Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tickets and tears...

"That was dreadful. It would have been bad enough to go to her seat, and see the pitying faces of her friends, or the satisfied ones of her few enemies, but to face the whole school, with that shame fresh upon her, seemed impossible, and for a second she felt as if she could only drop down where she stood, and break her heart with crying." -- Louisa May Alcott

"Every woman is wrong until she cries, and then she is right - instantly." -- Sam Slick

I've always resented girls who get out of traffic tickets by crying. It seems unfair and manipulative. But when I saw blue and red flashing behind me this morning, I couldn't help it.

I saw the police car pulling out of the parking lot and I glanced down at my odometer just in case. I was already sure I wasn't speeding -- I was in a school zone after all, but I needed visual reassurance. Five miles under the school zone limit? Check. Confident I wasn't going to accelerate until well after the traffic light? Check.

So I was confused and concerned when the lights came on and I was motioned to pull over. Cops never tell you why they're holding you up. They just ask for your license and registration. I handed over the license, pulled out the registration from the glove box (still in the dealer envelope) and passed him the proof of insurance.

"It's a different car," I explained, "but the policy number's the same."

I haven't even had this car long enough to have a new insurance card and I'm already getting pulled over? I thought. I wondered if I should explain to Officer B. why I had a new car and why my insurance papers looked like they'd been mangled by a dog, all crinkled from the rain and stained reddish brown by the cuts from my hands when the glass shattered. But then I remembered last week's wreck was my fault and I decided it wouldn't help my case.

Desperate for an explanation I stopped the cop with the question: "I wasn't going over 20 was I?" "29, actually," he replied, walking away.

That's when the tears came. They slipped out quietly at first -- warm tears of confusion and panic. I wasn't speeding! I thought. How could I have been going 29? I was going 15 when I saw him and I know I slowed down way before that. Why would I ignore a school zone? I wrote the article on school zone safety!

Thoughts of appearing a second time this month at the Ogden City Justice Court along with the incurred fines, insurance premium hikes (oh wait, that's going to happen anyway) and how I was going to pay for it all on top of the LSAT ran through my head. The crying got worse. Messy floods of tears poured down my cheeks. Recently applied mascara was everywhere. These were not tears that could be neatly wiped away by a dainty finger or two, these were all-out smear away with the back of the hand, interrupted breathing, 'why is life unfair' tears.

Several people turned and witnessed my crying jag. They were, after all, crawling by just a few feet away from me at 10 to 15 miles per hour. The cop handed me my crumpled proof of insurance, crisp new registration and now-familiar license. A ticket soon followed.

He wrote me up for only four miles over. It was a quota ticket. He clocked me at several places and I was slower at each one, clearly decelerating the further into the school zone I got. I was well under the limit by the time I reached the cross walk or any area with students. I was ticketed for a speed I maintained for less than a second only a few feet inside the school zone.

So I didn't feel too awful I was crying when I signed the form or when he thanked me for wearing my seatbelt and drove away. I didn't even feel bad I chose to follow up with the story assignment by phone rather than humiliate myself with a tear-stained face in front of high school students. I do, however, feel bad for the judge who will hear my case. It's got to be uncomfortable to watch a grown girl cry.


Jenni Rigby said...

Oh Honey! You have been having a string of bad luck recently! I feel for you. And the times I have been pulled over I have cried too, lucky for me I don't wear mascara.

TabithaK said...

First of all, that is never fun. I remember the last time I got pulled over and how my stomach was stuck in my throat. Never a pleasant feeling. BUT, secondly, You are an amazing writer! Turning something so horrible into such an excellent piece to read. You are definitely going places!