My Inner Economist is a Dare Devil

by JT McGee

Outrunning campus security to save $50

You’d never know it if you knew me personally, but I absolutely love risk. Not just the game Risk, but risk itself. I think it is by far the most amazing thing in the world, a concept that is as interesting as it is rewarding.

Risk, to me, is something to be understood and conquered. I see the world as decisions to be made, problems to be solved, and things to do, but only after considering all the inputs and outputs of each decision. I’m pretty good at evaluating all possible outcomes, and I excel at making decisions on the fly. I love it, so I’ve a lot of experience with it, and over time I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

The problem with this, though, is that I often make very logical, rational decisions that are not, in any way, reasonable.

Case in point: a high speed chase with campus security

It was the the dumbest thing I’ve ever done; it was reckless, dangerous, and all things considered, it really didn’t make that much sense—ahh, who am I kidding, it made perfect sense! I’d recommend it to anyone.

So I get out of one of my last classes before spring break. I’m minding my own business, travelling a perfectly safe 30 miles per hour on campus, which has a speed limit of 15 miles per hour. But being the calculated person that I am, I just know that I’ve cleared the last passenger crosswalk for…oh, a quarter-mile, and I’m probably another quarter mile until the next passenger crosswalk from parking lot to campus buildings. I’m going downhill, too, so I’m not about to waste all this free energy! Gas isn’t cheap, you know.

At this point, I’m probably a half mile from the exit, and on the very back side of campus. All of a sudden…red lights behind me!

I assess the situation in a matter of seconds:

  • Red lights aren’t on police cars, they’re used for civilian security. This isn’t a cop, so I’m not breaking laws, I’m breaking rules. The difference here being that laws mean possible jail time, rules mean a slap on the wrist and a fine.
  • I’m a half mile to freedom, knowing that since this isn’t a cop, the “jurisdiction” of any campus security officer ends at the campus.
  • Speeding tickets cost $50, and I don’t like wasting money. Plus, he’s going to waste my time, and that’s worth more than anything.
  • I got out early, an hour early in the last class of the day. No one is heading onto campus at this time, no one is walking to class, and the only people who are on the road or walking around campus are the people who were in the same class I was just minutes ago.
  • My classmates park in a different part of the campus than I do, so I’ve got a half mile of open roads to the exit. Of course, I don’t know the road is open, there could be another traveler up the windy road, but I’m going on instinct here as reasonable thinking is going to cost me $50.

Situation assessed, I’m going to out run him.

So I do. I push the living hell out of the gas until it nearly reaches the carpet of the floor. Around the winding road I traverse, hitting probably 50-60 miles per hour before seeing that around the corner isn’t another soul. Awesome.

I now know that the line in the middle of the road, much like the speed limit, is a mere suggestion. So, rather than travel the suggested “S” of the road, I’m driving in a pattern that looks more like an “I” straight through the street.

Weeeeee!!! Around the corners I fly, with campus security falling behind with each adrenaline-fueled moment. I reach the exit, where a yield sign sits before I have to make a tight 270-degree turn through a roundabout.

I like yield signs, they basically say to stop only if you don’t have the balls to run through them. So I run through it, albeit at a speed that more closely resembles 30 rather than 50 because I don’t want to die for $50—that isn’t worth it. Out running campus security? Please, that’s worth the $50 any day of the week.

At the roundabout I look back to see security turning off their lights, he’s realizing that this is the end! I’m scot free!

Not exactly.

He’s turning off his lights because he’s going to chase me off campus. We’re going onto the highway! Here we go!

This is where I hedge my bet. The light at the next stop is a stale green, and I know that it is, in fact, going to turn red before I get there. I drive the speed limit of the highway, thinking at this point that with my massive lead he isn’t going to go after me unless I do something REALLY stupid. Besides, a million people own the car I do, so really there’s about a 1/94953059340 chance that person he saw is actually me. I mean, come on, I’d never get in a high speed chase!

My assessment of a stale green was accurate. No speed under a sustained 80mph would have gotten me through that light. I navigate to the far left lane, hoping the next car to pull up to me will be someone other than campus security. Breaking several laws here, the campus security guy turns on HIS SPOTLIGHT while driving down the highway.

I’m unlucky. The only variable I couldn’t control, measure, nor account for, is this stoplight. He pulls next to me. There I sit, playing with the radio and pretending like I’ve been waiting for this light to turn green for a century—and I have, I blew this guy away. 😉

After several seconds he honks, I look to my left first, knowing that if I look to my right first I’ll look far too guilty. I then look to my right, notice his disgruntled pissed pre-cop face, and watch as he signals me to roll down my window. I do.

