My mom tried to teach me as a child that police officers were my
friend, which I never believed, and once I started driving, I had mixed
reviews of police officers. It was clear to me that the officers that
gave me the warning were indeed, new buddies of mine, while the ones
who wrote out tickets with fines on them, were certainly not my
friend. After enough tickets, and enough traffic court–and yes, I did
tell a judge once that I was on my way to worship, and that it was an
emergency–I eventually learned to behave myself behind the wheel. Though I had granny-ed down my driving, that never stopped me from
believing that I was doing something wrong whenever I’d see the police
on the road. I see a cop, and it is Judgment Day in my head. Perhaps
he’ll stop me for speeding, but maybe I’ll get pulled over for the bill
I paid late, or cheating on my diet, or for ignoring my mother’s phone
calls. You never know. What I do know, is that anytime I see a police
car, whether or not someone is in it, I involuntarily hit the breaks. This type of smarts is what got me in trouble while I was doing a
temporary work contract in the Silicon Valley, California.
not common knowledge that most cities have the franchise, “Rent a
Wreck,” which is a car rental business that could not have a more
appropriate name. It offers cheap, long-term rentals, and you get
exactly what you have paid for. How I came to be renting a wreck, in
the Silicon Valley, no less, instead of having my own car is it’s own
separate story. Suffice it to say, driving this car brought back the
traumatic memory of having my first car (also a living wreck), pushed
out of a drive-thru line when I was a teenager. And I really wish I
was making that up.
It was night time, and I was headed back to where I was staying for the
8 weeks I was in town doing the contract, and I was blaring music, and
paying just enough attention not to kill anyone on the road, and also
enough attention to spot a police car to my right, as I was headed
through a yellow light. My right foot has really bad police anxiety,
so I hit the breaks, when I definitely could have made it through the
light, and should have. What happened next belongs on Youtube. I hit
the breaks, skidded into the middle of the intersection, and then had
to REVERSE back to my spot behind the traffic light, all to avoid
running it. I didn’t know which law had been broken, but it was
painfully obvious that there was something illegal about what I’d just
done. The cop watched the entire performance, the one I call the
“please give me a ticket,” dance. I just looked at him and shrugged as
if to say, “Dude, I’d pull me over too.” And pull me over he did. It
was all very pleasant, like a mutual decision we’d made.
“Uh…what were you thinking?” He asked.
“I would have just gone through the light, but I saw you and hit the
breaks. I always break when I see the police. I have to find the
registration for this car, it’s a rental believe it or not,” and I
began to rummage through the glove compartment.
He gave me a look that indicated he clearly didn’t not know what to say
back to me, which I didn’t understand, which just made me talk more. Being notoriously disorganized, after finding the registration, I
couldn’t find my license, and felt that he needed to know why, and that
I’ve always been disorganized, while I looked for it. He was silent. He wasn’t angry, he wasn’t annoyed, he was perplexed. I too was
perplexed, and I told him, I’d have to look for it in the trunk.
“I truly have never seen anyone this disorganized before. Don’t you
have a wallet?” The police officer was standing beside me while I was
looking in my trunk.
“I think so. But I don’t keep my license in there.” I said, searching
through the trunk, and being impressed with how many things this little
trunk could hold.
“Of course, not. Why would you keep a license in a wallet?” He said. It sounded like something one of my friends would say.
Finding my license was no easy task, and I hadn’t noticed that the
police officer had walked back to his car because it had started
smoking. By the time I did notice, he was walking back to me, as if
coming from an earth cloud with flashing lights in it. It was kind of
beautiful. I was still looking for my license, but now I was concerned
about his car.
I pointed to his car in the earth cloud. “It’s not supposed to do that, huh? Do you need a ride?”
He shook his head, “I don’t think I’ve got time for this. Listen,
don’t do whatever the hell it is that you were doing again. Just go.”
“Ok…but don’t you need a ride, though?” I said this as a second
police car pulled up. He was already laughing before he reached us.
“No, I’ve got it. Besides, I’ve seen your driving.” he said while his officer buddy laughed himself silly.
I left the scene, ticketless, and decided to take up looking for my license in the morning.