Muscatine

speeding camera
No, it is not an archaic type of firearm, a wine, or the latest fragrance; it is a town in eastern Iowa where I got a speeding ticket. Sure, I know, “Don’t do the crime, if you can’t pay the fine.”

Allow me to explain my displeasure in more detail.

I got the ticket in the mail over two weeks after the alleged traffic violation. I have no idea how fast I was going as I was driving through Muscatine over two weeks ago. I wasn’t even sure I went through Muscatine. I am usually in a trance when I drive through Iowa.

I drove through Iowa to check on my elderly parents in Missouri. It happens to be in between Illinois and Missouri, I can’t help it, it’s just there, for many a boring mile. Yes, I was penalized while on an errand of mercy. (Sad face goes here.)

This is a horrible way to welcome out-of-towners to city of Muscatine.

Okay, I have been playing around the edges of my complaint until now.

What really goads me, is that I was assessed a fine by a machine. I know, sounds like the TV show, Person of Interest. The machine determined I was going 73 in a 45.

That will be $250.00. Cha Ching! Next.

Was I going 73 9n a 45? I don’t know! It was 15 days ago. There was no police officer to ask me if I knew how fast I was going. What if the machine was malfunctioning? All I know for sure is that a machine can take a picture of my car and zoom in on the license plate.

So, the city of Muscatine, Iowa, like so many others, relies on a machine to efficiently and dramatically boost the city’s income through traffic violation fines. That’s a good deal for the city, but a bad deal for humanity.

It is all so neat. I send my $250 to “Violation Processing Center, Muscatine Dept., 700 Troy-Schenectady Rd., Latham, New York, 12110.” Not only is the technology outsourced, so are the collections, making it even more convenient for the city of Muscatine.

No one looks another human being in the eye. Alleged violators have very little recourse because the nasty business is all outsourced.

Even if I am absolutely guilty of my “crime,” I am still deeply disturbed by something.

Let’s look at the big picture. Machines catch violators, as city employees and officials devote their time to other “more important matters.” Drones kill enemies (and families) as a pilot, weapons officer, and attorney sit at a console in Nevada, never actually confronting anyone. The NSA sweeps information on citizens’ phone calls, while looking for bad guys. Companies automate customer service to no one’s satisfaction but the shareholders, as their bottom line dramatically improves by not having to employ human beings. People text each other and do anything they can to avoid interacting with another person.

In the name of convenience and technology, we are allowing ourselves to be depersonalized. We are becoming cold-hearted cowards, never dealing with our own interpersonal conflicts. We are becoming less human and more like the machines we rely on.

Is that really what we want?

Muscatine officials, I hope you don’t have a smirk on your face when you deposit my $250, along with the thousands of dollars of the other violators sent to you by your outsourced business partner. There are “unintended consequences” to your automated system. Is that really what you want?

I know, I just made a connection between my speeding ticket, missile-launching drones, the NSA, and interactive voice response systems, and, yes there is a connection.

Here is an experiment. Let’s see what happens when we behave more humanly, interact more personably, stop looking for short cuts in dealing with people, and treat each individual we encounter with a certain human dignity.

This has to be the most righteous sounding bit of prose ever written by an “offender.”

About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
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