For the first time since they were rescued from more than a decade of captivity in a Cleveland house of horrors, three women speak to the public via a video camera.
CLEVELAND - OK, officer, you got me. Your flashing rooftop red and blue lights are drawing too much attention to me. The rubberneckers still driving along this street have crooks in their necks looking at who it was who got caught speeding or running the traffic light.
That's what I would say if there was a police officer walking slowly toward the driver's side of my car with his ticket book in his back pocket and his eyes scanning for any unusual movement in my car. Only there is no officer who has stopped me. I have had several tickets from red-light cameras in Cleveland. OK, OK. I give up. You've won. I'm now drivin' below the speed limit.
Cleveland just resigned a two-year contract with the red-light camera people who have installed the robot officers on several corners. I have been stung enough by cameras that clicked me as I drove too fast or rolled through a red light.
When the tickets came in the mail, addressed to me based on how my car is titled and licensed, I knew what they were before I opened the envelopes. There I was, feeling like a common criminal, with photographs of my car breaking the law. Right there in the photograph was my car, my license plate. The picture even had my rolled-up umbrella in the rear window.
Man! I felt violated. But it was the city of Cleveland that said I was the violator. I have been hit four times with tickets over the last two years. Each citation carried a $100 fine.
In the days before these seeing-eye cameras were perched at some intersections, you could drive and watch for the cop cars to slip up behind you. Even at night, the big red light on the roof stood out like the hat worn by Hoss Cartwright on the old television show, "Bonanza."
However, technology slimmed down the cop rooftop lights and made them flatter. They were harder to see in your rearview mirrors. I accepted that, although I looked for any cop-type car on my bumper.
Now, the cops are back in the police station or on another street and I am getting nailed by a camera that clicks away at anyone speeding or running the red light.
I don't want you to think I'm a speed demon. Usually, I'm about five miles an hour over the limit, especially if I'm running late for work. But the red-light cameras have changed all that.
I've turned into a driver like the "little old lady from Pasadena" who puts only 500 miles a year on her car. I'm creeping along the street, disregarding the honking drivers behind me who are flashing their lights for me to move along faster.
Sorry, buddy, I ain't gonna speed anymore. There are cameras all over the place. Yeah, that's what I'm feeling now.
They even have video where you can actually see your car move through the danger zone. All you have to do is go to a website, click at certain spaces, put in your infraction number, and there you are.
I'm not a criminal. But when the tickets come to my mailbox, I sometimes feel like one. One ticket even had the exact time of day -- down to the precise second -- that I ran the light.
Really, Officer Camera, I didn't mean to run that light. It was yellow.... I think. Maybe it was turning pink, but I know it wasn't red yet. That's what I tried to say to the envelope with the ticket when it showed up in my mailbox.
When I ran the video on my computer, there I was breaking the law by not braking my car.
So you got me, Officer Camera. Don't put the 'cuffs on me. I'll pay the fine and watch my speed.
Have a nice day, Officer Camera. I'll be careful from now on.
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