Friday, February 24, 2012
CINDYBIN THE CRIMINAL, OR "MY FIRST SPEEDING TICKET"
CINDYBIN THE CRIMINAL, OR “MY FIRST SPEEDING TICKET”
So I’m at a four-way stop listening to NPR on the radio when I notice a squad car behind me with its light on. I cross the intersection and swerve to the side to let him pass, but he stays behind me and runs the siren briefly. I’m like, “What?? Does he want ME to pull over? What did I do?”
I’ve never been pulled over in my life and was quite apprehensive. Luckily there was a bank parking lot coming up so I drove there and waited, rolled my window down and wondered what the heck this was all about. Was my tail light out? Did he want to ask me if I’d witnessed an accident or even a murder a few miles back? What was he going to say? It seemed like I waited there forever even though it was probably just a minute.
Finally he got out of his car and walked up. “Are you in a hurry this morning, ma’am?” I said that I was not. “Do you have any idea how fast you were going?” I said that I usually go only a few miles above the speed limit, that it must have been about 57 or 58, which surely they don’t arrest people for in a 55 mph zone! If I ever go much past 60 I definitely take my foot off the accelerator!
“I clocked you going 59 mph in a 45 mph zone,” he sternly informed me.
“What???” I said, flabbergasted. “I’m sorry! I didn’t know I was doing that! I always slow down for those curves! I’m a careful driver!”
“Did you just not see the sign? It says 45 miles per hour.”
“I don’t know!” I said. “I thought I did! I thought I slowed down! I can’t believe I would have gone that fast if it said the speed limit was 45! I don’t know how that could have happened! I’ve never been pulled over before! I’m sorry!”
He was fairly nice and I thought maybe he’d just give me a warning, especially since I’d never had a ticket, but then he asked to see my driver’s license. No problem.
Then he asked for proof of insurance. That was a problem.
I frantically opened the glove box and pulled out a pile of papers, maps, receipts and expired insurance cards. (Tip: clean out your glove box.)
“I’m sorry I can’t find it,” I said, “This has never happened to me before! You’re scaring me to death!”
“I’m scaring you to death?” he said, surprised.
“Well not you, but …”
“I know, just the situation,” he replied. Noticing how much my hands were shaking, he added, “I can see you’re discombobulated.”
I kept digging through the pile, and pulled out several cards. One expired two years ago. Another expired three or so years ago. “Will this do?” I asked, holding it up.
“No ma’am, I need an up-to-date card.”
“Well we DO pay our insurance!” I said, still rifling through papers. “We’ve lived in the area for years! My husband was Scout master!” Seriously, I said that. I was grasping for straws, trying to prove we were nice people, not criminals. I don’t know why I cared so much what he thought of me. It was just the situation, I guess. “And I was on my way to visit my grandchildren!” I added.
“Okay…” He said, sort of smiling. I think. I was too flabbergasted to look at him much. I’d been face-to-face with police officers in years past, but it was to interview them for various newspaper articles I was working on!
Couldn’t he see how nice I was? My mind was racing and I almost started to tell him about how I stand up against marijuana and alcohol on the internet. That would show him how moral and upstanding I was! But then I caught myself and realized he wouldn’t care. He had pulled me over for speeding, not for driving under the influence. (And besides, how did I know he didn’t drink beer and smoke pot or think nothing was wrong with it? After what I’ve seen online, it wouldn’t surprise me. But that’s another rant.)
Finally I looked in the zippered owner’s manual thing and there was the current one in the little slot on the inside front cover. Whew! Somebody HAD put the new card in a convenient place after all! So he took it and my license back to his squad car and spent quite a long time entering information, came back and explained all about what forms to send in and that I had the option of taking a safe driver course and how I’d get my license back when this was settled but for now I was “driving on a ticket” which meant I had to keep the yellow copy in my purse as proof that I have a license. He had my license! Wah!!! I felt so naked!
Then he asked if I had any questions and I said no. “Okay, and ma’am, please be more careful”, he advised, walking away. “Okay,” I said. “Thank you.”
“Why did I say thank you? He just gave me a ticket!!” I thought as I drove off. I continued on my merry way on the 55 mph highway, going no faster than 57 mph or so, while everyone passed me. Finally I arrived at my destination, greeted by beaming faces, sticky fingers, dirty diapers and spit up. It was heaven, especially compared to the situation I’d just been in. I told my son and daughter-in-law what happened, and was comforted in the fact that they had each gotten speeding tickets, and in their 20’s even.
“Yeah, that makes it worse!” I said. “At least I went all the way until I was in my 50’s before I got my first ticket.”
“That’s true,” my son noted. “And we still have a whole lifetime of crime ahead of us!”
I stayed all day with the kids and drove home late afternoon, as cautious a driver you’d ever hope to see. I told hubby about it later that evening. (He, too, had been issued a speeding ticket years ago, on one of our family vacations.) I mentioned to my husband the trouble I had finding the current insurance card. He explained that he kept some old cards just in case we didn’t have a current card for some reason—that at least it would be better than nothing. But it’s not. I may as well have given the cop an Arby’s coupon.
I also told him that I wasn’t upset so much at the ticket—not the money or anything—just the whole situation. I’d never even had a detention before! The closest thing was when I was in 7th grade and I couldn’t find my science homework. The teacher had this weird practice of making any students who didn’t have it put their heads down on their desk the whole class period, and then come in after school. I was horrified as I slumped over my desk! Then I came in after school like I was supposed to, and the teacher told me I didn’t have to stay, that he knew there must be an explanation for my missing homework, bless his heart. (I came to find out the next day that I had accidentally turned my science homework in with my health paper!)
I also told my husband I was upset about the ticket because I couldn’t believe that I had gone so fast without knowing it. I thought I was a careful driver!
“Were you distracted in any way? Did you have the radio on?” he asked.
“Well I never use my cell phone,” I said. “And I barely even take my eyes off the road. But I usually have the radio on—geez, I can drive and listen to the radio at the same time!”
“Apparently you can’t”, he quipped. Har har.
I went to bed that night and kept seeing that cop’s face in my sleep, woke up in the middle of the night and went over the dialogue between us several times. I just felt so creeped out. To him it was a routine traffic stop, but to me it was a big deal. I know that for many others it wouldn’t be so overwhelming, and it really shouldn’t have been for me, either. It wasn’t like he was going to send me to prison. Oh well, at least I didn’t cry.
In any case, I hope this little blog has offered a bit of advice and support for any first time traffic offenders who may need it. I want you to realize it’s not the end of the world if you ever DO get stopped, and that it can happen to the best of us.
And I’ve learned my lesson: watch for speed limit signs and be paranoid and go super slow especially around curves, have a neatly-organized glove box, and drive in complete silence. Hopefully I can go another 50-plus years without a ticket or die, whichever comes first.