He yells at me, “Your ticket will be in the mail!” I say calmly, “Uhm, I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” (I’ve been pulled over before; I understand what it means not to incriminate myself.)

He then speeds off the highway, again breaking several laws in failing to use his turn signal, changing lanes at an intersection, and not even remotely considering the idea of making a complete stop before making a right on a red.

It’s over.

For the first time in a minute I relax in my seat, take a deep breath, and realize what I’ve just done. I laugh it off, turn up the radio to find exactly the song I wanted to listen to. The light turns green and I proceed on my merry way, a grin on my face, and an extra $50 in my back pocket.

Weeks have passed since this has happened. I have no ticket in my possession, nor additional charges to my account.

My inner economist is still just as he was then, and he’s a happy economist. I played the odds, and I won. I weighed every decision, and made a thoughtful, rational choice. It was not reasonable, nor will I pretend that it was. But it was a blast, and I have a story I’ll remember forever, and a thrill that is still running through my veins as I write this. Even if the ticket shows up in the mail tomorrow, I’ll be happy in my decision.

Stupid? Maybe. Thoughtful? Absolutely.

I love you, inner economist.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Ravi Gupta April 4, 2011 at 08:16

No kidding it’s a dare devil. I won’t say all the things that I want to say.. All that I will say is that you knew the risk and made a decision. Whether it was right or wrong I applaud for you atleast knowing what you were getting into and that you would take responsibility if caught.
While I don’t like what you did it makes for on hell of a story. I’m hoping that if you ever have more stories like this please share.

-Ravi Gupta

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Justin @ MoneyIsTheRoot April 4, 2011 at 08:28

This is something I definitely wouldve done in my college years…and something I actually did in my high school years! That being said, I remember a fatal accident in our college parking lot, somebody hit a person on a motorcycle… uncommon for sure, but a risk none the less. At 30 years old I tend to be a bit more careful than I wouldve been 10 years ago.

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jeff April 4, 2011 at 13:54

Haha, campus security really is a waste of time. They really enjoy taking your money in fines!

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JT McGee April 4, 2011 at 21:38

@ Ravi – High five, bro! There is a big difference, I think, in taking risks without being prepared to accept the consequences, and taking risks while failing to accept the consequences.

@ Justin – Maybe I’ll grow out of it. I wouldn’t have sped through if I thought there was a chance of anyone being there. There could have still been someone, though, and that’s definitely an externality that I passed on. Luckily, there wasn’t. 🙂

@ Jeff – Exactly. When I lived on campus, we’d always joke about how security kept our parking spots safe while people broke into the apartments/dorms. Couldn’t have been more true…purely a revenue generator.

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Pat S. April 5, 2011 at 16:38

Although sometimes it may seem like campus security is a waste of time, in the end, the good ones really do mean well and if nothing else, they’re just trying to do their job. I always tried to be nice to those guys when I was in school. The one’s I had a problem with were the guys who thought they were members of the SWAT Team when clearly their role was to write parking tickets and drive around in their shiny golf carts or bicycles. Those types probably need a high speed chase or two…

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Invest It Wisely April 5, 2011 at 21:12

Sounds like a fun story, but you never know who would be around the corner. If you can clearly see there’s not a soul in sight, then fine, at least you’ll only hurt yourself at worst. 😉

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jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog April 6, 2011 at 13:27

This is a nice story – It’s always good to stick it to the man. I must say that you seemed to have lucked out with the campus security – we only had campus cops, and through a very old law when the university was formed, they somehow got jurisdiction over the whole state!
I think proper judgement of risk is a great thing to have in life – and when dealing with the cops.

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Norman April 6, 2011 at 15:51

At the risk of sounding like your Daddy…what the HELL were you thinking? Don’t you EVER do that again!

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JT McGee April 6, 2011 at 20:54

@ Pat – I totally get you on the power-hungry campus security, and decent-people campus security!

@ IIW – I like to gamble 😉

@ Jeff – Ooooh, yeah a lot of campuses have campus cops. We don’t have those here, and since the university is technically in the county, an already over-stretched Sheriffs office would have to patrol the University. That’s not going to happen.

@ Norman – Finally! I knew there had to be one of them. I’m not sure my parents know about this…well, my dad I’m not sure about. Mom thought it to be hilarious, even if she did say “don’t do that again” at the end.

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Barb Friedberg April 7, 2011 at 11:56

JT-Loved the story!!! I was raised by a risk taker quite like you. In fact while held up at gunpoint, my dad failed to give the robber the additional $50 in the hidden compartment in his wallet!!!
Glad you’re ok. The mom in me shares Norman’s admonishment.

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