Saturday, July 6, 2013

This Wasn't Supposed To Be My Ticket...

Let me start with this:

I live in fear of cops.

Is it because my Daddy was a crooked cop and we spent my childhood on the run from Johnny Law?


        It is because I associate cops with huge sums of money. Every time a cop shows up and pulls you over, there are massive fees to be paid; am I right?

        As I’m sure you can imagine, I have a plethora of getting-pulled-over stories, mostly involving the extremely obscure (but also very true) sentiments I have relayed to cops when they do so, but those will most likely be disclosed in my first memoir.

        I will say that the one time I successfully cried my way out of a ticket was senior year of high school, when I got pulled over in my Dad’s car on the way to school and didn’t have my license on me because I’d switched cars at the last minute. Oh, I was also going about 40 in a 15 zone, coming out of the park, and I immediately broke down and started sobbing because… of how much it was going to cost me: having no license in the car, driving a car that was not registered in my name, and going twice the speed limit.

        It’s safe to say the officer found me to be completely overwhelming as I choked out all the reasons why I was a terrible candidate for a speeding ticket, before he’d even opened his mouth. To this day I still refuse to call them “excuses,” when I was simply informing him why I’d been speeding. Among my tearful explanation was a dramatic, “Officer do you see those pink princess balloons in the backseat? It’s cause today is my best friend’s birthday and we forgot her birthday last year and I really just want her to feel special and celebrated this year…” Like I said: obscure, but nonetheless very true.

See how my eyes are puffy from crying that morning? Wait, never mind. My eyes are just puffy cause I was fat.

(I would like to take a sentimental moment to point out that the first piece I ever posted on this site was about the 2012 celebration of that same birthday girl, because she is now my roommate)


        It was obviously an attempt to evade said astronomical fees that I had me intentionally avoiding eye contact with the cop who had pulled up beside me in traffic on the 405, one sunny afternoon.

Allow me to provide two disclaimers:

1) Traffic was heavy. In a passionate attempt to resist giving into the madness that can be induced by rush-hour traffic on the 405, I was keeping myself occupied with some very sensible crafts. Because when you’re going ten miles an hour for 30 minutes at a time, your hands are free to do things like this:

2) If I’m going to sit through an exponentially long ride home and most likely be too wiped out to engage in a serious work out when I get home, I may as well burn some calories and do some detox in what I like to call a moving sauna. Think about it: if you turn the AC off (oh who am I kidding? I never turn mine on) and you leave the windows rolled up, you can sweat out some major toxins. Lest you think this was the first day I had this bright idea: I’ve been doing it for years. Seriously, I started the summer before my senior year of college, when I drove home from the Y one day, just to see if I could make it. So while I was wearing my seatbelt, the shoulder strap was wrapped around the headrest, so it wasn’t touching me. (And if you’re still not getting it at this point, a) you’re hopeless and b) here’s a spoiler alert: IT WAS SO THE SEAT BELT WOULDN’T GET DRENCHED.)

        The cop had been cruising beside me for about 90 seconds when I finally looked over, and saw him gesturing to my seat belt. Oh! I have my seatbelt on, Officer! 
...I just wasn’t wearing the shoulder strap. He turned on his lights to pull me over.

        It took forever to find a decent spot to pull over; I was afraid that he’d think I was trying to outrun him. I gestured to the minuscule “shoulder” that finally appeared beside me and said, “Here?” in my rearview mirror. He reached for a microphone to a bullhorn that I didn’t even know he had and said, “Yeah.” I had a very strange moment of wondering if he had somehow tapped into the speaker system in my car before I figured out that he was broadcasting through the speakers atop his car.

        Problem: The cop was attractive. This was unexpected. Was I on a reality show? Was this a candid camera… Cops… Reality show? He was attractive for a cop, but he was also pretty attractive for the general population, which means that I was guaranteed to say some utterly ridiculous, nonsensical things in the next several minutes.

        He stuck his head through the window (on the passenger side, because if he’d been on the driver’s side he would have been run over) “I pulled you over because you weren’t wearing your seatbelt properly.”


“It won’t do you any good when it’s wrapped around the seat like that.”


“Your head will slam straight into the steering wheel.”

        “Yes it will.”

On ‘steering wheel,’ he fixed his gaze on mine, “And you were… braiding and driving.”

