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What will cause Tom's wife to have a breakdown: Tom, or red-light cameras?

My wife recently told our kids, "If I have a breakdown, it'll be caused either by Tom or those red-light cameras at River and Oracle."

Now, I've long been a proponent of those cameras, mostly because they might force butthole drivers to not be such buttholes. I have lots of friends who argue against them on civil-liberty grounds, believing that it's not a crime unless a cop catches you in the act. Of course, if that were the case, there wouldn't be a whole lot of murders solved, would there? Crimes are always adjudicated after the fact, using evidence gathered at the scene, like ... oh, say, a photo of the person committing the crime.

I would prefer it if we could have cops on every dangerous intersection in town, but that's not feasible. (Mike Hein says so, and he knows.) I've always thought it would be a good idea to just park empty cop cars along the roads and at dangerous intersections. People have a visceral reaction when they see a police car, and they all of a sudden remember all of the answers to the driver's test. It wouldn't cost that much to buy a bunch of cars and just park them. Then, police could do a shell game and have cops in maybe 10 percent of the cars on any given day, forcing the aforementioned butthole driver to ask himself, "Do I feel lucky today?"

There are actually two kinds of drivers to be afraid of: those who are just bad, and those who think they're really good. The bad ones ... it really isn't their fault. They're the ones who dance like Elaine Benes. It's like in an adult basketball league; there will always be the has-beens and the never-weres. These drivers who are simply bad are a concern, but not nearly as much as the others. There are, however, some amazing examples in the bad-driver category.

One of my basketball players, a really smart kid, apparently attempted an alchemy experiment, but instead of turning lead into gold, she turned her right foot into lead and got a speeding ticket. She went to traffic school, and the instructor there described a legendary woman in Green Valley who drives down the street holding a pair of binoculars to her eyes. The members of local constabulary even refer to her as "Binoculars Betty."

That's kinda funny and a whole lot scary, but not as scary as the intentional butthole. I've said before that if you ask 100 drivers of any age group to rate themselves as drivers, 95 or more will claim to be anywhere from above-average to outstanding. This obviously isn't true, but there's no telling these people. (It'll be a lot of fun in 20 years or so when they have to start prying the keys out of the hands of baby boomers who've been driving all their lives.)

I was driving a vanload of kids to the state basketball tournament one year, and I was in the diamond (HOV/car pool) lane on Interstate 10 in Phoenix. I looked in the rearview mirror and couldn't believe what I saw. Some guy was driving about 90 in that space between the HOV lane and the median and was passing cars like they were standing still. I would have gotten out of his way, but there wasn't enough space for him to squeeze between the wall and the van, so the poor guy had to get behind me. The Beemer he was driving must've had all kinds of electronics in it, because when he got behind me, the van somehow mysteriously slowed down. He eventually cut in front of somebody, passed me on the right, flipped me off, then zoomed back into that space where no one is supposed to be, and took off again.

You civil libertarians out there don't think it would be a good idea to have that guy on camera, do you?

Anyway, the cameras are the best thing that we have at the moment, and I'm all for them. When they turned the ones on at River and Oracle roads, I actually went to watch. I got a couple of Jack in the Box tacos and parked where I could watch the zaniness ensue.

(By the way, I've been eating Jack in the Box tacos for years, Mexican-food purists be damned. One time, my friend Skippy, who had converted to Seventh-day Adventist, was eating a couple, and I asked, "Aren't you a vegetarian now because of your religion?" He said he was but that the tacos were made of soy, not meat. While that may not be true, I don't care if they're made of toe jam; they taste good.)

The word about the cameras going operational apparently hadn't reached a lot of people, because it was business as usual at the intersection. There were more camera flashes than if Lindsay Lohan had shown up sober at some place.

My wife is completely spooked by those things, and she's a very good driver. (If somebody else says that, it makes it more believable.) I once said that my wife drives so slowly, she's got squished bugs on her back window. These days, as she approaches that intersection, she prays that she'll get a red light.

But, seeing as how she's married to me, her prayers are rarely answered.

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