Paying the Piper

by Michael McGinnis

Debts come in two forms - first, there is the nice kind where you've done something good in the past, so something good is going to happen to you in the future. There is also the other kind where you've done something wrong, and life starts to figure out how you are going to get your "pay back", most often when you are quite comfortable and would rather not be bothered right now.

I know it is inevitable that I get "what is coming to me". I realize that if I break the law, I will reap the consequences of my actions. For years I have played fast and loose with one law in particular, with the emphasis on the 'fast'. Which is to say that I have been known, on occasion, to misjudge my foot pressure on the gas pedal in order to get to my destination just a little faster than legally possible. If the Bible was being written today, it would be hard to resist adding a twentieth century supplement to the old-fashioned ideas of temptation such as merely coveting the neighbour's wife etc. I refer of course to the seductive temptation to encroach on the 90 km/hr speed limit when the roads are geometrically straight, the surface is dry, there is little traffic, and visibility is approximately 100 km.

I had no doubt that someday my comeuppance would find me. Even so, I was surprised when the RCMP truck flashed his lights at me to stop as I was coming back from Whitehorse a couple of weeks ago. He was very pleasant as he informed me that I had been traveling more than 15 km/hr over the speed limit. When a karmic bill comes due, I find it is best to pay it with a smile, so I was friendly right back, though maybe a touch embarrassed.

But the human ego (well the male ego anyway) is a delicate beast, and tries to avoid unpleasant realities. I had committed an offence, and I certainly felt guilty. But I didn't want passing motorists to get the impression that a hardened criminal had finally been brought to bay. Well, I asked myself, how should I deal with this? "Nonchalantly" I thought. So, blushing lightly, I decided to catch up on opening the mail I had picked up before I left on my trip. Now, if any passing motorists saw me standing by my car and reading some documents , they would naturally think that this was not really a "bust" but just a normal business conference between the police and a citizen in the middle of nowhere.

The sounds of what I took to be an avenging army of cars I had recently passed built in the distance, approaching rapidly. Scrambling in the back seat, I abandoned my pose of indifference, looking for something comfortable I could wear to mark the occasion a large shopping bag over my head would be just the thing. Unfortunately, nothing appropriate was at hand, which just goes to show how most criminals don't do very well at their trade owing to lack of preparation.

Apparently I had picked a bad time to break the law. It must have been a Sunday, since by my estimate most of the cars registered in the Yukon passed me in the five minutes I was stopped on the roadside. Unfortunately some of them had nothing better to do than slow down, and crane their heads out the window to see the Yukon justice system at work. But this was all part of the price I paid for breaking the law: when you get caught, take your lumps and get it over with, and learn from the experience if possible. As a result of this experience I am driving more circumspectly and somewhat slower!

Time now to raise the tone of this discussion and relate a story of good karma, which people also make by their actions. A friend of mine has a vehicle, a 4 x 4 diesel truck, which is more than 10 years old, but he looks after it carefully. He had taken his family up to the White Pass on the road to Skagway to do some skiing. He did not speed. A couple of days later, he was driving into Whitehorse, and he was following a very slow car moving at about 40 km/hr. However my friend was not in a hurry, did not pass and followed the slow vehicle for several minutes, though other vehicles passed him. Suddenly, his steering failed the steering linkage had come apart under the vehicle. He had no control over which way the truck would go. But he was only moving at 40 km/hr. Slowly his vehicle started to cross the center line. A semi was coming toward him. Then his truck drifted back onto the right side of the road and onto the shoulder where he was able to stop it.

The care and caution of the driver had earned him some good karma, which really paid off when he needed it. Was he lucky? I don't believe in luck one way or another you earn your fate. But my friend's karma was contagious all of his friends, including me, benefited because the people in the car weren't hurt, so that is good karma for us too. And I may have learned something about the wisdom of patience this month as well!

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