Wednesday, March 22, 2006 | I know it may surprise some of you, but I am a life and sustaining member of the Republican Party with all privileges thereof, and I once had a card to prove it. Furthermore the honor was accorded me by the highest authority in the land, a computer. Oh the official card showing my status was signed by a former U.S. president and a former vice governor of California, but it was the computer that did it.

I once attended some sort of Republican function with a friend, and I dutifully logged in, address and all. Shortly thereafter I got a letter from then Senator Sam Hayakawa touting something or other. I figured Sam would be hurt if I ignored him, so I completed the part where he asked for a donation and skipped over suggested amounts of $25, $50, $100, and $500. Then I checked “other” and a put goose egg in the blank.

Not long after that I got a letter from someone else thanking me for my generous donation and, rather apologetically, asking for another donation. Again I checked “other” and wrote in “twice what I gave Sam.”

The letters kept coming, one containing a card making me a life and sustaining something or other in the Republican Party. It was signed by Gerald Ford and Mike Curb. I always figured Gerry was rather smart and was surprised they knew each other. But, as always, I “donated” twice what I’d given the last one.

Finally I made it to the really big time with a “personal” letter from Ronald Reagan himself. My new pal, Ronnie, let me in on a secret that had been on the news for days. He was going to run for president! I was so excited I donated five times what I gave former President Ford.

You have to wonder if anybody in a bureaucracy ever checks what their computers are doing. Take the state of Illinois. Last May, I visited my old stomping grounds of northern Indiana and Chicago.

Even for a veteran of California, Chicago’s freeways were a nightmare. Construction trucks barreled down the road without due regard for life, limb, or property. Few things frighten a fellow more than a cement truck driven by a guy who believes that the right of way goes to the biggest hog on the road.

It was almost a relief when everything came to a halt. Once, I spent a half hour staring at one of those temporary signs flashing O’HARE AIRPORT APPROXIMATELY 30 MINUTES FROM HERE. A smaller sign read O’Hare 2 miles. It was about like coming back from TJ except there were no vendors hawking the winking Jesus pictures.

And those damn toll booths, one every few miles, or whenever the flow of traffic reached 90 mph. A couple were reserved for cars with bar coded stickers which would allow prepaid drivers to fly through without stopping. They were my undoing.

I made a mistake or two – or four. That many times I picked the shortest and fastest line and ended up lane reserved for bar coded cars. No way to escape, once in a line you have to keep moving or be crushed. I was starting to get homesick for a simple border crossing.

Finally I stopped at a real booth with a real person in it and asked for help. He gave me a form to fill out and told me to just send the tolls I’d missed. I made a guess as what I’d missed and added a bit to be sure. I mailed the state of Illinois $2.25.

My debt to what passes for society in the Midwest was paid and my conscience clear. I settled down to living as a law abiding citizen – until last month. Then I got a computer-generated notice that I was a criminal in Illinois. They acknowledged I’d paid for two but seemed baffled about the other two. The ‘puter wanted $40.10, a markup of four thousand percent!

Turned out my state Sen. Denise Ducheney, or maybe her Deputy District Director Christine Moore, knew another real person in Chicago. I was surmising that there was only one such person in Chi Town. Christine called and got my sins forgiven. After nearly eight decades, I was the beneficiary of political influence. A couple 50-cent tickets were forgiven.

Then I got a notice from the Illini computer again. The readout was every bit as arcane as instructions for a Dibold voting machine. It listed my violations and the amount owed plus the fine for non payment assessed for each. The bottom line was that I owed $0.

I’m tempted to send them a check for zero dollars so I could get back on a computer list. Maybe I could even become a Republican again. It was so much fun last time.

Keith Taylor is a retired navy officer living in Chula Vista. He can be reached at Or write a letter to the editor.

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