Old friends, speeding tickets, and the Peace Corps

Many years ago, I worked at a printing company in Atlanta called Foote & Davies.  I had a co-worker that became a good friend and was a lot of fun to work with.  I don’t think I laughed more on any job than I did while working with Alan.  I left that job, and later Alan left, our lives diverged, and we lost touch.

Fast-forward thirty years (yes I said 30).  During those thirty years significant world events occurred that brought Alan and me back into contact.  Personal computers were invented (thanks to Steve Jobs).  Facebook was created (thanks to Mark Zuckerberg), which would not have worked without the internet which Al Gore famously claimed to have invented.

Al Gore

Steve Jobs

Mark Zuckerberg


The stage was now set for Alan and me to reconnect using our personal computers, the internet and Facebook, which we did.

What a crazy day that was.  Not only did I get a blast from the past when Alan called, it was also the day we got the phone call from the Peace Corps placement office telling us we were gong to be invited to serve in Botswana.  I should have bought a lottery ticket that day.

A week or two later I was going to be visiting my sister in Suwannee, Ga, not far from where Alan’s business is and I made arrangements to drop in on Alan and his wife.  On the appointed day, I was driving on Peachtree Industrial Blvd. heading north, and was running late.  My foot was a little heavier on the gas than it should have been.  The road was one of those divided highways, with three lanes on each side, and not much traffic.  The speed limit was 55 and should have been 65.  But wait — when it passes through little Duluth, Ga the speed limit suddenly drops to 45.  The Duluth police are no fools, they saw an opportunity there, and so quite often on that stretch of road you will see a police car with a radar gun, flashing lights, and embarrassed motorists.  I learned all of this a little too late.  You get the idea.  I was stopped for speeding.

When the flashing lights came on behind me I pulled over into a parking lot right in front of a Brusters Ice Cream shop (my favorite), but I had no appetite as the police officer walked up to my window.  I was hoping the officer would let me off with a warning.  I had placed a Peace Corps sticker on the back of one of our cars but couldn’t remember which one.  I figured that if he saw the Peace Corps logo it might engender some sympathy.  I had another ace up my sleeve.  My driver’s license is a “Veterans” license; it has “VET” printed right on it indicating I am a veteran of the US Armed Forces.  Alas, the Peace Corps sticker was not on the car I was driving; and this officer had no respect for the fact that during the Vietnam war I had bravely served my country in the finance office of Grand Forks AFB in North Dakota for four years.  Come on… I could have froze to death up there.

Incidentally, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting with Alan and his wife Cindy.  I was glad to see how well he and his family are doing, and we are definitely going to get together again before we go to Botswana.

The point of this story is not really about Alan, or the speeding ticket.  By the way, the internet is also good for paying speeding tickets.  I paid my fine online about a week later using my Visa card.

The point is that my reaction to getting the ticket was, first and foremost, concern about how it would affect my Peace Corps eligibility.   In the Volunteer Handbook it states that if you have been charged or convicted of anything, even a speeding ticket, you have to let them know.  I knew that it probably wouldn’t matter.  People get speeding tickets all the time, especially in the early 20’s demographic that makes up 90% of Peace Corps volunteers.  But I worried,  “What if they decide that I am too reckless… what if they put our invitation on hold pending their own investigation…”   My mind raced.

I thought about not telling them, rationalizing that this is so minor they wouldn’t care.  Then decided that if they did care, then it would be worse if I did not tell and they found out somehow.  So I nervously made the call.  The first call went to voice mail so I tried again a few hours later and spoke to a nice young RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) whose job title is “Suitability and Security Program Assistant”.  As you probably already suspected, it was no big deal.  He asked me to email him the details.  Shortly after I sent the email he replied with his own friendly email saying, “Thank you for sending this in. This traffic ticket will not affect your eligibility for Peace Corps. Congratulations on your invitation to a Peace Corps program!”   I breathed a sigh of relief.

This little episode tells me I need to chill a little.  I am so emotionally invested in the Peace Corps that I seem to consider everything, in the context of our Peace Corps plans. I need to relax and take a more realistic outlook on things.  However, it is hard to do that with all our eggs sitting in one basket.  As I write this we have sold our house, our possessions are in a storage unit, and we are living with my mother-in-law, waiting for April 1 to come so we can fly to Africa.  We are “all in”.

I need to take the advice of a guy named Darren Alff who has done a lot of traveling on bicycle.  His web site is (http://bicycletouringpro.com/blog/).  He is about to leave for Peru on a long cycling trip.  He sent an email out in which he said,

“…So, as I go about my last few days here at home before flying off to Peru on a 6-month bicycle touring adventure, here is my reminder to you:  No matter where you are (whether you are at home, on the road, or somewhere in between) learn to appreciate everything you’ve got. Even the little things.  BE PRESENT…”

That is good advice that I need to follow.  I need to relax, be patient and try to be present here and now where I am.  Apparently, I also need to slow down while driving.

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1 Response to Old friends, speeding tickets, and the Peace Corps

  1. David Mobley says:

    Nice little read there… Just a tip though, while the internet IS good for paying fines, you should always go to court to plead your case. Sometimes it is thrown out, most often not. 9 times out of 10, the judge will remove the points from your record and just make you pay the fine. You can also have the fine reduced sometimes on top of that. I speak from experience! 🙁

    Anyway, I’m happy that you are going into the Peace Corp and am proud of you. Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow —

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