Sep 232003
 
Authors: Johnathan Kastner

Many of you out there already know about the automated traffic enforcement systems Fort Collins has, like the camera on the light at College Avenue and Drake Road. If you haven’t, you’ll probably be a victim soon enough. But what many of you don’t know is that these cameras are the beginning of the end for humanity.

It always starts in little ways – we’ve learned this from historical documentaries such as “The Terminator” and “The Matrix.” We give the machines control over something small, like a traffic light or a strategic missile defense system, and before you know it, Keanu Reeves knows kung fu. And I don’t want to live in a world like that.

But it’s already here. Not very long ago I myself was the victim of a machine’s brutal attack, and I’m not talking about getting my watch caught in the garbage disposal. The postman was the machine’s slave, and he brought me its terrible message of dominance. The letter said I had run a red light and owed the city $76.

I didn’t remember being pulled over, and I didn’t remember running any more red lights than usual, so I began to craft my snide reply. “Dear Sirs,” it began. “I regret to inform you that your accusation against me is likened to a maddened ape flinging dung upon the fine artwork of Matt Groening,” when the back of the letter caught my eye.

There were three color pictures, each with different angles of me traveling under what was very clearly a red light, in what was very clearly my car. Now that I saw the pictures, I remembered a bright flash as I went under an orange light a week past, but I had just assumed that it was a random neuron in my brain dying.

The camera was automated, the fine was automated, and I’ll bet their hollow, mechanical laughs as they processed my tear-stained check were automated too. The final straw was the picture of me, visible through my windshield, tapping the roof of my car to ward off evil red-light spirits. Underneath this clear show of guilt, there was a single statement. “You may contest these charges if you wish.” That’s when I knew the machines were mocking me.

For now their powers are limited to fining and mocking. But who knows how far automated enforcement will spread? What if we were constantly being monitored by ‘smart’ street signs? What if a little machine, similar to a robotic vacuum, zoomed into your house and sucked money out of the couch each time you went over the speed limit? And what if said machine scurried back to its base before you could smash it with your car?

Some of you may be thinking, “I’m a good driver, I don’t need to worry about ever making the mistake of going through an ‘orange’ light, because I’m perfect. My hard-earned money will remain mine forever and ever. Cherubs sing my name.” Good for you, a perfect driving record is the most magical three months of your life. The rest of you are probably thinking, “I’ll just be extra cautious when I know there’s a camera there.” That’s a decent plan, but there’s been talk about moving the cameras around to encourage terror. Or promote safety or something.

Now you should all be mobilized behind me in my campaign to stop the machines before their army of vacuums comes for us all. The first step is to of course put the country on Minty-green Alert. The next step is to write to mayor Ray Martinez and demand that the photocop responsible for my suffering be put on unpaid suspension. For now, they’re just taking our money. Tomorrow, they could take our children.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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