I have long known that I could never successfully conduct a life of crime. While the potential for amassing millions in a secret bank account, while I make my plans to escape to a country with no extradition agreement with the United States sounds exciting, I know I don’t have the type of nerve and lack of empathy it would take. Had I been Bonnie, I would have said to Clyde, “No, no, honey! Let’s not shoot people and steal their money. Let’s just ask them politely to hand over all of their cash. That would work!”
It’s not that I have never broken the law. I know what that’s all about. I mean, I watch Blue Bloods; I understand the criminal mind. And while I’ve never been trapped in that little room, while Reagan and Baez try to sweat the truth out of me, I have been on the side of the road, with those flashing lights behind me, desperately trying to remember what I did with the car registration. That’s crime, isn’t it?
This came up tonight on my commute home from work. It came up because as I was passing through town, thinking only of my comfortable chair and a hot cup of tea, a police car appeared out of nowhere and turned on its lights while it did one of those swing-around-in-the-street things to follow a car in the opposite lane. Unfortunately, that car was mine.
I took a little time to find a spot I wanted to pull over to and finally, I just stopped because I was afraid the policeman was going to think I was trying to make a getaway…at 30 miles an hour. I always hope, when I see those lights in the rearview mirror, that they just need me to get out of the way so they can chase the real criminal…for instance, the guy driving in front of me who had been seriously slowing me down! But, no such luck, he parked behind me.
It’s then that all those rules and bits of advice about what to do when you are pulled over come to my mind. Don’t stop in a secluded area in case it is really a criminal, not the police. No worries, there, I was on the main road through town, so everyone passing by could watch me get my ticket. The second instruction was much harder. “When you’re pulled over,” say my friends who think they know “don’t get out of the car. Just sit in the driver’s seat and keep your hands on the wheel where they can be seen. And make sure you have your license and registration ready.”
Now this set of instructions presents a problem. If I have my hands on the wheel, how do I get out my papers? I was still dealing with this conundrum when the officer walked up to the car. At that point, I’m trying to remember what you should and should not say to a police officer who has pulled you over. Do you greet them, to show that you don’t see yourself as guilty of anything, or do you let them begin the conversation? I don’t have much point of reference, so what I said was, “Good afternoon, what can I do for you?” Oh great, I come off sounding like a low-level hooker and I’m already halfway to jail!
He said, “Ma’am, I’m not sure if you’re aware of it, but the higher speed limit doesn’t start for another block and you were exceeding the speed limit here.”
What should I say? Some people say put them on the defensive, “Don’t you have better things to do besides harassing honest citizens?” Other people recommend taking charge, “Perhaps you’re not aware that I am on official business which precludes this speed limit restriction for me.” All of them say not to confess to the crime. And I didn’t. What I got out was, “Oh really? I guess I wasn’t paying attention.”
He should have given me a ticket for criminal stupidity right then, but he managed to keep his face straight as he informed me that he would be giving me a warning ticket only. All I had to do was show him my license and registration and proof of insurance. Now, I have never been pulled over for a traffic violation in my life, where I could immediately put my hands on all three of those things. I think my papers hold a meeting and decide which one is going to be not immediately available, forcing me to frantically look for it. Tonight, it was the insurance card’s turn. The officer finally gave up and went back to his vehicle to start writing the ticket, so he said, that “you can take a little more time to look for that insurance card.” After weeding out the fourteen of them that were out of date, I finally located the right one…right where it should be, of course.
He gave me the warning ticket, but admonished me that I needed to pay closer attention to the speed limit signs, so I don’t end up with a ticket in the future. He also quoted me a price tag on a potential ticket at over $100, so then I wasn’t sure how to respond.
In my mind, I was being all Ma Barker, snarling and sneering, “Yeah, copper, you’ll never make it stick, you’ll never take me alive!” In reality, however, I was more like the fawning Israelite, grateful for any mercy from her Egyptian overlords, “Thank you, oh, thank you so much. I’m so thankful!”
It was bad enough to get pulled over for speeding today, especially since my criminal activities for the day had already included being made aware of the fact that I have a library book which is way overdue. It just wasn’t my day for upholding the law. I do have planned how I’m going to tell Roy about my brush with the law. When he gets home, I’m going to say, “Honey, let’s go out for supper. It just so happens that I have a funny story to tell you about how I managed to save over $100 today…”