        I really wish it hadn’t been braiding (it wasn't the one from the picture above, that was an another crafty day where I didn't get pulled over) so that I could have corrected him, but it was, in fact, a simple braid. I took responsibility for this, “Yes I was.” He seemed somehow irritated that he couldn't rebuke me any more harshly, because I was taking his accusations so defenselessly. Perhaps he'd assumed that the Crazy Craft Lady would be more scornful. His hand slapped the hood of the car as he impatiently added, “And is your AC broken? Is it really hot in this car or is it just out here?”

        Well you asked, Officer, I thought as I responded, “Oh the AC works just fine, I just like to keep the windows up and the AC off sometimes to… you know, sweat it out. It’s kind of a detox thing, I guess.” I realized, in that moment, that I actually sounded like a lunatic. I’d never had to explain this strange behavior to anyone who didn’t already a) know me or b) know my penchant for sweating.

        He asked for my license, registration and insurance, the last two of which are egregiously expired. I informed him of the expiration and assured him that I’d already made an appointment at the California DMV, and then found myself blabbering on about how I would fax the Tennessee DMV a copy of my class schedule when I was in college, so that the vehicle could remain legally registered, even though I lived out of state. I’m not certain, but I think this might have been a subconscious attempt to assure him that I was a mentally capable, law-abiding citizen.

        With a gruff “stay in the vehicle,” he took my documents back to his car, on our cozy little shoulder of the 405. I continued to cough out embarrassed laughs in the proceeding five or so minutes, every time my mind wandered back to what on earth this guy could possibly think of me, in my bag-lady car with my bag-lady string on the steering wheel. (Literally: it was from a huge bag of string that sits in the passenger seat.)

        He reapproached Shelley and maybe it was because I was expecting an actual death sentence from him, but I was floored when he said, “I’m only writing you up for expired tags. I could have given you a speeding ticket because you were braiding and driving,” his voice was full of disdain at my crafts, “but it’s just your tags.”

Before I could stop myself, I blurted out, “So ‘braiding and driving’ would technically be a speeding ticket?”

        “The proper speed for braiding is zero miles per hour. So yes, it’s a moving violation.”

“Ah. I see. I was just curious. I assumed it would be reckless driving.”

        “That would be three moving violations in one. So if you were improperly changing lanes, improperly buckled and tailing someone then yes, I could get you for reckless driving. But I just wrote you up for expired tags.”

        He gave the drenched Crazy Craft Lady another once-over, “Um, do you do this thing without air conditioning often? Cause it gets really hot and there’s risk of a heat stroke if you’re not acclimated…”

I tried to channel my best Victoria Grayson as I laughed at him, “Oh please, do I look like a rookie? I did this in Miami: I’m tougher than I look.”

        I’m sure that the strange look he gave me as I waved my hand about the hot car was his calculating to go back to the squad car and look up if any aliases close to my name had been recently used in mental institutions. He handed me the ticket and I suddenly found that my chest was getting tight, as the sentimental music was swirling around us and I thought about bidding farewell to my new friend. I took a deep breath, “Well Officer, I see no other way to proceed than to give you this.” I handed him the braided string.
        I thought I saw a tear glisten in his eye as he pursed his lips and said, “I can’t take that.”
The music came to an abrupt halt. “Wait, you like, actually can’t accept it, or are you just being gracious?”
“No it could be considered bribery and I could lose my job.”

I’m joking about the symphonic music and the tears, but the above dialogue is just real as was my ensuing emotion: indignation.

I had just offered the man one of my crafts. 

        This was just like the emperor giving Mulan his sword and seal for her bravery at the end of the Disney movie. (It’s totally not, but it’s a nice sentiment, isn’t it?)

        Struck with sudden inspiration, I tossed the string out the passenger window and debatably released a sound much like Geriatric Rose did, when she threw the Heart of the Ocean overboard at the end of Titanic and I said, “There! I littered! You better clean it up! I’m going to drive away now and I didn’t see a thing! DON’T YOU DARE LEAVE MY CRAFT ON THE SIDE OF THE 405!”

        Seeing how traffic was barely creeping along, I couldn’t exactly dramatically speed away, but as I slowly integrated back into a line of vehicular droids, I saw (in the one sideview mirror that is still attached to my car – the driver’s side fell off long ago) a dusty reflection of the new friend I was leaving behind… as he stooped down to pick up the crafty gift I had bestowed upon him.

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