Driver caught with doll in HOV lane
AUBURN, Wash. -- Few things in this world can cause frustration, annoyance and road rage like stop-and-go traffic.
After a few months of his new commute between Auburn and Bellevue, Oscar Molina, 23, decided to do something about it -- something many of us only dream of.
"I spend on average a week, about 10 to 15 hours in traffic," he said, chuckling, "Gives you a lot of time to think."
Problem is, he got caught.
It started last Monday morning, when Molina, a hardware salesman, flipped on the news and saw an accident along his normal route.
"I was late to work, I saw there was a huge traffic on [Highway] 167 north," he said, adding that's when he decided, "I'm hitting the bypass lane on the HOV."
Lacking a carpool companion, though, he singled out Diego, a plush doll belonging to his 3-year-old daughter. Diego is a character based on the TV cartoon "Go, Diego, Go!"
He said he figured if he went fast enough, no one would notice.
"It's a blink of an eye. They see something, they look away," he said.
He didn't count on two things. First, the traffic jam extended into the HOV lane. Second, state troopers happened to be running a carpool lane enforcement that morning.
"I go around the corner and I see three state troopers standing outside the vehicle," he said. "The cop is doing double takes."
His wife, Jessica Molina, said she had warned him before he left.
"I told him not to use the doll because it had no nose," she said.
But it wasn't Diego's nose that caught the trooper's attention. Rather, according to the trooper's report, it was the "huge unblinking eyes."
"He starts walking closer to the car and I see him coming, and I"m still going two miles an hour," Oscar continued. "I just keep my face forward and I wanted to laugh, because I knew I was going to get caught. He walks over to my mirror and he says, 'Come on.'"
A media release also noted Diego's seat belt was securely fastened.
Oscar said other than his traffic ticket, which carries a $124 fine, the troopers were just as amused at the whole situation.
"The first cop that pulled me over said, 'Do you mind if I get my friends? It's not every day you see this,'" Oscar said. "He asked, 'can I take a picture?'"
The picture, which accompanied the release about the HOV enforcement, gave Oscar an unexpected fifteen minutes of fame as news outlets around the country picked up the quirky news item, though it did not identify Oscar. That included a paper in Jessica's mother's in hometown in Georgia.
"She was at the dentist this morning and she said 'Who would do something like this?'" Oscar said.
"She was saying 'What an idiot," and I was saying, 'That's your son-in-law,'" Jessica said. "I think the whole thing's pretty funny. I'm not upset about it at all."
As for Diego, Oscar said he is leaving the doll back in the capable hands of his daughter.
He said he understands the situation can be embarrassing and apologized with a smile.
"I mean, what am I going to do about it? I got caught breaking the law and that's it," he said, noting that from now on he will just sit in traffic. His lesson? "As bad as it is, everybody has to do it."