Pull over, please

Hot copIt 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.Cop car

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.

Pointer SistersJonathan 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.”

Thelma and Louise

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.

31 Comments on "Pull over, please"

  1. Leora May 6, 2013 at 4:29 pm · Reply

    ” Consider yourself warned.” – Yay! I love when a well-told story ends well. Yes, the thank you was sufficient. Good job both on getting just a warning, staying calm and but best of all in re-telling the tale.

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 7, 2013 at 6:01 pm · Reply

      It was a happy ending, thank goodness. I was jumping out of my skin! So lucky to get a fair and decent cop, too.

  2. Mary Slagel May 6, 2013 at 7:02 pm · Reply

    The law against using your cellphone at stop lights aggravates me. I get it. You shouldn’t use your cellphone at all. And if you are distracted at a red light it could throw off the rest of your driving, but come one! I wait until red lights and then if I really need to check my cell phone–change a song, check the missed call, ect. I feel I can do that because I refuse to do it while I’m driving but I don’t want to take the time to pull over just to to do something for a second.

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 7, 2013 at 6:03 pm · Reply

      Such a loaded issue. There are many more distractions in a car than just a cellphone – the lawmakers are using it to set an example. What about fiddling with the radio? And remember the days of paper maps? Hopefully sanity will reign again soon.

  3. Susan Cooper May 6, 2013 at 10:05 pm · Reply

    I laughed. We are all guilty of it. My story was a bit different. I was on the freeway in bumper to bumper traffic and was talking on the phone (with a headset). I looked done for a second and rear ended the gal in front to me. It was a very expensive lesson… Sigh! You were indeed lucky. 🙂

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 7, 2013 at 6:06 pm · Reply

      Oh, Susan! Even though you were being a good kid and using a headset, that cellphone still got you in trouble. How upsetting! I’m glad no one got hurt – except, obviously, your ego and your wallet.

  4. Kelly Wade May 7, 2013 at 7:26 pm · Reply

    Anytime a cop throws his lights on behind me I have a mini-heart attack. It makes total sense to have been glancing down at your iPod when you’re stopped at a red light because that would seem like the best time to press next or check why the music stopped, but cops are intense these days. Glad you got off with a warning!

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 11, 2013 at 10:57 pm · Reply

      You can’t be human if your heart doesn’t skip a beat when you see those flashing lights behind you. That’s the whole point! Pull over, get out of the way, someone’s in trouble. And it may be you … : )) These days my phone stays in my purse!

  5. Arleen May 7, 2013 at 7:39 pm · Reply

    I really enjoyed reading this post. You would not have gotten away with you have been warned in New Jersey. Cellphone laws here are not negotiable. I remember driving and looking over and a woman was texting and her knees were working the steering wheel. After seeing that I do not use my cellphone when driving. I can only image how you felt when you got pulled over. We tend to think that cops are god and can do us harm, when they are really doing their job. The good thing is that you didn’t get so upset that you peed in your pants. So there are many bright sides of story besides not getting a ticket.

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 11, 2013 at 10:55 pm · Reply

      Thanks, Arleen! I’ve heard about the New Jersey laws, and good on NJ for really cracking down on people. To be honest, I can’t use my cellphone and drive at the same time as I have a standard shift. I don’t know how people do it or why they’d want to! The only good solution is a headset and handsfree system. And yes, cops are just doing their job when they pull you over – so many people take it personally. As soon as I realized that, I calmed down and that likely helped the situation.

  6. Susan Bigan May 7, 2013 at 8:08 pm · Reply

    Oh my cell phone has gotten me in trouble many times. I wonder what will happen when Google Glass!

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 11, 2013 at 10:52 pm · Reply

      Those pesky cellphones! Even walking down the street, sometimes you take your life in your hands. I try and ignore the damn thing until I can sit down in some civilized place and deal with it. Google Glass, can’t imagine what the fall-out will be when those hit the streets! Good point.

  7. Debra Yearwood May 7, 2013 at 9:55 pm · Reply

    Laughed and laughed as I read this post. I get hives at the thought of being pulled over. Policemen are people I want to see on TV, at charity events or school education sessions. If they appear in my rear view window (even if its because they are passing me), I get uncomfortable.

    Here in Ottawa they started going “undercover” to catch illicit cell phone use. The local traffic police would dress as panhandlers and wait at corners to catch people being distracted by anything from cell phones to food. If ever I thought it was a good idea to use my phone in the car, that news stopped me cold. 🙂

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 11, 2013 at 10:50 pm · Reply

      Aw, thanks, Debra! And I heard about the undercover panhandlers! That’s so sneaky, but I’ll bet it worked. Would they really charge someone for having a swig of coffee? Although, in all fairness, that can be pretty darn distracting.

  8. Jeri May 8, 2013 at 12:12 am · Reply

    I’ve been in quite a few fender-benders, and surprisingly enough, not one of them was cell phone related. I try not to touch the phone while driving since my track record is so bad, but when at a stop light, I don’t see an issue with quickly responding to a text or changing a song. Now if the voice-activated capabilities of in my vehicle worked a little better, life would be easier 😉

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 11, 2013 at 10:49 pm · Reply

      I’m breathlessly anticipating my iPhone 5, which will come with Suri. That may make things a little easier. Although still gun-shy of using the damn thing in the car.

