It's one of the worst moments a driver can face. The flashing lights, sirens and the bullhorn ordering you to "pull over."
And why does this always happen to me around Christmas?
"License, registration and proof of insurance," the officer deadpanned, scanning the interior of my car with world-weary eyes — looking for contraband, no doubt.
"What did I allegedly do, officer?" I said politely, opening the glove box to procure the items. I just had to throw in "allegedly." And he apparently heard it.
"You didn't see those four big signs not to turn left at Brooks back there?"
"No, I did not."
I didn't, I really didn't.
"Well, they're there," he said, cocking his hip and getting into ticket-writing mode. "So, where you going?"
Where was I going? And why does that matter?
"I'm just going up there on the next block," I said.
"Why?" he snapped as if he were a cop on "Dragnet" interrogating a common criminal. "What's up there?"
I had to think a moment. What was I doing before I was so rudely interrupted? Oh, right.
"I'm looking for the address of a woman I know so I can send her a Christmas card," I deadpanned back.
"Hmph," he said. I guess this satisfied him because he had no further questions. For an instant I thought maybe I'd get off with a warning — it being Christmas and me being on a Christmas mission. But there was to be no mercy. I still got a ticket for failure to obey a sign.
He handed me the ticket and stomped off — or at least it seemed he stomped off. At least he didn't smirk and say "Have a nice day." I hate it when they do that.
After scanning the ticket, making a phone call and almost crying, I pulled myself together. Yes, it was Christmas, and yes, I had gotten a budget-busting moving violation.
But I would not be dissuaded from my goal, knocked off kilter by this demanding, stomping man. I would continue on my way, get the address and then figure out how in heck I had missed those "four big signs" the officer insisted I should have seen.
Carefully, I retraced my steps, realizing "Laguna's Finest" was probably still in the area. Man, wouldn't he love to write me another ticket for, say, a rolling stop or failure to use a turn signal? I was so careful I squeaked.
I headed north on Glenneyre, then realized I was behind the very cop who had ticketed me! No doubt he had me in his sights in his rear-view mirror. Wow, I thought. This is kind of exciting — the tables are turned! He probably thinks I'm stalking him to give him a piece of my mind.
But no, I wasn't giving him the satisfaction of thinking I had one more thought in my head about him and his ticket. Smoothly, I turned left (legally) back onto Coast Highway. We would just see about those signs.
Back on the highway, I approached Brooks Street, and there they were: four signs — OK, call them "big," even blazing signs — clearly indicating there was no turning left from the southbound lane.
But why had I missed them? What had distracted me?
Then I saw him: the Greeter, that larger-than-life, brightly colored statue of Eiler Larsen, with his wild grin, his finger pointing left. "Turn here!" the finger screams.
That's what happened: I had looked at the Greeter, read his finger and simply turned left.
Now I hear that getting a ticket for turning left at Brooks Street has become all too common in Laguna Beach, particularly among longtime residents. It's what you might call a "ticket trap," if you were so inclined. And I think the Greeter is the culprit.
So I am proposing a remedy. No, it's not the removal of the "no left turn" signs, which were probably put up to keep pedestrians from becoming road kill on busy summer days.
All I ask is that the city turn the Greeter or move him so his pointing finger isn't pointing drivers in the wrong direction. And with all the money they're making on this particular ticket, surely they can afford to do that.
CINDY FRAZIER is city editor of the Coastline Pilot. She can be contacted at (949) 302-1469 or firstname.lastname@example.org.