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The Column

Steve vs. Kentucky
11/21/04

Damn their blue grass. Damn their Wildcats. Damn their fried chicken. I’m officially declaring war on the state of Kentucky.

If you’ve been reading my column for longer than one week, you’ll remember that I was in a spinout car crash in that state. Though I was thankfully spared, my car and my dignity were not, and I resolved to sue Kentucky, since the state police were the ones who caused the accident. Little did I know that Kentucky’s laws make about as much sense as, well, living in Kentucky.

Ooh, dis. Steve 1, Kentucky 0.

I called the Boone County police to determine if the officer that caused the accident did everything he could to avoid it. He had parked on the interstate due to an earlier accident, and hadn’t used signal flares. I asked if officers, when parked on the interstate, are required to use signal flares. Yes they are, someone told me, unless they’ve run out or don’t feel it necessary. Nice. Steve 1, Kentucky 1.

I recounted the whole story for the supervisor – about how the cop was rude to me, about how he didn’t even notice my accident, about how he made me wait by my smoking car while he filled out paperwork. His supervisor seemed very concerned and assured me the guy would at the least, be called into his office and reprimanded verbally. Steve 2, Kentucky 1.

The supervisor took the cop’s word over mine and didn’t reprimand him at all. According to Officer Jerkface, I ran over to him very angry, and I told off the tow truck driver that had been on the scene from the previous accident. Odd, since all I said to the tow guy was “I was just in an accident” and all he said was “tell the officer.” But somehow, that was me telling him off. Steve 2, Kentucky 2.

But the tow truck driver would be honest, wouldn’t he? No. The tow truck driver’s business is directly related to the police. When the cops see a car in a ditch, they can call whatever tow company they want – and this guy wants to stay in good with the officer. So if the officer says I approached the tow guy wearing a silly hat and dancing the watusi, he’ll agree. And I don’t even know the watusi. Steve 2, Kentucky 3.

I threatened to sue, but not in a threatening manner. In a cordial, “I really don’t want to pursue legal action” manner. The supervisor explained that before a lawsuit, I’d have to file a written complaint. “No problem,” I thought, “I’m a writer and I complain constantly.” Then he explained that I’d have to file the complaint in Kentucky. And not at my leisure, either – to make it official, they’d set up an appointment to interview me about it. If I couldn’t make it, the complaint was over. Steve 2, Kentucky 4.

Let’s imagine that I could make their appointment and the tow truck driver drops his wild claims about me doing the watusi. I also have no legal ground to stand on. In Kentucky, no matter what the reason, if you hit someone from behind, you are guilty. They could be driving without break lights, they could cut you off in traffic, they could drive backwards into you, it is still legally your fault. Recently, an off duty police officer was driving on the interstate when he came upon a drunk woman passed out and parked in the road. He slammed his breaks and hit her from behind – and had to pay for the damages. But I didn’t hit anyone from behind, so how does this all apply to me? The root of the law is that a driver needs to maintain control of their car no matter what – and since I could not recover my steering after swerving to avoid hitting the cop from behind, that, in the Kentucky court system, is the same thing as actually hitting the cop from behind. Steve 2, Kentucky ridiculous.

The supervisor admitted that the law was morally wrong, and that the police should always have signal flares, and that there should have been signs telling motorists to slow down on that curve (several cars crash there EVERY WEEK). He also admitted that the officer could have waited to do his paperwork until after the clear danger had subsided. And lastly, he admitted that there wasn’t really anything I could do about it, beyond write that complaint. Steve helpless, Kentucky wins.

I don’t have time to fly to Kentucky to make my appointment, so this column is my written complaint. If the officer thought I was angry then, imagine me now - $4,000 and several hours of my life poorer. Maybe I’ll hold a benefit show to raise the money for a new car. If it’s successful, I’ll use the extra cash for a few signs on I-75 warning people that there’s stupidity around the corner.

I will still perform in Kentucky – one of my favorite clubs is in Louisville. But when I do, I will trash that officer more than you can imagine. I’d print his name now, but, according to the laws of Kentucky, he’d be allowed to sue me.

And he could use the tow guy as a character witness.

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