  9. A.K.Andrew May 8, 2013 at 7:06 pm · Reply

    I love this story. what a knack for creating tension while getting a great message across too. actually to be honest is the Pointer Sisters first album cover. i played that on vinyl til there was a hole in it. reminds me i must download it. thank you !

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 11, 2013 at 10:48 pm · Reply

      Why thank you, A.K.! I adore that Pointer Sisters album, have since it came out in the 70s. Am I dating myself?! Don’t care! Sounds great in the car, too. If I ever work up the nerve to use my iPhone in the car again!

  10. Hola BackGrinder May 9, 2013 at 5:54 pm · Reply

    I think your advice is best in the end: don’t try to argue with a cop when they are doing their job.

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 11, 2013 at 10:47 pm · Reply

      It’ s futile! They’ve heard it all, and you’ll just dig yourself in deeper.

  11. Doreen Pendgracs May 10, 2013 at 12:46 am · Reply

    Great post, Krystyna. And were you ever lucky! I got a big fat speeding ticket recently. Tried to fight it in court with an explanation. Got the fine reduced, but not as much as I’d liked. It sure taught me to slow down!

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 11, 2013 at 10:45 pm · Reply

      Thanks, Doreen! It can make a difference fighting it in court – you did get the fine reduced, and possibly didn’t hit with demerit points? That’s what impacts your insurance, which is when you really feel the sting of the law.

  12. Elizabeth Scott May 10, 2013 at 4:42 am · Reply

    I was not as lucky as you, I was driving a total of 1 mile to my moms house with my three children in the car. It was with in two weeks after the law came into effect in California. I was chatting on the phone with my cousin about the Jonas Brother concert she suprised her daughters with the night before. I glance to the left and all of the sudden I remembered. There he was sitting at the light. It was instant connection and he read the words on my mouth as I threw the phone down. I really didn’t remember the new law until I saw him. He was extremely nice and gave my children free Slurpee coupons and I got a big fat ticket.

  13. Krystyna Lagowski May 11, 2013 at 10:59 pm · Reply

    That’s just plain bad luck – a short trip and so soon after the law kicked in. They really should have let you off with a warning. At least he gave your children something a little nicer to remember him by : ))

  14. Becc May 13, 2013 at 5:37 am · Reply

    It is as frightening as hell, isn’t it.
    I was pulled over (luckily as it turns out) as the policeman noticed my rego was just out of date. He was pretty nice though and explained to me how I could go about not having to pay the fine (which I did).
    I was still shitting myself when it was all over. Had to go home and have a good stiff drink 🙂

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 16, 2013 at 5:11 pm · Reply

      You were lucky to get a nice cop! That makes up for the panic of being pulled over. Especially since he helped you get out of the fine! But it can still throw you off your game for an hour or two. Glad you survived – and didn’t pay!

  15. Virginia Heffernan May 16, 2013 at 8:38 pm · Reply

    You told that common tale in an uncommonly humourous way, Krystyna. I’ve had cops – both female – show up at my door twice in my lifetime and both incidents involved a car. On the first occasion, she asked the dreaded “are you related to s-and-so?” question. I nearly fainted. The cops had spotted our car on the side of a dirt road in northern Ontario, covered in snow, and assumed it had been abandoned. But Roger was just prospecting deep in the bush. The second time I unintentionally gassed and dashed from the PetroCan at King and Bathurst and was caught on video. This time it was Roger’s turn (the car is in his name) to be asked “does a woman ever drive your car?” You’re right. That uniform and the gun, oh the gun, really does put the Fear of God into you, but I guess that’s the whole point.

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 31, 2013 at 3:56 pm · Reply

      Gosh, Virginia, thanks. Glad to hear both times it was a misunderstanding and an oversight. I’ve only ever once had a cop show up at my door, and that was because someone had crashed into my parked car. So I went from panic to laughter in about five seconds. The sight of that uniform is so disconcerting. And they know it – I’ve talked to cops that have confessed, especially the first time they put on that uniform, that they feel like god. Actually I’ve had some very interesting conversations with cops that are worth a blog post unto itself!

  16. Ashley Faulkes June 7, 2013 at 9:31 am · Reply

    Nice story!! I do find the cops a bit scary, especially here in Switzerland where their uniforms seem very military. I have actually only been pulled over with my girlfriend years ago for a foreigners permit check – a common problem for us expats. That was intimidating enough. Glad you got off with a warning. Bad girl!!

  17. Steve Grogan December 17, 2013 at 4:23 pm · Reply

    I check my phone at red lights. You aren’t moving, so what’s the big deal? Then when it turns green, I stop.

    Sometimes cops truly are just doing their jobs and upholding the law, but I think there is a pretty distinct difference when you are dealing with a bully hiding behind a badge.

  18. Krystyna Lagowski December 18, 2013 at 3:35 am · Reply

    Ah yes, but in Ontario, we have a law that makes it illegal to be even holding a cellphone while driving. It’s so misguided – I mean, I can use an iPad when I’m driving but not a cellphone? And I find some of the in-vehicle technology to be far more distracting than using a cellphone. But you know, it’s all politics and optics, of course.

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