Click It Or Stick It

Late one night a little over year ago, a BMW sailed off the road in Saratoga County and hit a fire hydrant and a tree. Three of the car’s occupants walked away — and one suffred a back injury that left her a paragalegic. Now, the driver is on trial facing charges that include DWI, vehicular assault, and reckless driving.

Killing or injuring a friend or family member in an accident is not uncommon, and it adds another layer of tragedy to a terrible, life changing event.

But here’s the thing: According to a story in the Daily Gazette, the victim testified that she was in the back seat and not wearing a safety belt.

In New York, the law does not require backseat passengers to wear a seat belt, but regardless of the law, my opinion on this is black and white: If you don’t wear a seat belt in the backseat, you’re a moron. Driving? Then it’s your responsibility make all the passengers wear their seat belts. If they won’t wear it, tell them they can get out and walk.

Unrestrained passengers are more likely to be killed or injured in an accident — and they’re also more likely to injure you as they bounce around your car.

No, sometimes a seat belt won’t help, but is that a gamble you’re willing to take? If so, ride with someone else.

Park at Your Own Risk

This isn’t about me wanting special treatment, it’s about common sense.

I recently parked my car downtown so I could move a bunch of boxes from one office to another. I figured I’d be out to fetch the car by 8:30, but I built in a little padding.

After being delayed, I went out to the car, where an Abany Parking Authority meter attendant was writing me a ticket — and this was at 8:51. Three minutes after my fee expired, I’m getting a ticket.

“You’re in violation,” she barked. “I’ve already written the ticket.”

Seriously? Three minutes?

After a bit of back and forth, the woman relented, but gave me a fuck you look as she stalked away. Yeah, you have a nice day, too.

So, let me ask you a question: should they ticket people the second their meter expires or allow a five to ten minute grace period. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like bullshit to pounce on violators the moment their time is up.

And pounce is what they do.

My co-workers claim that Albany Parking Authority’s pay stations and parking app alert officers of expiring payments. Think about it. If they know a car is expired in their patrol area, they can just stroll over and write a ticket. Or stroll over and wait for it to run out.

That sounds a bit conspiratorial — but why wouldn’t they do this?

I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t pay to park — or that rules should be ignored — but being overly aggressive may be bad policy. Welcome to Albany.

The Deerslayer

Saturday was supposed to be about raking leaves until my son called early in the morning. He said he was coming home with a deer. It was already dressed, he said, which momentarily summoned up funny images of a buck in a flannel shirt, but I’ve lived upstate long enough to know what dressed means.

He lives in an apartment, so there really isn’t a good way to skin and butcher a deer, so my house was the deer destination. I cleared out a space in the garage and screwed a big hook in the ceiling so the poor devil could be hoisted up by his horns.

I’ll spare you the details. but by mid-afternoon, my son and his girlfriend were vacuum sealing freshly cut venison on the kitchen counter.

My wife does not appreciate hunting, and she would certainly not like having a dead deer hanging in the garage. She was spared his earthy spectacle because she was gone for the day, off baking cookies with my sister in Poughkeepsie.

But fate’s a funny thing isn’t it?

Less that 12 hours later she called to say she’d hit a deer — a very big deer — not far from our house. She was fine, the car was a mess and the deer was MIA, having stumbled off into the woods.

Deer karma? Perhaps.

Before the tow truck arrived, I took a picture of the damage and wondered if the deer community would share pictures of wrecked vehicles the way hunters show off their prizes.

My son said I should have gone into the woods to find the deer. “No thanks — but don’t forget that your mother got a bigger deer than you did this year.”

The Menands Bypass

There’s a little known route that takes you from Menands to downtown Albany with few traffic lights and little traffic.

It’s that road that runs past Huck Finn’s Warehouse — Erie Boulevard, but I’ve always called it Huck Finn Street — and it delivers you into the heart of Albany without all the hassle. Now, the northern end has been extended all the way to Simmons Lane in Menands so it’s better than ever.

Simmons hooks up with Broadway within spitting distance of the old Montgomery Ward building — but this is so new that it’s not on Google Maps yet, which shows a gap in the road near the sewage plant.


Some of you are saying, “That’s great, Rob, but why not just jump on 787?”

Excuse me, but that’s not the point of awesome shortcuts! The point is to amaze your friends with obscure routes that get you around town like a magic portal. They won’t be very amazed if you take 787.

Walk this Way

The roads around my house have never been more dangerous. More cars, greater speed, less focus on driving — it’s all made things very tough on pedestrians.

I’ve complained about the lack of sidewalks in my end of town, and years ago the powers that be claimed they would be doing something about it. Well, years later the powers that be acted. For the past few months, a crew from the Town of Bethlehem worked to lay down nearly a mile of beautiful new sidewalk. This fills in a gap that now allows you to travel all the way from Delaware Avenue to Route 9W without walking in the road.


It may not seem like a big thing to have a sidewalk, but this has already made me safer. For years I’ve run on the road, usually before dawn, and while I’ve done so with reflective gear and a very bright headlamp, it always feels dangerous when a car passes.

