It was a quiet Thursday evening when I pulled up at a red light, two blocks from home. My music had stopped and I glanced down. Was the playlist over already? One hand on the steering wheel, I picked up my iPhone and idly looked at the display. The Pointer Sisters were indeed done punching out their harmonies.
Then I looked over and saw him next to my car, beckoning me to roll down the window. My heart started beating like a jackhammer. A shiver cut through my arm down to my hand, and I dropped the phone like a hot potato. No, it wasn’t his broad shoulders and big brown eyes.
It was his goddam uniform.
“What did you just have in your hand? Tell the truth, now,” the officer asked bluntly. “Em, ah, it was my cellphone,” I answered as coherently as I could, given that my heart was now fibrillating in my mouth.
“Were you turning left?” the cop asked me. I nodded. “Well, you’re going to continue to turn left and I’m pulling you over,” he said. I accelerated into the red light and he yelled, “No, not now!” I apologized and said I was a little farklempt. “Well, that’s what happens when you’re not paying attention because you’re on your cellphone,” he admonished.
I grit my teeth, waited for the green light and turned as the cop followed, red and blue lights blazing in my wake. What is it about a flashing cherry in the rear view mirror that floods you with guilt? I’d just been on a date and consumed two entire glasses of wine. Was I drunk? Last week I almost left a gas station without paying. Last year I drove for a whole month on a lapsed license. Five years ago I drove for six months with no rear turn signals. I thought people wouldn’t let me merge into lanes because I was driving an old beater and they were being just plain mean.
Now it was all coming back to haunt me. This guy was going to slam me with the book. Would it do any good to tell him that I AM drivelikeagirl.ca and I have written against distracted driving? That I follow and faithfully retweet all kinds of anti-distracted driving advocates? Curses. I ripped the phone cord out of the dash and and swore never to listen to the Pointer Sisters again.
Jonathan Law came striding over to my window and advised me that I was being recorded. I handed over my insurance and registration and after a tiny panic attack, finally located my license. To be honest, I’m not sure what he said. Terror will do that to you. He asked to see my phone and seemed puzzled that it wasn’t even turned on. I did manage to blurt out, “The music stopped. I’m two blocks from home.” As if THAT would explain everything.
He took my particulars and was gone for several weeks. Because THAT is what catastrophic thinking will do to you. Probably not the best time to pop a med.
Finally the officer ambled back and asked, “When was the last time you were cited for a moving violation?” I proudly answered that it had been years ago. And wanted to add that I’d successfully fought it., because, you know, I write about this stuff and have made a few connections along the way.
And it’s because I DO write about this stuff and have made a few connections along the way who hammered it into me, if you’re pulled over, say as little as possible because you’re not going to win – that I clammed up. I co-operated and nodded my head. Even if you recently recited the entire Highway Traffic Act RSO 1990 to a sold-out audience at Madison Square Gardens, you keep that information to yourself. Because you don’t fight a ticket on the side of the road.
In other words, you do not pull a Reese Witherspoon. Cops don’t care who you are, who you know or what you really did. That’s for the courts to decide.
And even though it was in the dark of night, the heavens opened up and smiled upon me. “I’m not going to give you a ticket because you have a very clean record,” the cop said. “Otherwise it would be a $150 fine. Consider yourself warned.”
I fought back the urge to throw my arms around those broad cop shoulders and squeeze the stuffing out of him, and instead, merely muttered “Thank you” quietly.
I drove on home, rattled but relieved. And resolved that I will only listen to the radio in my car. That will keep me out of trouble. With the law, at least.