Made my Day

Pulled Over

Did I feel lucky? Or like a punk? I knew it wasn't a good sign when the police officer approached me, and I saw their hand on the gun.

The trouble started when... well, I didn't really know when it started, because I didn't remember doing anything wrong. I was driving along, minding my own business and the speed limit. , busy thinking about where I was going to have dinner.

I checked my rear view mirror and saw a police car right behind me, something that usually inspires paranoia if not panic, but this time I decided since I'd done nothing wrong I'd remain calm.

I changed lanes. I noticed the police car changed lanes, too. Not a good sign, but maybe it was just a coincidence. I changed lanes again and they followed. Not a coincidence. I hate it when my paranoia pans out.

Finally I saw the lights flash on top of their car. The jig was up without my even knowing what the jig was.

I pulled over. As the car stopped my brain kicked into overdrive. What had I done? Did I have temporary amnesia that prevented me from remembering?

Could they be after me for some reason? What if it was some new "Homeland Security" patrol? My car needed a wash, and maybe dirty cars are part of some profile. Maybe I'd wake up and find myself in Guantanamo Bay before I'm dragged in front of a secret tribunal wearing hoods, lead by John Ashcroft. Hey, these days it could happen. But these thoughts evaporated when I remembered I'm just not that important.

More likely—when you drive through Ross, one of country's richest little cities (the police station is across the street from Sean Penn's house), they ticket you if you haven't washed your car.

The two police officers seemed to sit in their car forever. What were they doing? Where they eating? Applying makeup? Alerting the media?

I quickly got out my driver's license. I knew they'd want to see it and didn't want to move within their sight for fear they'd think I had a rectangular brown leather a gun in my back pocket.

Then I sat, frozen, with my hands clearly in view on the steering wheel. I've heard you should keep your hands in sight, don't reach into the glove compartment or make any sudden moves—you don't want them to think you're armed (which I wasn't, if you don't count my two arms, which in this case doesn't even make sense). I was as still outside as I was frenzied inside.

I didn't even turn my head to look back, I glanced in the rear view mirrors, careful not even to move my eyes too much.

And then I saw it. Filling my rear view mirror. The reflection of a police officer's hand on a gun as he approached. Now, honestly, I was kind of scared, since I still couldn't figure out what I did to warrant this.

The police officer was so tall that his belt buckle was at the top of my car window. The officer leaned down and I realized "he" was actually a blonde woman who didn't look happy. A tall blonde—with a gun. It sounds like a cheap detective novel, but it was true. It's probably some guy's fantasy but it was my nightmare.

Her hand was still on her gun and now not only couldn't I remember what I'd done to deserve this, I couldn't remember to breathe.

"The reason I stopped you," she started. My mind is racing. If it's a speeding ticket, how much will it cost? Will I be able to hide it from my wife so she doesn't get mad and ask the female cop to shoot me? Will it go on my permanent record? Will my insurance rates go up? Will I remember to breathe? I thought of all that during her short pause, before she said, "Your license plate registration has expired," at which point I remembered to breathe and a whole new set of things popped into my head, "I thought I saw that on the dining table but my wife never told me about it... now at long last, if I live, I have something to blame her for!"

I said, "I'm really sorry, I know it's up to date, I think I saw it on the dining table." She scowled at me as if I was Saddam's other son (perhaps illegitimate, my mother having been an Au Pair... oh, wait, it might be a good time to return to reality for a change). As she said, "May I see your license?" I handed it to her, afraid my sweaty fingers would cause me to drop it in that little crack between the window and the door so it'd be lost in the car door and she'd think I'd done it on purpose and shoot me.

She said, "I need to run a make on your plates." And then she slunk away as well as any Amazon could slink.

She got in her car and I saw her talking to her partner. This went on for about 10 minutes. Maybe their computer had crashed. Maybe this was all just an elaborate ruse to lull me into a false sense of security and then throw me to the sidewalk (another male fantasy, I'm sure). Of course, all she'd have to do is ask. I would politely agree, after first asking if I could put down a towel or something since I was wearing a new shirt).

Time kept passing. It was about 95 degrees and I'd turned off the A/C so the car wouldn't overheat and now I was overheating. She finally got out of the car, followed by her partner. They held an impromptu confab on the concrete.

What were they discussing? "OK, you get his new shirt, but I want his shoes!" ? Or maybe, "He'll just fill our quota for Guantanamo!" Or perhaps "He's way too easy to scare, this is no fun at all."

After about five excruciating, broiling minutes, she sauntered back (yes, actual sauntering took place), again with her hand on her gun as if one wrong word and I was history.

"It checks out," she said, sounding a bit like "Joe Friday" on the old Dragnet. I blurted out, "I'm really sorry, I'll put it on as soon as I get home, I promise," while she fingered her gun's grip and I felt like potential target practice.

She turned and walked away. No, "You're free to go." No, "don't let this happen again," not even a, "Normally I'd give you a ticket, but you're cute."

I closed the window, put on the A/C, and drove away slowly, obeying every traffic law I'd ever known or imagined, happy I had escaped a ticket. Even happier I had escaped Guantanamo.

I wondered just how bored they were in Ross that they had time to follow cars to terrorize them about their registration. Maybe there just wasn't any important crime and they had to do something. Or maybe I just look shifty but don't know it. My wife says I don't. She should know. She adds that I do look feckless. Thanks, dear.

All I knew for sure is that I was late, and ravenous, and I had somehow managed not to get a ticket or arrested. Sometimes it's hard to tell if you're having a good day, or a bad one. I guess this time I was a lucky punk.

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One Final Word

My wife says the reason I remember seeing the tags on the dining table is because she put them on my placemat, where she naturally thought I would pick them up. She's such a dreamer . . . it just shows how much she's learned in 26 years.



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The SchoomozeLetter is ©1998-2007, Daniel Will-Harris, all rights reserved. If you'd like to use any article on the web or in print, please ask for permission. If you're an agent or publisher looking to publish these pieces, just drop me a note.