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The Car Trip From Hell

August 28th, 2008 by skippy

So a few weeks ago me and my wife went out to Gen Con. I got to meet a bunch of people who worked in the table-top game industry, and I spent way too much money on new toys.  I even got a few leads on getting a publisher for that North Pole Zombie game I made.

All-in-all it was a pretty decent trip.

But during the trip there, things went horribly awry.

First we were late getting on the road.  No big deal in and of itself, stuff came up at work, and I stayed for a few extra hours to help out, because I like to be helpful. (Stop sniggering.)

So I was late in getting home, which meant I was late in getting on the road. Not a problem, as I was letting my wife drive. She likes to drive fast. Which is fortunate because we were taking I-90 through Chicago.

If you’ve never driven on I-90 around Chicago the most important thing to remember is that people there like to drive fast. If you try driving the speed limit, you will probably cause an accident. Plus old ladies will pass you and call you names.

So my wife is driving and we had just gotten through Chicago, pretty much keeping up with the traffic around us when we see blue and red lights in the rear view mirror. Great, we were being pulled over.

No big deal. I was thinking, it’ll just be a traffic ticket. In fact it would be my wife’s first traffic ticket so I was really not too worried. We’ll just mail the fine in once we get home.

Well it turns out that they have a funny law in Illinois. If you get pulled over for speeding they take your license.

I don’t mean that they cancel it. My wife can still legally drive. I mean that they take the driver’s license card with them once they leave. Once you pay the fine or go to court they give it back. And most of the time the police officer won’t take your license, so they’ll just have you sign for the ticket. But it is an option if they so choose.

Of course, if you don’t want to lose your license on the spot because, for instance, you are leaving the state and need to use it as ID, well they have a few solutions for that too. One is that you can get a bond card from your insurance company. Basically it’s like a mini-credit card, that you give over to the cop instead of your license. We had never heard of such a thing, so naturally we didn’t have one.

The other option was that we hand the police officer cash on the spot.

I learned that these were the options, because the police officer explained this to my wife and I. Repeatedly.

“I’m going to take your license as a bond, until you pay the fine or go to court.”
“But I need my license for ID.”
“Well then you need to pay the 95 dollar fine in full right now, cash only, exact change please.”
And then the officer gave us pretty much the same look that my ferrets give us when we’re eating ice cream.
The look that says, “Hey I want that. Gimmie. Plus I plan to poop in your shoe later.”

The officer, by repeating key parts of the previous conversation made it plain that we were either going to hand over a big wad of cash or my wife’s license.

So basically a cop from a small town outside of Chicago kept us on the side of the road, and shook us down. I had no idea that stuff like this was even legal in America any more. And it turns out that we didn’t have exact change, so we offered to pay 100 dollars, and let them keep the change. It turns out it’s not legal to overpay. I’m sure that this is someone’s idea of keeping the police honest. Which is laughable when they are allowed to demand cash on the spot. Since we couldn’t pay the exact way that they wanted, they took my wife’s license and sent us on our way.

And because we had to get back onto the highway from the shoulder we missed our exit, which was even more unfortunate that it sounds, because we did not notice it.

By the time we realized that that we must have missed our turn, we had wound up in what the movie Deliverance has taught me to be “Banjo Country”.

“Maybe we should pull over and ask if we missed our turn.” My wife suggested.

“Are you crazy? What if the guy we ask thinks I have a pretty mouth? I’ll get gang-raped to death, and you’ll be dragged off into the woods to be some hill-billy’s mistress. Let’s just keep driving until we run out of gas.”

Side note: this is also why I will never own a canoe.

Eventually we did find our way back to the highway we wanted. But we missed the next turn too.

And the next one.

And the next one as well.

So what should have been a three hour trip tops, turned into a six hour extravaganza.

Once we arrived in Indianapolis the fun didn’t stop however. You see we had a hotel room fairly far away from the convention. This way, we could get a nicer room, fairly cheap. It did mean that we would need to find parking closer to the site the next morning.

The next morning, we discovered something interesting about Indianapolis. They don’t seem to like the idea of people parking their cars. There were a few parking garages, but they were all full. After about 45 minutes of driving around downtown we tried the local sports stadium. I figured that had a great big empty parking lot, and would probably have some sort of paid parking available if there wasn’t a game going on. So I drove up found a spot and went into the gift shop/ticket to ask if I was allowed to stay there for the day.

