“Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
Joe Friday, Dragnet
Road trips are a great way to see new sights, visit old friends… and break rules you’ve never heard of.
Here are three true-crime stories describing how you, too, can enter the land of the lawless on your next interstate outing. The names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.
Case 1 – Bonnie and Clyde Get the Toll Booth Blues
“What’s that?” Bonnie looked up from her books just as she and Clyde breezed by an Illinois toll plaza. They were leaving the state after a week-long visit.
“It’s a little shopping center,” Clyde said. “We’ve passed a bunch of them. Pretty clever. You can buy gas or goodies without getting off the toll road.”
“Really?” She wrinkled her brow. “You sure we’re not supposed to pull over?”
“Naw,” Clyde said. “It’s just like Pennsylvania. You pay when you get off the toll road.”
But her question made him wonder. Clyde watched as he passed the next toll plaza, and he saw cars passing through the plaza and then immediately re-entering the highway.
“Maybe you’d better check the Triple-A book.” Clyde said.
So Bonnie turned to the Auto Club’s Illinois tour book, page 21: “Good Facts To Know.” It listed vehicle laws dealing with seat belts, teen driving, helmet requirements, move-over regulations to protect construction workers, radar detector, and even the regulations pertaining to carrying firearms in your car. But toll booths?
ZIP. ZERO. ZILCH.
Clyde was coming up fast on the last toll booth that stood between him and the freedom of the interstate highway. He studied the bank of cameras trained on the traffic.
“Anything about tolls in the index?” he asked.
“Nope,” Bonnie replied.
Clyde chewed on his lip, pulled up to the booth, and rolled down his window. He paid the attendant $3.60 and asked.
“Miss, am I supposed to pay at EACH toll plaza?”
She laughed. “Where you coming from?”
“California,” Clyde said.
“No, sir. I mean where all have you driven?”
“Oh, this week? All over the place.”
“Uh huh,” she nodded, “You’ll need to look this over,” she said and then gave him a snazzy map of Illinois courtesy their Department of Transportation. It featured their lovely TOLL PLAZAS.
There are, basically, four bazillion of them.
She then handed Clyde a form describing how to remit unpaid toll. “You have a week,” the attendant said. “And then they become a violation.”
“Violation?” Clyde blinked.
“Yes sir. They can suspend your license and car registration.”
So Clyde spent that night studying his “free” map. He reconstructed his week of travel and misadventures. Then he paid the tolls online. It was like playing Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? except that Clyde and his V.I.L.E. partner were trying to AVOID arrest.
Bonnie looked over his shoulder as he checked off tollbooth after tollbooth.
“Did you miss any?” she asked.
Clyde shrugged. “I guess we’ll find out when the coppers come a knockin’ on our door….”
Bonnie hugged his neck. “They’ll never take us alive.”
MORAL: “What you THINK ‘know” may not BE so, and don’t count on the Triple-A handbook to keep you out of the pokey.”
Case 2 – A Buffalo-Gal Gone Wrong
Bonnie, Clyde and their friends—The Barrow-Gang—traveled to a state park in an undisclosed location. In this park there were real buffalo. Bonnie watched them, photographed them, oohed-and-aahed, and then got back in her car to leave.
On the way out, the gang noticed a life-sized artistic statue of a buffalo. One member of the Barrow gang suggested that Bonnie climb on top for a photo opp.
“Is that OK?” Bonnie asked.
“Sure. Why not,” the gang-member-friend assured her. “That’s what it’s there for.”
Bonnie walked around the buffalo, deciding on her plan of attack.
“Sneak up from the backside,” a friend said.
“Take a run at in and jump on,” another suggested.
So Bonnie did.
She grabbed the tail and slithered forward. She wrested herself into position amid a hail of photo-flashes and laughter.
“Lane Frost you’re not,” Clyde said.
Eventually, Bonnie dismounted and returned to the car. Clyde lingered a few minutes, reading the informational placard.
Then he noticed this sign on the base of the buffalo: “Do Not Touch.”
When Clyde called this to Bonnie’s attention, she was horrified, covered her face, and insisted that the group leave the park immediately. Their getaway Prius took off it a cloud of dust… racing along at a daring 5 mph under the posted speed limit. Their whereabouts are presently unknown.
This sad, cautionary tale is offered to teach the following lesson.
MORAL: Children, it’s just like Mom said. Friends can be trouble, especially when they lead you down the garden path… to a fiberglass buffalo.
Case 3 – The Chardonnay Criminal
Poor Clyde had his heart in the right place. He bought a case of wine and then took in on a road trip. The plan was to offer gifts to friends along the way.
First stop, Utah.
It was dinner-time, and Clyde was seated with Bonnie and his gang of friends when he offered a bottle of Palo Cedro’s finest to his host.
“This is for you,” Clyde said.
The host took the bottle, smiled, and shook his head, and looked over at the box in the corner. It proudly bore the label “Amber Valley Winery.”
“You brought this with you?”
“All the way from California,” Clyde replied. He smiled broadly.
“How nice,” the host said. “But Clyde, I must tell you, that you’ve committed a felony.”
Bonnie almost choked on her dinner.
“What?” she exclaimed. “Are you SERIOUS?”
“Oh, yes,” our host assured us. “Only approved wines may be transported into the state.”
Clyde’s smile froze on his face.
A quick internet search took Clyde to the website of Utah’s DABC – Department of Alcohol Beverage Control. Here he learned that his host was quite right. ONLY the DABC may import alcohol into the state. There’s an exception for possession personal use… (when permission gained BEFORE entering the state) of not more than two liters. Accredited foreign diplomats also are allowed a waiver.
Alas, Clyde was no diplomat, hadn’t gotten prior permission, and he had much more than two liters.
There was a lively discussion at the table of what, exactly, should be done with the incriminating evidence. During this discussion much of the contraband was in fact destroyed, one sip at a time.
And once again, Bonnie and Clyde consulted the Triple-A Tour Book for guidance. They searched its pages in vain. There wasn’t a single word about the risks of bringing booze into Utah—the “Industry” state. Apparently this is something that everyone is supposed to know from birth, a decent education, or appropriate bedtime reading such as Utah’s novel liquor-law statutes.
Moral: Bad news—what you don’t know—and what isn’t listed in the Auto Club’s Tour Book—can get you arrested. Good news, you can whip out your Triple-A card to get a bail bond. You won’t find that on the back of their card, but it’s true.
Just dial 1-800-222-1134.
And tell them Clyde sent you.
Robb has enjoyed writing and performing since he was a child, and many of his earliest performances earned him a special recognition-reserved seating in the principal’s office at Highland Elementary. Since then, in addition to his weekly column on A News Cafe – “Or So it Seems™” – Robb has written news and features for The Bakersfield Californian, appeared on stage as an opening stand-up act in Reno, and his writing has been published in the Funny Times. His short stories have won honorable mention national competition. His screenplay, “One Little Indian,” Was a top-ten finalist in the Writer’s Digest competition. Robb presently lives, writes and teaches in Shasta County.