Doesn’t Anybody Care About the Rules?

The motorcycle policeman came out of nowhere (actually, he was behind a sycamore tree trunk) and pulled me over. The fact that I was twenty-one years old and dressed in a cute little purple velvet mini-skirt did not deter him from removing his metal clipboard and boldly writing me a big fat $73.00 ticket for making a Hollywood stop.

Now, mind you, this Hollywood stop was at a rural intersection in Stockton where, in those days, a motor vehicle driver had to be more attentive to wayward goats crossing the road than to meeting another car.

My tears bubbled up like a small Zen fountain purchased to create atmosphere. As I dabbed my dark eyes, now smeared with my mascara and eyeliner, Officer Knickerbocker remained stoic and mechanical and worse, kept writing.

When I went to court to protest my unjust legal blemish (still dressed in the purple velvet mini-skirt), the judge asked me if I knew the rules of the road.


The felons dressed in orange jumpsuits waiting for a legal ride to jail snickered.
The judge raised one bushy gray eyebrow.

Guilty Mrs. Sabraw. I suggest you go back and learn the rules of the road before you take your little tin can, I mean your 1972 Dodge Colt, back onto the streets of Stockton.

I left the court in a huff, my pink flats clicking officiously on the dirty floors of the San Joaquin County Courthouse. My brain started scrolling, not unlike a Las Vegas slot machine searching for three matching cherries. Two cherries and a plum. One cherry and two plums. Three cherries. The mental coins cascaded into consciousness, the bells rang, the point received, but instead of some sage message from God, my thoughts were of grammar. That’s right, Grammar with a capital G.

Some other person in my past had delivered an identical but less expensive message about knowing rules. That person was Inez Whooton, my seventh grade English teacher, a woman whose sole mission in life was to sear Strunk and White’s Elements of Style into hormonal immature mini-people’s mini-minds. She tried mightily to do this.

I was her star student. We had come to a formal agreement in a stern parent conference hosted by the principal: I was to give up my class clown status and she, even when frustrated beyond all realms, would never again throw a chalk laden eraser at me as I attempted to diagram a sentence in front of my peers.

You don’t know a subject from a hole in the wall Miss Block!

The fast-moving eraser was no dangling modifier; it hit the board right below the adjective.

I have come a long way since my 7th grade grammar attack and from my moving violation, but one strong message has remained clear:

Knowing the rules improves your ability to avoid a ticket.

Knowing the rules of grammar improves writing.

Do you see what I am getting at? ☺

About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
This entry was posted in Writing and Teaching and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Doesn’t Anybody Care About the Rules?

  1. tsblock says:

    Great topic! Yes, I see what you are getting at. This message applies in many ways to my generation, which seems to be driven by the notion that, if the rules are unfair, it’s not worth it to play. This attitude has been proven to be unproductive throughout history, time and time again. What my generation often fails to realize is that by turning its back on the existing system of rules, it further removes itself from a position in which it can have an affect on those rules. Rules are constantly being reinterpreted and rewritten (in our judicial system especially) because we realize that we have made some mistakes. If we ignore the rules that are currently in practice simply because we disagree with them, we will assuredly strengthen them with each passing moment of silence.

    Know your rules! You will either be a revolutionary, or much more successful at what you do!

  2. Ben says:

    And knowing the rules of the pool keeps you from drowning/injuring yourself/others!

    Sorry, I was a lifeguard for about 6 years and have been cussed out several times for closing the pool during lightning storms and other safety rules.

    Knowing rules do indeed make us accountable for those things we should know better than to do 🙂

    And congrats on being the Blog of Note today!

    PS I teach university composition, and I think you need some comics on your favorite books list 😉

  3. Christopher says:

    “…….boldly writing me a big fat $73.00 ticket for making a Hollywood stop……..”

    Being not a denizen of the Great State of Caleefornia, I don’t know what a “Hollywood stop” is. However, making a “Hollywood stop” must have been a serious offence because your fine of $73.00 – which I’m deducing was in circa 1971-72 (forty-something years ago) – would in today’s dollars be about $500.

    I’d like to think you’ve since ceased making “Hollywood stops”!!

  4. Cheri says:

    Hello Christopher,
    Please excuse my delays in reponding to your (always) fun or probling or charming comments but I am in the middle of grading final exams.
    A Hollywood stop is one in which a driver in a hurry rolls through the stopsign without coming to a full stop. My only other moving violation (although the one I write about here was erased from my record) happened several years ago. I wrote about it on my blog. It has to do with the red-light cameras (actually tax collectors) here in the Bay Area. I rolled while taking a right turn at 2 mph and the camera caught me to the tune of 471.00, I believe. I still haven’t learned my lesson!

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