The only employee present was a little dottering old man. Imagine if Joe Lieberman and Droopy Dog had an illegitimate child together. He appeared to be sorting through some paperwork, while waiting to see if he could collect the “Hellfish Bonanza”.

“Excuse me sir,” I began, “do you know if I am allowed to park in the lot out there?”
“What are you here for?”
“I’m here for the convention two blocks over.”

His eyes narrowed. His fists clenched. His jowls shook with tiny old-guy rage.


“Alright, thanks anyways, do you know any places nearby where I could?”


“I got it. I’ll leave. But do you know-“


“Right so I-“


He then waggled his finger at me in an authoritative and dismissing way.

“Okay! I’m leaving. Calm down.”

He cocked his head, and gave me a puzzled look, as if he was working through a very difficult word problem.

After a few seconds of intense concentration, his eyes lit up, as if after a taxing mental journey he had arrived at the perfect solution to our problem.


And with that, we left.

We did eventually find a parking garage, quite a distance away, that had room for us. And only charged twelve dollars for all day parking.

And so we went to the convention, hung out, had fun, and later that night went back to the parking garage.

It was locked up.

There weren’t any signs listing hours or anything. No reasonable way to notify customers that there was a deadline to pick their car back up. But there was a giant metal gate keeping us out.

“No problem,” I thought, “We’ll just catch a cab back to our room, and then pick our car up tomorrow. We might have to pay extra or something, but this won’t be a big deal.”

And so we take a cab, and come back the next morning. It’s still locked up. And now we’re standing next to a parking garage with all of our stuff, and no way to get to our car. And I came to a realization. A parking garage that is closed on Saturday, is probably not going to be open on Sunday either. Which means that I will not be able to get my car back until Monday. Which is when I am supposed to be back at work.

Fortunately there was a number on the garage that we could call if we had an issue. Turns out that people who don’t open their parking garage on Saturday aren’t big on answering the phone either. But the helpful answering machine message did let me know that they would be back on Monday.

Eventually, I discovered that the smaller, human-scaled doors on the garage where still unlocked, even though the larger automotive scaled doors weren’t. So at the very least, I could head upstairs and put our baggage into the trunk, so that we didn’t have to carry it around all weekend.

While I was in there heading for my vehicle I ran into another driver.

“Is that your wife outside with a suitcase?” He asked.

I thought about how all things car-related had been going for me this weekend. And then I thought about my wife. Specifically, I thought about how good she is at keeping her temper when she has been under a lot of stress and frustration. I thought again about how things had been going this weekend.

“Maybe.” I answered, preparing to throw my backpack at him and run away.

“She said you were stuck in here. I have a pass card that will open the gate. I can meet you down there and let you out.”

Next year I’m going to fly.

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29 Responses to “The Car Trip From Hell”

  1. Stickfodder Says:

    Quick question, when you couldn’t find parking why didn’t you drive back to the hotel and take a taxi to the convention?


    Janice reply on August 28th, 2008 7:27 pm:

    Hotel was too far for that considering that we had a few trips worth of squid pie stuff to go in a friend’s booth. And we didn’t know where the booth was. Or how much room he had. Etc. :-P


  2. SPC Hyle Says:

    Holy crap. Did you not attempt to use your powers of minor internet celebrity to get yourself out of your wife having to give up her license as collateral?

    Captcha: speakers $1.25 Wow.


  3. Jim Says:

    Wow…. You beat my worst GenCon experience hands down.


  4. SKD Says:

    I don’t know about Illinois, but most places I have been you are not, by law, allowed to drive unless you are in physical possession of your license. If this is also true in Illinois then it would add another layer to the shakedown the cop was pulling on you.

    Next year you need to just recreate the Blues Brothers chase scene :P

    Captcha “be Holland”- but I don’t like tulips :(


    Janice reply on August 28th, 2008 7:28 pm:

    The cop answered when I asked the same thing. They give you the ticket…and that is your ID. Uh huh, yeah, that doesn’t work for anyone else who is not an Illinois cop.

    Total shakedown.


    Janice reply on August 28th, 2008 7:43 pm:

    Er, I mean the ticket is what allows you to drive legally in Illinois without a license in hand. Basically, they treat it like a driver’s license.

