Months passed. When the time for bike school finally arrived, I was too afraid to actually bike to the police station for fear that my as of yet uneducated self would do something horribly wrong cyclistically, so I sprinted there instead. This was a mistake.
It was one of those days where the cold settles on the ground like a mist…exactly like a mist actually, and the experience was made worse because I was running, which is always horrible. I feel like if some company ever invents nanobots that gain sentience and start swarming all over the country and when you breath them in they crawl from your lungs to your bloodstream and end up taking over your brain so that suddenly you have an uncontrollable urge to feast on succulent human flesh but when you take a bite out of a less than thrilled subject the nanobots transfer to their bloodstream, well, I guess what I’m trying to say is that running is sort of like that somehow.
I get to bike school, and it turns out you can only pay the $35 with cash, which is $33 more than I have. Yay! I sprint to an ATM, get completely lost, run through some bushes, and now I’m bleeding all over in very minor ways. When I eventually navigate the shrubbery and find my way back, I’m 10 minutes late. I walk into the room and the cop gives me this angry look, but in his benevolence, he allows me to stay.
He paces the aisles, taping our eyes open with the threat of having to repeat bike school, then pops some tape into a janky old VCR. We have to watch 20 minutes of people being killed in gruesome accidents while a narrator informs us in a heavy-handed voice of all the dreams and goals that were cut tragically short. But luckily, with about 25 simple rules, we’ll be able to avoid a similar fate. We proceed to learn all these rules, like wear a helmet and don’t bike off cliffs or into nuclear reactors, and then there’s some time for Q&A.
“Why can’t we skateboard on campus?” one kid asks.
Cop: “It’s a liability issue really. Cal Poly doesn’t want you to get hurt on school grounds.”
“But what if we won’t get hurt?” asks another kid.
Cop: “Well, there’s really no guarantees.”
“But like, I don’t get why we can’t skateboard on campus,” says a third kid. “Yeah, like can we change that or something?” says another. “Yeah,” says another “Cause like, dude, it sucks that we can’t do it.” “Yeah, man. It’d be sick if we could like, use our skateboards to get around.”
Suddenly I realize that I’m literally the only person in the room who got a bike ticket. Everyone else was a skater dude. Oh, and one creepy old guy with a super long ponytail. He kept grinding his teeth and eying the door. I kept my distance from that one.
Then one of the skater kids tells this sob story and the cop says well “it’s all shades of grey,” up to the judgment of the officer.
The kid: “Oh really? Because that’s the exact fuckin’ opposite of what the cop who wrote the ticket told me.” The kid slips into this over-the-top angry cop voice. “OF COURSE I’M GIVING YOU A TICKET! You broke the law, and the law IS BLACK AND WHITE!”
The cop sighs in a way that says I don’t know what to tell you. Can we just move on? The class is silent for a while, then he announces that we’ll be taking the test. I didn’t bring a pen (man, I was breaking the scout motto all over the place), so I borrowed one. The questions are on the TV—multiple choice. When it’s done, he tells us that we have to promise not to cheat and to mark which ones we got wrong, then the TV displays all the answers. Cop’s not even watching. Best 35 bucks I ever spent. Learned so much. I mean, I have kept my distance from nuclear reactors since then. If nothing else, the whole experience knocked the ticket down from $190 ($190 for a bike ticket?!) to like $85 (+$35 for bike school, so $120 total). Woohoo!
Stay tuned for The Final Chapter, in which Russ flees the country in order avoid paying the rest of the fee.