I was driving home from work tonight, minding my own business when it happened.
I got pulled over.
As I put the car in park the panic sets in. I know what I did wrong, I just didn’t think it was a big deal. I knew when I saw those blue lights out of the corner of my eye that they were meant for me.
As traffic is whizzing past me and I wait for the rap at my window I try to think this situation through. I’ve only been pulled over once, and that was many years ago. I was speeding on a major interstate and choose to go to court to fight my ticket. I won by the grace of God – the clerk reviewing my plea had just gotten a new dog from the MSPCA. He asked me what I did for a living and “working for an animal welfare non-profit” was music to his ears. I got lucky that time.
How am I going to get out of this one? What the heck do I do? I have to present my license and registration, but god knows where that is. I start to open my glove compartment box for a thorough search and then quickly slam it shut and limit my movements – what if he thinks I’m looking for my gun? Or hiding a stash of illegal drugs and other illicit goods? I sit back in my seat and stay stock still.
Finally he approaches my car. He’s not happy. Allegedly I accelerated through a yellow light. I maintain I was in the intersection when it turned red and it would have been too dangerous for me to go back (what I like to call “committed”). In all honesty I was thinking about how I wasn’t feeling all that great, all the work I had to get done this week, and what was for dinner, so rather than fart around and screech to a blazing halt I went for it. I travel this intersection every day. It wasn’t the first time I’ve caught the light on yellow, and it’s not going to be the last. Honestly I wasn’t really thinking – and lord knows I didn’t see any cops or I would have altered my plans. While I was being lectured on my poor judgement I kept thinking, what could have prevented this from happening? I could have stayed home from work today because I wasn’t feeling well. I wouldn’t even be here right now if I had done that. I could have left work a little earlier like I had planned, I wouldn’t have been rushing to make it home if I had done that. If I was just a little bit faster I would still have had a green light. If I was just a little bit slower I would have hit the red.
The cop walks back to his car after a roll of the eyes and exaggerated sigh (I don’t do well with authority – a blank “yes” or “no” is about all you’re going to get out of me for any question asking). I sink down in my seat as I wait for my sentence. I worry what all these other drivers are thinking about me as they go by. What did that girl do? Oooooohhh..she’s in trouble! Basically all the things I wonder about the people pulled over that I’ve passed before.
I’m a good driver, at least I like to think I am. Yes I learned to drive in Massachusetts and yes I’m guilty of going over the speed limit on many occasions (as in daily). But I don’t drive like an a-hole. And that’s gotta count for something with the traffic fairies.
He comes up to my door again and thrusts a piece of white paper at me. A warning. My driving record is “pretty good” and he’s going to let me off - but I need to “cool it” and stop running yellow lights. He gets back into his car and we both do the awkward “who leaves first” sit and wait game. I pretend to rummage around in my purse while I glance in my rearview, willing him to leave already. He’s not budging. I decide not to tempt the fates and get the hell out of there, but not before switching on my blinker and crawling out into traffic like a 90 year old nana. The rest of the way home is a white-knuckled ride as I fret over breaking another traffic law and getting pulled over twice in one day. Surely the fates aren’t that cruel.
A big thank you to that cop – you scared the daylights out of me even if I didn’t act like it. Thanks to you I’m going to be on high alert now. You pressed my driving reset button. No more messing around, speeding, rolling through stop signs, and attempting to find something in the backseat while I’m pulling out into traffic. I’m going to obey all the laws and drive five miles under the speed limit. I needed this – and despite my embarrassment at being “THAT” guy who was pulled over today, I thank you for coming along when you did, to remind me to cut the crap.
Any maybe tomorrow it would be wise to go the long way home…and avoid that stupid light.