    I did have to shell out recently for my first state ID card just so I could get things done this week.


    echoesofwonder reply on August 28th, 2008 9:07 pm:

    Unfortunately… Michigan takes your license too.

    I live very close to Michigan and Illinois, and there is one thing that I would suggest… if you are going to speed… speed in Indiana.


  5. JRGuinness Says:

    What do you expect from a state that has these laws on video games?

    Captcha: “Of Flames” – where the lawmakers in Illinois come from.


    barry reply on August 28th, 2008 10:23 pm:

    the law links too much to read


    JRGuinness reply on August 28th, 2008 10:40 pm:

    Yeah, it’s Illinois’ laws on violent and sexually-explicit video games. Apparently self-governance is not enough, they have to have laws going after retailers.


    Brina Ferret reply on August 30th, 2008 12:38 pm:

    for the protection of minors ((illinois 16 and younger)), basically it’s so some little 11 year old git doesn’t go into a store and buy things like say porn related or GTA. cause god know if the think they can get away with it they’ll try, this law is to scare store owners into being aware of some of the little monsters running around today… and I specificly say 11 cause most kids 12-14 can either get their parents to do the dirty work cause they’re “mature enough” or have the good sense to have at least one friend who has tools for parents… yeah so they do serve a good purpose, to help kids put off identifying what that urge is they feel so often cause high school is soon enough to learn it’s the urge to kill

    captcha: “Jipped Walker,” Texas Ranger

  6. Jayson Says:

    Ohio state troopers do the same thing. When I was a kid, my family got pulled over for speeding and my dad was taken away in handcuffs for not having the money to pay the $100 fine. Mississippi, for a while was even worse. In the the early 90’s small towns would pull over cars with out of state tags then search them. If they found gambling paraphernalia (ie lottery tickets), they would confiscate and auction the car.


    SKD reply on August 28th, 2008 8:29 pm:

    In either of the situations outlined here I would have sued the knickers off of the district in which it happened for unlawful and corrupt behavior(or whatever the proper legal accusations would be.)


    JRGuinness reply on August 28th, 2008 11:17 pm:

    I researched this issue and it is state law that this is supposed to happen. you can read about it here. Therefore, suing is not an option. Maybe something under the “Full faith and credit” part of the Constitution would work, but I doubt it.

    Normally I love reading through penal codes, but the Illinois codes are so convoluted that it makes it painful. One part of the code will seem to contradict something that was established 3 or 4 lines before it.

    They don’t even say that “this new section overrides the previous section,” they just go right into the conflicting statements.


    SKD reply on August 29th, 2008 6:01 am:

    I believe there also statutes in some states that disallow the seizing of out of state licenses or having that states license seized while out of state, at least in situations like these.

    I have seen cases where an out of state license could not be suspended/revoked except by the issuing state.

  7. TGOBG Says:

    Back in 2003 I was forced to go back to Illinois after the death of my father. I hadn’t been back since i joined the Air Force almost 20 years earlier. On this unfortunate occasion i was headed back to bring his “Cremains” to be buried next to my mom who had passed years earlier. As it happens I was driving his Bright Red IROC Z-28 with Florida tags when I happened to zoom by a Illinois State Trooper at about 75 mph in a 55 zone (I was looking for Change for the toll booth and didnt recognize the Yellow striped car as important it looked like a Citizens Patrol Car like they have down south)as soon as I went through the toll booth, i was pulled over by said trooper. I rolled down the window and he did the license and registration thing, asked me what my business in Il was and I told him I was giving my father one last road trip in his car I pointed to the Urn wrapped in his flight jacket and buckled into the passenger seat. The officer who appeared to be a 7 foot tall body building black man went noticably pale when he looked down at the urn. He handed me back my license and just gave me a warning ticket, He also gave me directions on how to get where I was going


    Sgt. Spooky reply on August 29th, 2008 3:52 am:

    Just goes to show you, if you want to get out of a ticket, carry an urn with you everywhere you go……


  8. Jason Says:

    That’s way different than the version Janice told me. She just said you guys had fun! Total understatement Haha!


  9. Randy K. Says:

    Ah… IL state troopers… good times. Very polite officers… if you just have to be pulled over in IL, then they’re the ones you want doing it.