I’d say this is better for drivers, too. Now they won’t be startled by some nut out running on the road at 5am, distracting them from their eating, drinking coffee, texting, folding newspapers, reaching into the back seat, smoking pot — whatever. Yes, the aroma of weed often wafts out from passing cars at that hour.

Now, if the motorists can manage to stay on the road, I have nothing to worry about.

Cover Your Ears

“That kid’s a terrible dancer!”

When I said that to my wife I was just kidding, but only a bit. Many of the little kids wildly dancing around in circles at this month’s Irish 2000 Festival, really were terrible dancers.

But could it be that some of them couldn’t hear the music?

A number of parents had outfitted their little squirts with earmuff style hearing protection to guard their wee ears from the Screaming Orphans up on stage.

I’ve seen this before, but never have I seen so many kids with the colorful protective devices. And they were side-by-side with just as many (or more) young kids without them.

Now, this is not the place for my observations about the parents. It would be wrong to make snap judgements based on their appearance, and I would never suggest that the ear muff crowd looked like insufferably annoying people. That would be wrong, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, I trust that the ear muff children will grow up enjoying the benefits that come with having better hearing: they will be more attentive in school, get better grades, go to more prestigious universities, earn more money and subsequently be better citizens.

In the end, the ear muff parents will have the last laugh against those fools that allowed their kids to enjoy themselves bare-eared without the encumbrance of those ridiculous looking but extremely practical accessories. The rewards in life will not go to the best dancers, but to the ones with the clearest hearing.

Road Kill

Have you ever run over a deer with your car? Well, let me tell you, it sucks.

High up in the Albany County Hilltowns over the weekend, a fawn dashed out from the woods and into the road. There was no way to avoid it; I tried to stop but it was too late.

It was a tiny thing, probably no more than a couple of months old, and as I walked back from my car, I was wishing for two things: either it would miraculously get up and run off into the woods or that it would be dead. But no, what I found was a gravely injured animal.

It was breathing and drifting in and out of consciousness — but as far as I could tell not suffering. This only made me feel slightly better. No, it was not my fault, but who could help feeling some of the collective guilt of all mankind. Cars are just a speck on the timeline of history, and it’s only relatively recently that deer/car collisions became a thing.

There was no damage to the car, but what about the deer? If it were dead, I would had dragged it from the road and been on my way, but this was more complicated. I called 911 and waited patiently with the deer. A couple of cars went by and I waved them away from the injured animal. My wife yelled to me from the car, “Watch out for bears!”

Bears? Yes, she figured that bears would emerge from the woods next, summoned like sharks by the scent of blood and prospect of an easy meal. Fortunately, two sheriff’s deputies arrived before the bears. They took down my information and sent me on my way, saying they’d put the animal down after we left.

I wonder sometimes if natural selection will someday bring us deer that are wise to cars, animals smart enough to stop and wait at the edge of the road and look both ways before crossing. Then we can blame them for being hit, and not ourselves.

Note: I have a picture of the deer here if you’re curious; it’s not gory, just sad.

Eye in the Sky

There are security cameras everywhere these days. That may not seem like a big deal today, but wait a few years. Even if you are a fine citizen with nothing to hide, I guarantee that cameras will eventually feel intrusive as marketers add them to the tools they use to target your behavior.

I know that sounds slightly crazy, but mark my words: it’s coming.

Despite these reservations about constant surveillance, I can get behind Albany’s plan to use red light cameras.

green streetI drive a stretch of Green Street in Albany every day, and I slow down and look both ways at every single corner. Why? Because people have so little regard for stop signs and red lights. On that .45 miles of road, I’ve seen more people barreling through intersections in the past six months than in my entire life of driving combined.

What is it that makes people think that the rules do not apply to them?

In my neighborhood I drive ten miles per hour below the speed limit because I know there are kids around. I stop at stop signs in the middle of the night when there isn’t another moving vehicle within a quarter-mile. I scrupulously keep it between the lines, even when driving through parking lots.

If you’re going to drive, you’ve entered into a social contract with the rest of us on the road — and those who think the rules don’t apply to them make the road unsafe for everyone.

Booting Up

You should always try to park legally, feed the meter, and be responsible about where you put your car. If you do get a ticket, just pay it promptly and avoid further aggravation. I haven’t always been perfect on every one of these counts, but we’re all a work in progress, are we not?

However,  if you spend any time in Albany, you should closely follow my advice.

Writing parking tickets in downtown Albany has become a big, huge deal. An army of parking enforcement officers roam around hunting for expired meters and cars parked where they don’t belong. I have even see them pull out a measuring tape and check how far vehicles are from the curb. Just doing their jobs — and it’s not a job that makes you any friends.

But in case you have neglected tickets, you must see this: parking agents now drive around with license plate scanners like the ones on police cars.

boot patrol
Note the scanners on the roof.

This means if you’re on the naughty list — or more accurately, the naughty database — you’ll get caught more easily than ever before. And unpaid fines may get you booted. Pretty soon, they’ll probably use the technology to enforce the new residential parking permit system.

Not making excuses for people with outstanding tickets here, but this is certainly another example of how we’re being monitored in our everyday lives. Some people say that being watched all the time makes for a safer and more orderly society. I say it’s a slippery slope.