There was a story the other day about a man that sued a Pizza Hut in Tennessee for serving an excessively hard crouton. Let’s take this step by step. You walk into a Pizza Hut and place your order, which, evidently, includes a salad – with croutons. You are eating the salad and at some point you have a crouton in your mouth.

Okay, you begin to bite down the crouton and your teeth feel distinct resistance. If you are above the age of say, five, you give up and throw the crouton away. And the man had dentures so he had some history in the matter. Some people  like to make a point of squeezing the most money possible out of an event that was, in part, their doing.

I shared that story concerning legal stretches to tell you this one. I don’t remember what car or truck I was driving, but regardless, it seems I over-filled the oil. Don’t ask me how – I’ve slept a few times since then. But whatever I had done caused smoke, quite forcefully, to come out of the exhaust pipe. If you are old enough to remember the DDT trucks spraying neighborhoods, it wasn’t quite that bad. Yet that didn’t keep me from feeling conspicuous as all hell.

My fears were not unfounded. A cop pulled me over and wrote me a ticket for – get this – excessive smoke. To make matters worse, I was going through Highland Park when I got the ticket. I worried about it until the court date finally came. I had no idea how much the fine could be for “excessive smoke.”

I arrived on the court date and found my way to the end of the line. This was not, I’m sorry to say, my first encounter with the court system. But it was my first encounter in Highland Park and I had long hair. So I had no idea what to expect.

I finally reached the head of the line. I walked up in front of the judge and stood waiting. He confirmed my name and so forth. Then he got to the charge. He asked if the arresting officer was present and was told no. “Excessive smoke,” he read from his sheet. He looked at me and asked, “what the hell is excessive smoke?”

“I don’t know, sir,” I said as I shrugged my shoulders, “ I think I overfilled my oil so the car was blowing smoke out of the exhaust pipe. I was going over to a friend’s house to try to fix it when I was pulled over and given a ticket for excessive smoke.”

“Pay the ten dollar court fee and we’ll call it even. Next case!”

To this day, I still don’t know what excessive smoke is – at least in regards to a traffic fine. Or what the fine would possibly be.

Peace be with you.

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