    Yah… as far as I knew (until today) IL was the only place that took you license as bond. As a side note, you can use your AAA card as a bond card as well.

    I’ve lived in IL all of my adult life… got my License at 16 and about 3 months later got my first State ID, since Crest Hill PD was kind enough to issue me my first speeding ticket.

    If your speeding in IL and are stopped by a State Trooper, when they ask you why you were speeding, tell them because you are stupid… I have a 50% success rate not getting a ticket… if they crack a smile, it’s going to be ok.

    Interesting story about out of state speeding tickets… while driving in New Mexico, I was doing 95 in a 75. Saw the state police cruiser as I passed, but since he was going the other way, I was sure he couldn’t cross the gully between the North and South bound lanes… heh… boy was I wrong. The nice state police office stopped my and wrote me a ticket. Being from IL I thought to ask the cost of the ticket, which was only $35. Well hell, I had $35 on me, lets take care of this right now. The office eyes me… and says “Sir, we are not allowed to take the fine.” Oh… my bad… “Really officer, in IL thaey are allow… really.” I got the distinct impression the office though I was trying to bribe him… which, I thought was really funny, since it was only $35.

    Skippy, it could have been worse… you could have been in WI with IL plates… then you choices are pay the fine on the spot or go to jail until a judge can hear the case. Seems that in WI if your from out of state (read IL, no they REALLY don’t like us) you either plead guilty or have to appear before a judge… but lucky for you, the WI state police are kind enough to have Credit Card machines IN THEIR CARS!

    And for those of you wondering… yes I did in fact learn that it is FAR cheaper just not to speed… I’ve been ticket free since 2004.

    BTW Skippy, next time your passing though Chicago, drop me a line, my brother in law is a brewer for Rock Bottom here and I’ll hook you up with some good brews and a tour.

    Captcha: Schuck slavery


  10. Morrogoth Says:


    you were way too optimistic for all of this to happen.

    1. you could always ask the cop to follow you to a nearest gas station, or store. I had an illinois cop ticket me for speeding and i didnt have 75 bucks, and being on my way back to florida, i informed him that i would like to go to the atm at the gas station, up the road a block away, on the outskirts of Waterloo, IL, since florida is a have to have license state and my night job demands i have a license (cabbie), he obliged, and promptly left, after taking 75 bucks.
    (that rule allows women at night who are unsure of the cop being a real cop, safety during pull overs)

    2. the hotel – cant say much except i would have booked in advance (like a month)

    3. parking sucks.


  11. Kat Says:

    My husband got out of a speeding ticket once by saying that he was on his way to the hospital to meet his wife… he neglected to mention that I work at the hospital.
    As a side note, cops in WA are dicks. I got pulled over when I was eight months pregnant and the cop asked if I had been DRINKING! I said, no and I’m sorry if I seem distracted I’m being kicked in my ribs, which are already bruised. The cops here have somehow mastered being SUPER polite, and dicks at the same time.


    Stickfodder reply on August 29th, 2008 11:42 pm:

    Why were you driving when you were eight months pregnant?


    Judy reply on August 30th, 2008 6:39 pm:

    Because the health insurance companies don’t fill prescriptions for Chauffeurs, and life goes on…


    Kat reply on August 30th, 2008 8:19 pm:

    I was on my way to work, actually. I worked the night shift at a hospital, it was about 10:45.

    Michelle reply on September 2nd, 2008 10:41 pm:

    Why wouldn’t she drive when she’s eight months pregnant? The world doesn’t stop because you’re pregnant!


    Stickfodder reply on September 3rd, 2008 12:18 am:

    I was just thinking that It wouldn’t be that safe at eight months into a pregnancy.

    paula reply on September 3rd, 2008 5:57 am:

    Oh, stickfodder….”pregnant” is NOT a synonym for “sick and incapable”! (Heck, one of my sisters did a full oil change and tuneup on her car when she was 8-1/2 months pregnant. To this day, I still don’t understand how she managed to REACH everything; but as she said, she was bored and the car sure needed the work.)

    Yeah, a few women need to quit work earlier or even go on full bed-rest; but the vast majority are just fine, thankyouverymuch.

  12. Snyarhedir Says:

    You should declare war on Illinois, or at least create some psychological warfare propaganda against it.


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