Thursday, December 13, 2012
Christmas shopping and attending holiday gatherings bring out the vehicular felon in me. In the days leading up to Our Savior’s Jour de Naissance, I am typically pulled over at least once per Holy Season, for speeding.
Mostly through the mid 2000’s, until about 2010.
Perhaps working at all those charter schools made me spiritually accelerate toward religion-inspired days-off. I do know that my first charter school was indirectly involved in my worst criminal ‘pull-over’ back in 2009, definitely a holiday-season.
Moreover, it was a time of fiscal crisis for our state.
Frankly, I believe our governor had it in for charter school teachers. His left-wing policies purposefully dispatched state police to my own personal Mass-Pike exit, on missions to increase revenue by pulling over and giving citations to stressed, accelerated civil-servants-of-education, en route to collect their little disabled daughter, abandoned at her public school which I supported with my tax dollars, even though there was no after-school late bus (due to local deficits) to cart her home after her mandatory senior project (okay, she wasn’t little … or disabled: she had a speech disorder in third grade) where she was teaching improvisation in order to graduate due to right-wing conservatives’ graduation requirements which conspired to stress me out more than left-wing governors.
One Hundred And Eighty Dollars.
For going 73 in a 55.
Or maybe 50.
Who can think with things moving that fast?
All I did … was attempt to safely glide into the mandatory left lane on 146, after the Off-Then-On-Ramp from the Mass Pike. This is where things tend to bottleneck, so the entering folks accelerate to avoid death from swift-moving side-swipers.
73 in a 55.
I’d been doing 90 in a 65 each day without incident for years.
But this was the Holy Season.
And for the record?
No one can survive this Off-Again On-Again Ramp without merging with adequate speed, because a mandatory right lane exit-only-law delivers motorists to 65 MPH traffic less than 200 meters ahead.
In my case, I'd prudently applied pedal-to-the-metal so as not to be rear-ended by vehicular terrorists.
That is the precise spot the state cop held religious vigil -- with radar guns, not candles. And a wicked mean face.
It was traumatic. I car-pooled to work the next four months.
In fairness, I had noticed up ahead this clot of car-metal off to the right that looked state-cop suspicious. But I didn’t hit the brakes as I normally do when I spot police. This clot looked like a big accident.
But I SLOWED DOWN anyway.
It was too late. The speed trap I believe was illegal had already ensnared me. As well as three other innocent vehicularists. They were the ones ‘parked’ there, off to the right, in that ‘clot.’
In fact, all of those pulled-over vehicles made it dangerous for me to join the tangle and avoid striking state cop personnel, now standing in the actual highway, while at the same time not forcing said personnel to walk more than a mile to get to my pulled-over car.
I meant to slow down more efficiently. But the moment I saw the car-clot, my cell phone rang. It was my teaching colleague ‘M’ and as a professional educator, I had to take the call.
Now I am usually an expert multi-tasker. But I somehow did not engage the brake as I normally would (by using my foot) because I had to reach into my filthy purse amongst vermin and contaminants to root around for my sticky cell phone.
By the time I opened the phone to answer, the state cop had thrown his body into oncoming traffic, aimed his radar gun at me with deadly force, and screamed, “PULL OVAH!”
Even 'M' heard him and shouted from the other end, “HANG UP, QUICK.”
I was a rag when he ambled toward my passenger window. This was a non-pull-over area: far too small to allow egress for his ten gallon hat and riding boots and weapon-slinging jodhpurs to approach the driver’s side safely.
“License and registration,” he growled from the comfort of his pussy-passenger locale.
My face flushed and I could hardly think with all the adrenaline molecules infecting my brain. “Licorice and Regurgitation? What?”
Meanwhile my right hand robotically rooted amongst the botulism that is my purse to find my wallet.
Which wasn’t there.
I discovered this at the exact time I noted my state police personnel was studying my windshield and the floor of that passenger side … which was filled with dozens of Public Speaking Rubrics and mostly-clean tissues and fifteen empty Polar Seltzer cans.
That is when I began praying.
“Oh, For the Love of Lord God Jesus, Amen, do NOT let this cop make me get out of my vehicle on my charter school’s Crazy Outfit Day.”
To count down to the winter holiday, our school enjoyed a Festive Spirit Week and that day was Crazy Outfit Day, which, typically, for me, was every day.
But on Crazy Outfit Day, I made an effort.
I’d purposefully matted my hair to arrange it into glue’d tangles, contained by a Santa Cap defiled by a fake CSI pin. Below my head was a Hawaiian moo moo sucked in by a plaid belt, above polka-dot Capri pants rolled up to different heights on each leg, both of which were adorned by red tights bespeckled in butterflies. My right foot was enshrouded by a soccer sock I'd stenciled with blue balloons, all ending in a Birkenstock Sandal. My left foot was ensconced in a knee sock with Christmas mice peering from a stocking, which no one saw due to the Black Army Boot. (I'd wrapped it like a gift … tied off with a jingle bell.)
“Is there a problem, Ma'am?”
SO many, I thought.
