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On Tuesday, my wife and I were flying low through Arizona's Kaibab National Forest. I crested a rise north of Jacob Lake and spotted a Department of Public Safety patrol unit coming the other way. It immediately lit up like a casino. I was caught.

I pulled over and waited. The patrol unit rolled in behind us, and the officer got out.

There's that moment between pulling over and rolling down your window — approximately a minute — to think up a good excuse.

I tried. My wife wasn't pregnant. I wasn't bleeding. I wasn't late for work. Nobody was shooting at me. Hell, I didn't have one.

"You were speeding," my wife said. "Admit it. Maybe he'll give you a warning."

Officer Gilberg arrived at the window. I gave him my license and registration. He asked if I knew how fast I'd been going.

"I have no idea," I said truthfully. "A hundred?"

It turned out to be only 12 mph over the legal limit. But that was too fast for the area we were in. Officer Gilberg said we might have rounded a corner and hit a moose or a buffalo. He had seen it happen.

Officer Gilberg took our papers back to his rolling light show and got in. We watched and pondered the outcome.

"You think he'll write you a warning?" my wife asked. "I think he will."

"Nope. He's hanging paper on me."

Having been a cop and done this exact same thing 10,000 times from the other end, I knew the signs. A few minutes later, Gilberg called me back to sign the ticket.

"I dropped your speed to 2 miles over the limit," he said. "That will save you about 50 bucks."

The fine for two mph over the limit was 98 bucks. He had caught me fair and square, and possibly even saved my life.

Hey, I've also seen what happens when somebody cuts the legs out from under a horse at 60 mph. They go to the hospital with most of the horse on their face.

I signed the ticket and thanked him. We shook hands. No hard feelings.

Back in the car, my wife examined the ticket. She couldn't believe that I had been written up for two miles over the limit.

It wasn't two miles over the limit. I was actually driving 12 over the limit. Writing me up for two was a break. Had he zapped me back when I was passing that &%#@! motor home at $523 over the speed limit, I might have gone to jail.

She didn't see it. Two seemed petty. Two mph wasn't that far from zero mph and a written warning. Why couldn't he have done that?

Eventually she conceded the point. Fifty bucks saved was 50 bucks saved. Maybe Officer Gilberg was just doing his job the best way possible.

Still, it made me think about all the times I've assumed that I knew someone else's job better than they did. How many times had I presumed to know what was going on when I didn't?

Ironically, my wife had been playing cop across most of northern Arizona, demanding that I stop driving so fast. But I ignored her. It's amazing how much of your attention a hundred bucks will buy.

Next time I'll just slow down and give the money to her.

Robert Kirby can be reached at or

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