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  • THE STATE of Delaware seems to be an unlucky place for me. Several weeks ago, Eve and I passed through that accursed patch of geography on our way home from a lovely weekend in Chincoteague, Virginia. Specifically, we passed through the town of Bridgeville, Sussex County, Delaware. Through a red traffic light in Bridgeville, Sussex County, Delaware. By mistake. With no crossing traffic at risk. And no cop in sight.

    So I thought.

    Anyone who has traveled up and down the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay on US Route 13 will remember the traffic-light Hell of rural Delaware. The lights are timed to turn red just as you reach them after having waited at least half an hour for the light to change at the previous intersection. I hate to think of the fuel wasted, and the brakes worn, and the tempers frayed (perhaps it's a leading cause of divorce and drug addiction), with all that stop-and-go driving.

    All of this ridiculous traffic control occurs at intersections with country roads that seldom have any more than sporadic traffic.

    Anyway, before the happy memories of our weekend had even begun to fade, I received a notice in the mail, of which you see a redacted copy with this diatribe.

    I guess we had all better get used to the idea that Big Brother is indeed watching us — all the time. There's no arguing against photographic evidence, I fear, so it appears I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and cough up the ransom. It reminds me of those greedy German landowners along the Rhine River, extorting a toll on all passing boat traffic.

    Years ago, well-meaning friends warned me that Delaware is a notorious speed-trap state, but no one told me that the traffic lights had eyes and memories, too (maybe that's just something new).

    I was rounded up in a speed-trap dragnet passing southbound through Seaford, Delaware ("The Nylon Capital of the World"), one winter evening in 1969, and I was pinched in the exact same spot again late one night in 1991.

    You'd think experience would teach me something, wouldn't you?

    My late friend Jerry Sigal, who had a knack for incisive terminology, would call this the imposition of a "Dumb Tax."

    Guilty as charged, your Honor.
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