The camera flashed. I was nailed. Case closed.
Official notice arrived by mail with mention of a $50 fine and grainy photographic evidence from the crime scene — my humble Honda Fit going through an intersection on Eastern Parkway and Utica Avenue in Brooklyn.
I remember the moment. Behind me, a car was close. The traffic light was yellow — no, oops, now it was red — and I was in the murky otherworld of modern motoring. Hesitant to have the Fit’s rear-end (or mine) radically altered, I drove on.
Blink, went the camera. Aw, nuts, went I.
Like the bedeviled Mets, another aggravation.
This is not to engage the red-light camera debate.
Proponents say the system helps cut down on crashes and injury. Detractors claim it’s a cheesy revenue scheme for local government that makes drivers edgy and prone to overreaction. Hit the brakes unexpectedly to avoid a red-light ticket and there could be a pileup that stretches from Jericho Turnpike to the Grand Canyon.
Whatever’s best, I am for safety — 100 percent. Be careful. Show some courtesy. Behave yourself.
When crazies in their fast cars race past the house or along the harbor front, I wonder — as my father often did — where’s a cop when you need one?
How about the cowboys who weave in and out of traffic on the expressway like they were at Riverhead Raceway? Put everyone else in danger? Who cares?
Now there is something new — bikers blocking traffic so their pals can pop one-handed wheelies on the open highway. Some nerve. Did anyone ask if I wanted a ringside seat?
In life and on the road, I lean toward caution.
Fast-lane fantasies were snuffed early by family responsibility. We had four kids in five years — let’s hear it for Wink, my wife! — and you don’t go around corners on two wheels with all those little passengers strapped in behind you.
As a family, we were on the road so often Jack Kerouac would have cheered. California one year. Colorado the next. Cape Cod. Adirondacks. Montreal. Miami. Chicago. Wisconsin. Vermont. New Hampshire. Oregon. Ohio.
In six decades of driving, I’ve logged maybe a million miles. The odometer on one of our cars indicated 330,000 when finally we sold it. Mostly, I’ve tried to obey the law.
But, perfect? No. I’ve had a handful of tickets — OK, maybe two handfuls. As a young guy, I got a summons heading from Bay Ridge to Riis Park for a swim with a few pals.
“What’s the hurry?” said the officer somewhere near Floyd Bennett Field.
Taught to respect law enforcement, I was able to mumble only: “Sorry.”
“Fifteen miles over the limit,” said the fellow with the badge. “Careful.”
The next didn’t come until Wink and I were first married. We lived in a little apartment outside Colorado Springs. I was making $90 a week at a local newspaper. One Saturday, we went to an odd-lots place and bought a rug for $24.
Excited at the thought of upgrading our linoleum-tile living room, I lost track of the posted speed.
“What’s the hurry?” said the local constable.
“Sorry,” I said, forlorn.
“Fifteen over the limit,” he said. “Careful.”
I nodded and wondered if, perhaps, the Floyd Bennett guy had a twin. The fine for my infraction was — yes — $24.
We headed back to our little mountain duplex feeling glum. The price of the bargain rug had doubled. Making that $90 paycheck stretch was going to take exceptional creativity. How many Fluffernutter sandwiches can you eat in a week?
There were other tickets. I headed in the wrong direction on a one-way street in Crown Heights and made an illegal right near the Queensboro Bridge. Reporting a story for Newsday in Homer, Alaska, years ago, I was pulled over by what must have been the only policeman this side of the Yukon.
But I’m not the type to blast through the neighborhood Batmobile-style, cut you off on the LIE or freeze traffic as advance man for an impromptu stunt show.
Life being what it is, of course, (mostly) good behavior will not spare you comeuppance should you falter. Expect no special breaks along the way. Every now and then, a red-light camera is bound to blink.
On this score and many others, it is best not to grind teeth — careful of those bridges and crowns! — or howl at the gods: Why me?
The gods are sure to holler back: Why not?