As I’ve mentioned, my driving record is (or should I say WAS, since it is now spotless) a little…ummm…checkered. I’ve not been pulled over for so much as a warning in four years. I’ve not had an accident deemed my fault in nearly a decade. Knock on wood with me, won’t you?
But such was not always the case. In my younger days, my driver’s window rolled down almost as often for a police officer as it did to flick my cigarette ashes. (Mind you, it takes talent to drive a stick, smoke a cigarette, place a phone call, and drink coffee.) More often than not, the offense was speeding. 51 in a 35. 72 in a 55. 58 in a 45.
There’s one spot in my hometown that is a notorious speed trap. By day, the congested 5 lanes of traffic make reaching the 35 mph limit nearly impossible. By night, the shops and malls closed, the 5 lanes are like a freeway, and very easy to edge closer to 50. Three times I’ve been pulled over there, and twice I got out of it. Once, the expired plates on my borrowed car caught the officer’s eye. He kindly accepted my honest explanation that the car wasn’t mine and I had no idea the plates were expired. Another time, I vowed to fight the matter in court–I was pulled over for going just less than 50 in what was an ambigously zoned spot between a 35 mph and a 50 mph zone. The first court date, some six months after my ticket, conflicted with a final exam. The court kindly rescheduled. By the time I arrived, the cop had long forgotten the details of the night, so didn’t bother to show. The judge dismissed the case with an “Isn’t this your lucky day?” that dripped with sarcasm. New signs have since been added to the area, and each time I see them, I think to myself…”See! I wasn’t speeding!”
Another time, in a friend’s car, I was pulled over for speeding about 8 miles over the limit in a residential area. The digital dashboard provided my out! As the officer approached, I hit the button that changed the computerized readout from MILES per hour to KILOMETERS per hour.
“Duyave inny idee how fast yoooze goin?” he drawled.
“I really don’t, officer. This isn’t my car, and the speed reads out in centimeters or something, and damned if I know how to convert it.” It was a brilliant performance, and I could tell he was buying it.
“Welletts see heh…” he leaned in. “Ifts lak my wifes, theyza button…” He found the button I’d hit a moment earlier. “Thaz gottit.” He looked pleased with himself.
“Oh thank you!” I heaped on the fake gratitude.
“Ain’t no problem, just watcha speed outtair.” He didn’t even write a warning!
A few of my tickets resulted from my dependence on a less-than-reliable radar detector. They are illegal in Virginia, which I often drove through. I typically did the right thing and turned it off in that commonwealth, but that was not the case when I was pulled over for going about 15 miles over the limit. “I’m gonna write you a warning for the speed, and ignore that…” the office said, pointing to the radar detector, “since it obviously isn’t helping you.”
I was a sophomore in college when I got my very first brand-new car. It was a two door with a terrible blind spot due to the small back seat windows. Two days after I got it, I was merging onto the freeway. I saw no one in the far lane, and near as I could tell, no one was in the lane I was moving into. So, imagine my surprise when I see the blue lights in my mirror. I pulled over, certain I wasn’t speeding, wondering if the paper license plate had flown off or something. The officer stepped to my window in a rage. “You didn’t even see me did you?” I noticed that his uniform was wet. “I spilled coffee all over myself! You ran me into the median!” Oops. There was no explaining the new car situation to him, or getting out of the $18o ticket for an improper lane change.
One night, a year or two after I graduated from college, I went out with some friends for a night on the town. I was getting over a nasty cold, and still taking a round of antibiotics, so I laid off the gin and tonics and volunteered to be the designated driver. After I’d gotten everyone home safe, I was heading back to my place. Just as I got the spot on the highway where two freeways diverged, one of my contacts rolled up in my eye. I struggled to get the contact back in place, and started to pull into the the grassy area where the freeways split. As I slowed toward a stop, I got the contact back in place, so just took off again. Well, the cop behind me understandably thought I was swerving. He pulled me over, and as I explained what happened, he shined his flashlight into my eyes (one of which was red and watering from the very recent contact incident).
“Well why are you wearing contact lenses?” What kind of stupid ass question was that?
“Um…because I can’t see otherwise.” I didn’t do a very good job of hiding my incredulity at his ridiculous question. So he made me get out, walk the line, balance on one foot, and do the alphabet backwards. Now, if you have never had to do a sobriety test, let me tell you that stepping out of a dark car into the strobe light of a police cruiser is VERY disorienting. It messes with your eyes. Add to this that you are performing these tasks within feet of speeding cars, and I don’t see how anyone can pass the damn thing. But I did. The officer seemed very disappointed that I was not drunk…but off I went.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “I wouldn’t get into a car with him.” But I haven’t even gotten into the car crashes yet…that’s a tale for another day.