“Well, sir. The problem seems to be that my wallet with my license . . . is in my other purse.”
“I see. Well. Do you HAVE a legal and current license?”
“Oh, I DO, yes, yes. I have that.”
“Could you produce the vehicle’s registration?”
“I am almost sure I can.”
I had no idea if I could.
My glove box is like a Jack-In-The-Box.
POP goes the weasel and out pops a dead weasel, and there I am, on my car hood, legs splayed, hands cuffed, in my Charter School Crazy Outfit … off to Death Row.
Guess what popped out of my Jack-In-The-Glove-Box?
My current registration.
Rocky Horror Police: “Do you own this vehicle?”
Horrified Me In Crazy Outfit: “I do. I really do, it's mine. I don’t even make payments because of the year that—“
He was gone to run a check on the vehicle.
He returned moments later asking, “Ma'am. Are you aware that this vehicle has an expired inspection sticker, from April? Of 2008?”
I looked at the sticker and peed right there in the driver’s seat. It was 20 months overdue.
“I certainly was NOT. I don’t know how that happened but I am ASHAMED and all I can think is—“
“Having a vehicle with an expired inspection sticker and not being in possession of your driver’s license are serious violations, Ma'am, are you aware of that?”
“I am… I am SO very aware of this, Sir, and GAWD how sorry I am becau—“
“Where are you coming from?”
“Teaching. I teach. At a school. It’s in Marlborough where I teach. We get out late. We’re a charter. We get out at—“
“Where were you going TO?”
“Picking up my daughter where I was late picking her up … cuz of the lateness and Crazy OUTFIT Day which I’m sure you must have … --anyway, I was late and she had just called to tell me HOW late and JUST THEN you appeared with your gun and that voice and—“
“I saw you were on your cell phone.”
“Yes, my little girl –– the baby of four – I was assuring her she wouldn’t have to wait much longer since she’d been wai—“
“Ma'am. What I’m going to do now. . .”
I am wiping sweat from my face and pee from the Sebring’s lumbar support.
“. . . is explain to you the multiple violations and potential citations you’ve warranted here today. Do you KNOW the consequences for not possessing your driver’s license AND for driving a vehicle with an expired inspection sticker for MORE than one full YEAR?”
I was certain it was death, but he did not wait for an answer.
(Meanwhile my silent prayer droned on, “Lord, seriously, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE let me exit this vehicle. Let him assassinate me. But do not let me exit this vehicle in what I am wearing.”)
“Let's just say," he continued, "the consequences are ... significant. But I am willing to give you a verbal warning for failure to have in your possession your valid driver’s license, and a verbal warning for failure to have a valid inspection sticker … and driving a vehicle without a valid inspection sticker … for more than ONE YEAR.”
“And also a warning for SPEEDING,” I offered helpfully.
“Do you even KNOW how fast you were going?”
“I do not know how fast I was going.”
“Do you know what the speed limit is?”
“I dare not venture a gue—“
“No way. I am SO, SO sorry, Sir. I’ve been driving on this road for NINETEEN YEA-“
“So I am giving you a citation for speeding. Here you go.”
“Oh, THANK YOU… but especially for not making me get out of this car since I am dressed for our school’s CRAZY OUTFIT DAY. Just LOOK at my plaid belt. PHEW, right?”
“Ma'am. There was no need to have you leave your vehicle. You can appeal this citation and request a hearing or pay the fine within twenty days. Be careful as you merge with oncoming traffic.”
Oh I was careful.
“Merging” is what got me that ticket in the first place.
I sat there for two hours until rush hour was over. A neighbor picked up my daughter.
It was stunning sitting there reading the number next to my fine. One Hundred Eighty Dollars. Part of it was a $50 Head Injury Surcharge.
Whose bright idea was that? (Yeah-yeah, someone with a head injury.)
It was a bad year, 2009. The economy tanked, trashing our retirement portfolio and we were weirdly in a new tax bracket from some promotion my spouse received. $180 was not in that year’s Christmas budget. Plus I hadn't received a moving violation I couldn't talk my way out of in eighteen years.
Even twenty years ago I’d managed to get just a warning when I failed to engage the emergency brake in my manual Subaru, unwittingly causing my unmanned vehicle to roll backward into a police van.
Having just received this jolly 146 On/Off/On Ramp ticket, I fondled it, then whipped out my calculator to see how much my new insurance premiums and ticket and lost time at school due to appearing at a hearing might be.
Once I saw the total, I decided to host a charter school Dress Like A Ho Day as a fundraiser and declare myself the cause. (Bake sales had been banned that year by the state’s left-wing nutrition guidelines.)
Well, that is all behind me.
Fortunately, Christmas of 2012 will be Pull-Over Free because, as you know, I have nowhere to rush to, or from. These days, I can roll with leisure from my unemployed bed then dress like a vagabond or Santa’s Sassy Slattern, and putter about in my Sebring, fearlessly, joyfully, well under the speed-limit … like other retirees. Ho Ho Ho.
[Happy Holidays, Linda! xoxo C]