. Dear Ira,

    Following up on your own notion of befriending local law enforcement personnel, this article, though long, is full of practical thoughts for how to keep things neighborly in our communities, even when there is federal encroachment.

    ” I … visited my local Department of Homeland Security Fusion Center. This is my uncensored report.”

    Alexis is beautiful.

    Thanks for providing “home” news, even when tragic. It helps us to pray.

    Comment by LeRoy — April 11, 2009 @ 7:05 pm

  8. Hi Ira:

    My name is Dale Yoder and I read your website whenever I can. Growing up did your family at one time live near Shipshewana In. and do you have a brother named Lyle? If you do I remember Lyle real faintly, wonder what ever happend to him and if he is Amish or not. I never heard of your website until last weekend. When an Amish friend from Franklin Co. Pa. called me and said they read your website page on the chatline. (they did say who you are on the chat line.) You have a very awesome website!

    So you got a ticket recently?! Well so did I! I drive an 18 wheeler and I was coming into a small town called Pleasant Gap in Pa. at 2:30 in the morning, next thing I know there was flashing lights behind me. The young city cop told me that semis are not allowed on this highway. Anyway I also was given a ticket for $109.50 and the cop said no points will be put on your license. Still a waste of money!

    Ira, keep up the good work on your site!


    Comment by Dale Yoder — April 11, 2009 @ 8:16 pm

  9. Dale Yoder, are you the same guy that ran around in Allen County and Daivess County about 14 or 15 years ago?

    Comment by F.G. — April 11, 2009 @ 9:31 pm

  10. Hi F.G. Yeah, I”m the same guy that ran around in Allen Co. and Daivess Co. I”m wondering who you are. Dale

    Comment by Dale Yoder — April 12, 2009 @ 8:12 am

  11. Missouri has a silly law that allows only a front plate for pickup trucks licensed over 16,000 pounds. This is cause for much hassling of innocent Missouri motorists by Barney Fifes in neighboring states.

    Comment by Reuben Wagler — April 13, 2009 @ 9:21 pm

  12. I have been following Ira’s Writings, and have at times given some hard copies to the Manton, MI community. Though of late, they have voiced strong disaproval of his articles, so I dare not mention any content of what I read on Ira’s website.

    I personally enjoy reading Ira’s articles on this his website. I often relate, drawing out useful pieces of knowledge from his words, and find he is well grounded in his views. I think his website is good place for Amish to leave their own opinions on the comment board, if they think people should hear their views.

    Now on another topic, I need help finding the family of Andrew E. Slabaugh, born 26 Sept. 1893 in Geauga County, OH son of Emanuel Slabaugh and Mary Kauffman. Andrew married Iva May Roberson of Midland, MI, and had children Josephine and Howard Slabaugh.

    Comment by Lee Nelson Hall Junior — April 14, 2009 @ 3:45 pm

  13. Oh aye: God does have a habit of humor with our pretensions and pride. Boast and ye shall toast your pride in ash.

    Thanks be to God for His care and mercy.

    Comment by Plain Catholic — April 15, 2009 @ 11:25 am

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