Traffic School Is Just the Ticket From the Chief

It all started in Cabozon. That's an area about 20 miles from Palm Springs. I was driving to La Quinta from Pasadena where I had kept a doctor's appointment and gone about doing good works, as is my wont.

I was, of course, blameless. I was driving along at a reasonable speed, but fast enough to avoid being overrun by the cars following and passing me. When what to my wondering eyes did appear but a flashing red light atop a black-and-white sedan behind me.

I made my way to the side of the road and parked to be joined soon by a California Highway Patrol officer who opened the exchange with the historic question, "May I see your driver's license, please?"

I opened my wallet and wiggled my license out. Have you ever noticed that the wallet pocket provided for the license is just a freckle too small so that the edges of the license become dingy, making you look like an uncaring, slobby lawbreaker before the officer even reads your height, weight, hair and eye color?

I was the essence of politeness, having learned that nothing else does any good anyway, including tears and the claim of the onset of labor pains.

The officer returned to his car, wrote a speeding ticket, handed it to me and left. I got back on Highway 10, hugging the edge of the road at a dangerous seven miles an hour until he disappeared in the distance.

I had asked him if I could go to traffic school so I could keep my copy book clean, and he said I would have to write the Banning Traffic Court and ask for permission, first paying a $24 fine. I sent my check for $24 in the next couple of days and asked if I might go to traffic school and where. Soon, I received a letter saying I might, but with no indication of where.

I spent the next four days intermittently trying to reach the Banning Municipal Court, which is apparently not possible. I even thought of driving to Banning, but considering the price of gas and my track record on that road, I vetoed the idea.

Recalling my father's advice--"When you want help, go to the CEO"--I called the Indio police station. All I wanted was a list of approved traffic schools. I dialed three times. The first time I heard a conversation between two ladies planning a dinner party and then a dial tone. The next time I heard a string of political commercials (it was just before the election) and was again disconnected. The third time, I was put on hold and heard quite a bit of a selection by the London Symphony and then the dial tone.

On about the 10th call, I reached a human being to whom I told my problem very rapidly lest I be disconnected. I told her about the phone problem.

She said, "Would you tell the police chief that? The phone system is terrible but I don't think anyone tells him."

I told her I would. The next second I was talking to a man with a strong pleasant voice, who answered my plight like this: "I'm going to have that phone system disconnected right now. It has never worked and the public shouldn't have to put up with this."

I told him about my ticket and my inability to get through on the telephone. He told me he would get the court in Banning and my citation number and he did.

His name is Jerry Graves and Indio is a fortunate city to have him for a top cop. He was on the police force in the city of Orange for 22 years.

In a couple of days, I received a fax from Chief Graves telling me to call Palm Springs or Indio Municipal Court to get a list of the schools. I tried to call the courts for two more days.

I called the Indio Police Department again and told the woman who answered that I couldn't get an answer from the municipal court. She suggested that I call Riverside County Supervisor Corky Larson's office. I did and a helpful woman there said that she would try to reach the Indio Municipal Court for me. The next moment, I was talking to someone in the Indio Municipal Court. I was told that the reason for the phone problem is the volume of calls. I asked for a list of accepted schools and in three days I received it.

I'm eternally grateful to Indio Chief of Police Jerry Graves and congratulate the fortunate people who live under his jurisdiction. He took immediate steps and seemed to feel that it was no trouble at all to help a frustrated citizen. Hail to the chief.

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