I was sitting on the couch in the front room and looking absent mindedly out of the two front windows. My view was filtered by the fronds of the new small artificial pine tree. The tree was already decorated with clear white mini string lights and we had complemented the lights with glass ornaments and a few select silver ornaments that were collected through the years. It was mid December and the neighbourhood houses were wearing their Christmas lights together with other seasonal decorations. Dusk was arriving between four thirty and five; at the same time the postman was pushing letters into the letter boxes. Letters make a distinct sound when they are pushed through our letter box flap and allowed to fall into the metal box; even the cats had come to recognise the sound. We empty the letter box by reaching through a small hinged wooden door in the wall of the front coat closet. The obscure envelope arrived in the letterbox unexpected.
On the top left of the envelope was
The obscure envelope contained a Victoria Police Infringement Notice. According to a speed camera at the intersection of Fitzroy Street and Lakeside Drive in St Kilda, my detected speed was 52km/h but my alleged speed was 50km/h; the lower speed allowing for tolerance in the detection system. The permitted speed at the intersection is 40km/h. The infringement offence was exceeding speed limit in a vehicle other than a heavy vehicle by 10km/h or more but less than 15km/h. The infringement penalty was AUD $311.00 and 3 demerit points. The Victoria Police Infringement Notice arrived two months after I had been driving in Fitzroy Street, St. Kilda, Melbourne; just a few days before I left Australia to return to the US.
The Victoria Police Infringement Notice was a surprise and shock because whenever driving on the left side of the road just happened to come up in conversation I would nonchalantly announce that for me it was as a duck takes to water. If a cashier at the super market, an associate at the ACE hardware shop, or a server at a restaurant just happened to mention driving in Australia, I would, with a disguised sense of satisfaction and pride, recount driving to get petrol and having to chuck a U-ey because I had passed a servo a couple of clicks back. And I sensed their admiration and wonderment. I would gesture with my right fore finger, nod and with a smile softly say; on the left side of the road.
The Victoria Police Infringement Notice presented four options to resolve the infringement penalty
Pay in full by the due date to avoid additional costs and enforcement action
I replied to Dear Sir or Madam from the Civic Compliance of Victoria to request an Internal Review of the infringement offence.
I reside in the United States of America and was visiting Australia during November 2016. I rented a car to spend a few days enjoying the attractions of the Mornington Peninsula and Melbourne. I have been driving for 30 plus years in the States, which has a traditional systems of weights and measures; traveling distances are measured in miles and speeds are given as miles per hour. I was aware that Australia uses the metric system. So as not to confuse myself I chose my driving speed in Australia by going with the traffic flow. I am a cautious drive and unknowingly I drifted over the speed limit for a short period of time. I accept that at no time is speeding safe. I would like to request a caution or waiver for this infringement. I thank you in anticipation and look forward to visiting Australia again in the near future.
Not long after I posted my humble request for an infringement review I received a late payment infringement notice for AUD$333.60 which was followed by another obscure envelope with a letter denying my request for amnesty, because my offence was of such a serious nature that it could not be wavered. I struggled over if I should pay the infringement penalty. My ethics won through, so I sent the Civic Compliance of Victoria a US bank cheque for US $253.00; noting on the back of the cheque that the exchange rate when I purchased the cheque was 1.00 AUD =.7581 USD.
I hadn’t been in the US all that long when I first went for the driving skills and road test to get a Nebraska driver’s license. I drove a sixties or seventies two door Ford automatic for the test; a big car when you were used to driving a VW beetle, Mini Cooper, or Holden EH station wagon. I was still used to the steering wheel being on the right side of the car and the windscreen wiper controls and turning light indicators being on the other sides of the steering column; instead of flipping the turn signal with your left hand I did it with the right hand; and gear changing was done with the left hand.
The woman evaluating my driving skills and practical knowledge of the road rules thanked me for opening the car door for her. I was the only one that knew I had gone to get in the wrong door; the steering wheel is on the left side of the car in the US. She was cheerful to my reply of; no worries, she’ll be right mate. And we both started an enjoyable conversation; she had an insatiable appetite for everything Australian. I stopped at the exit to the mall parking area and my examiner, without looking up from her clip board, requested that I turn right. And turn right I did; onto the left side of the road.
She stopped her next question about Australia’s unique collection of animals mid sentence, looked up from her clip board, turned to me and said; do know you’re on the wrong side of the road. I thought this was a new question that she had just thought of about driving in Australia; I started to look around a bit and think about an answer. The cheerful lady interrupted my thinking with a firm; you just turned onto the wrong side of the road. As I veered to the correct side of the road I looked over to her, smiled and said; no worries, she’ll be right, mate. And I was soon on a straight stretch of road and the enjoyable conversation about Australia continued. I was stopped at a corner and my driving skills and road test examiner punctuated my discourse on the fair dinkum backyard Aussie barbie with; turn left here. And turn left I did; onto the right side of the road. After another smile and no worries, she’ll be right mate I politely asked her to stop talking to me; suggesting she was distracting me. We drove in silence for several miles, and with renewed concentration, I turned onto the correct side of the road at the next five corners. My examiner wrote something on the clip board paper when we arrived back in the mall parking area. She turned to me and said; you know what you did back there with the turns onto the wrong side of the road was an automatic disqualification, but I’m going to recommend a license anyway. I smiled and said; no worries, she’ll be right mate.
After posting the cheque to Civic Compliance of Victoria for US $253.00 my guilt from the infringement offence in the The Land Down Under was tamed. Now I was renting the flat so I could choose the curtains. Twelve days later later another obscure envelope was in the letter box. The US $253.00 bank cheque was still stapled to the photocopy of the infringement notice that I had stapled it to. An accompanying letter began with
Dear Sir/Madam, I refer to the above Infringement Notice Number. We are unable to accept your cheque as Civic Compliance Victoria can only accept cheques issued in Australian dollars. You can pay by one of the payment options below.
1. Send your Bank Draft (in Australian dollars) with this notice to: Civic Compliance Victoria, GPO 2041. Melbourne Vic 3001
I explained to my US bank that I would like to deposit a bank cheque that I had purchased and made out to the Civic Compliance of Victoria back to my account.
And now I am wracked with worry because the drivers license demerit points exist somewhere in limbo and the demerit point columns at the Civic Compliance of Victoria won’t balance. I suppose I could convert my Nebraska drivers license into a Victorian license so the 3 demerit points could be assigned to a license and the demerit point columns at the Civic Compliance of Victoria would balance. The paperwork can be completed online and the interview appointment can also be scheduled online; but I must be living in Victoria. But I don’t suppose there’s cause to worry about the 3 drivers license demerit points because as we enter the era of digitisation of everything, Civic Compliance of Victoria will create a digital record and assign the demerit points to a virtual licence.
The final obscure envelope arrived not all that long ago and the accompanying letter began
Dear Sir/Madam, We acknowledge receipt of your recent inquiry in relation to the Infringement Notice above and wish to advise you that the matter is now finalised. Should you have any further questions please do not hesitate to phone or attend in person at the above address. Our hours of business are 8:00am to 6:00pm, Monday to Friday, except public holidays. Alternatively, you can visit, fines.vic.gov.au for further information.
I checked back on all the correspondence in the obscure envelopes and whenever there was an enclosed letter the closing was never signed. It just read Correspondence Officer. I think I would like to begin a new career as a Correspondence Officer.