Q Gary, you stated that a carpool lane ticket was not a moving violation and didn't affect insurance premiums. I say, "Au contraire!" At least, USAA didn't go along with that. Back in the good old days, when I was commuting with "Henri," my companion dummy, I finally got nailed by a motorcycle cop. All I could say was: "Officer, desperate men do desperate things." They raised my premiums for three years!
A This is no joke? You aren't trying to fool me with a tongue-in-cheek story as another reader did recently?
Q No joke, Gary. It's time for "True Confessions." Henri was very realistic -- good head of hair, solid hands, blow-up body in a sitting position. I dressed him for the seasons and he wore shades to conceal the fixed stare.
We commuted for years and rode the diamond lanes with impunity. No patrol car gave us a second glance.
A And then one day ...
Q I met my undoing on Highway 85 and it cost me $300. But when I added up all of the times I used Henri, it cost me $2, which I'd pay willingly anytime.
After the Highway Patrol took Henri away, I received a postcard a couple of months later to "Come pick up your property." There was Henri all deflated in a little box. I was a bit gun-shy for a while, then Henri and I commuted once again.
Finally, Henri started losing air from various leaks. Sometimes he would sag as we approached a gendarme and I would have to stick an elbow in his ribs to prop him up until we passed the danger. Sadly, Henri became no longer viable and had to be retired.
A Baby-sized dolls in infants seats are also common. My favorite, though, is a guy on Highway 237 who dressed up a large dog and prompted a reader to write:
"Gary, I'm driving down 237 when I spot this car in the carpool lane. There's a woman passenger in the car with a hat on, only her long, floppy hair is really askew and I'm thinking she is having the worst hair day ever. I pull next to this car and the woman passenger isn't a woman, but a big, shaggy dog with long hair sitting in the front."
A common tactic is to dress up a baby-sized doll in a car seat. But the dog trick is my favorite. Can anyone top it?
A carpool ticket is not a moving violation and your insurance rates probably should not have risen, said Tully-the-Roadshow-Insurance-Expert. But a warning: Today that ticket would cost more than $500.
Q Regarding stories of clever carpool cheaters, I was on Highway 101 when I saw the final moments of a CHP officer who had ticketed a carpool cheater who was apparently using a full-sized mannequin in the passenger seat. The officer was walking away with the mannequin under his arm as the perp was pulling back onto the freeway. The kicker? This was a motorcycle CHP officer.
I've often wondered what he did with the mannequin -- strap it on the back of the bike?
A Now that would be quite a sight -- a motorcycle cop carrying a mannequin.