John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Slow down or pay up
They all show an individual car — your dream car, your elegant personal machine, your guarantee of synthetic masculinity — roaring along the highway in solitary splendor.
In reality, of course, you will be driving on an interstate at 20 mph, hemmed in by equally frustrated fellow motorists. But the commercial, the dream, tells you that because you own a machine that can do better than 90, you have a right to do so.
So when you do get a chance, you rev up to 60, 70, 80, 90, veering from one lane to another to whiz pass the slowpokes because the machine is yours and so is the road.
I believe that you may be the audience for an article in The Washington Post by Neely Tucker, whom an editor has evidently encouraged to write with Attitude. The article describes, indulgently, your rage at those speed cameras municipalities put up to fine you for driving at 50 mph past a schoolhouse. The impertinence, the gall of these bureaucrats to limit your freedom to treat a city street as an autobahn, and the greediness to make you pay when you do.
For my part, fussy old bourgeois that I am, driving a mere Chevy and pretty much staying within a few of miles of the speed limit, I wouldn’t mind seeing more cameras. I would have liked to see the driver who sailed through a red light at Hamilton and Harford while gabbing on a cell phone, nearly striking my son and me,* pay a fine. I think that the driver in the black Mercedes who sped down Virginia Avenue in Towson and ran the stop sign as I was making a turn one Sunday ought to have to write a check.
The interstate is worse, with all the cowboys and cowgirls whose lives are so much more important than mine going 20 and 30 miles above the speed limit on their urgent errands. There is no chance that the state will ever be able to hire enough police officers to curb them. Better to put up cameras.
Oh, and the objection that municipalities make money off those fines? Don’t you think that maybe people who break the law are an apt source of revenue?
*And I had observed the standard Baltimore pause after my light changed to green to avoid that very hazard.