Wednesday, August 10, 2011

EASTER ESSAY: THE TICKET

Written months ago..... I haven't been able to publish posts and just now found out how to fix it! On with my "Easter Essay" -- finally!!!

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I felt so free..... driving along the back country roads, with my bike in the back seat, after a long frustrating day, to meet my friend Roxanne for a ride. I'd been looking forward to it all day and I felt free, free! Rox and I are going biking, hallelujah!!

Until I saw the red and blue lights flashing in my rear-view mirror. Unmarked car. Darn.

I knew what it was, though. We had moved in with my mother several months earlier and were finding many things that she had lost track of, one of them being renewing her car tags. We'd discovered this earlier when I got pulled over for expired tags, but the officer found, on running the registration, that it was current; the renewal stickers just had not been applied. The cop gave me one of those "get this fixed" orders but didn't ticket me since the registration was current. Mother had no idea where they could be, so we ordered new ones. Well, I procrastinate and lose track of things too, and the new stickers were still in the glove box.

So when this second officer pulled me over, I reached immediately for the registration papers and the new stickers.

"Hello, officer, I know it looks like my tags are expired but it's my elderly mother's car, and she lost the renewal stickers; I have the replacement ones right here but haven't put them on yet," handing them to him.

He looked at the registration and the stickers. He said, "I already ran your tags and I know your registration's current. Be sure to get those stickers on soon. Actually the reason I've pulled you over is..... I clocked you awhile back at 55 in a 40 zone and just now at 62 in a 50."

My spirits plunged as I felt a heavy weight fall crushing down on me. No more light, free feeling.

"It's 40mph starting back there at Black Hawk School Road, with a notice before the change," he answered. "Did you see me sitting there? " "I didn't," I said. (Unmarked car sitting at a stop sign...) "You've been following me that long?" It had to have been at least a mile.

"I have," he said. "That's two violations in a mile and a half." (Plus, he could have said, not paying attention, not seeing the speed limit signs, not noticing the police vehicle at the intersection or behind me. And I thought it was 55, not 50, right here where he'd pulled me over, but he'd clocked me at 62.)

"You can put your stickers back in your glove box; be sure to put them on soon. I do need your registration, license, and insurance information."

Oh no, please..... we'd been living in Maryland for close to a year and I still had my Florida driver's license from when we were RV'ing and didn't live "anywhere" but had to declare a state of residency, so, like many full-time RV'ers, we declared one we occasionally visited and actually stayed in sometimes that had no state tax. Please please please...... I gave him the documents. He read them.

"You say this is your mother's car?" "Yes, it is. My husband and I have moved in with her to take care of her." "She's elderly, you say?" "Yes, sir." "So, how long ago did you move here from Florida?" Oh, geez. Well, not quite. Most recently we'd moved from New Orleans from New Hampshire from Texas. We'd lived in Florida for 6 months in 2005 but at the time we were registered in South Dakota. It seemed too complicated and farfetched to explain.

"Um, several months ago. (Maybe 8 or 10 since we actually changed our address..... isn't that just a few.....?) "Things have been pretty confusing, getting my mother's issues sorted out. I guess I sort of put off getting my own license changed." (I guess you're supposed to get your Maryland one within 60 days of taking up residence there.)

"Well, you have two significant speeding violations, and expired tags even though your registration is current, and I'll have to run the info on your out-of-state license. You now claim the same address that's here on your mother's registration, is that correct?" "Yes, sir, my husband and I have changed our addresses to receive all our mail and services there."

So he goes back to his patrol car and I lean my head on the steering wheel and moan, "Oh, God, no, oh God no, oh God no, oh God no......" How am I going to pay a speeding ticket? Speeding plus all these other issues? How much is he going to hit me for? SavageMan is next month, I was going to get my bike a complete tune-up and new tires. I guess not, now. How could I have been so happy and so heedless? God help me, God help me, God help me...... 55 in a 40 that I didn't see? 62 in a 50 that I thought was 55? I couldn't have been, but he's been behind me for over a mile and I didn't even notice him, even in his unmarked car. I'm just flying along in my bike shorts and jersey with my bike in the back seat singing, "I'm free, I'm free, it's (finally) a great day to be alive...." but my bubble is busted. I'll probably just go home. I'll be needing to save on gas to pay for the traffic ticket.

With my head still on the steering wheel, I hear his voice at the window again. I lift my head and stare out the windshield.

"OK, Mrs. Hamilton," he says. "I haven't written you a citation. I've written you a warning for exceeding the 40mph speed limit. I don't want to penalize you; I just want protect you. Slow down, pay attention, and stay safe. And get your Maryland license soon and put those tag stickers on. You have a nice ride, now," glancing at my outfit and the bike.

And then, so kindly and gently it felt like a soft, warm, blessing rain: "You're free to go."
Free to go. It echoed in my head and my heart.
You're free to go.
You're free to go.
You're free to go.

You have this violation, and this one, and this one, and this one, and this one. (I discovered later that the insurance information I had handed him was expired as well, although, again, the policy was current but the card had been lost. He either didn't notice or, after running my insurance info, didn't mention it.)
But you're free to go.

Free to go? It took me a beat to absorb that. Then I gave him an astonished "Thank you!" and suddenly felt 20 pounds lighter. I felt uplifted and inspired.

Free to go. When I approach the heavenly throne and see that video of my life they always show you, I hope the Lord says to me, "Well, you've had some issues, haven't you? I've watched it all. You had this problem, and there was a tough choice here that could have gone better, you've always felt badly about the way you treated some people, you blew off some things that were important. But I don't want to penalize you, I just want to help you. I've taken care of all of it for you. You're free to go."

I put the written warning in my Bible.

It's been probably 9 or 10 months since that happened. I should call the police station and ask to speak with that officer, and tell him how much that extraordinary kindness meant to me. I think I'll even tell him I hope that's what Jesus says to me when I get to heaven: "You're free to go." He made my day, and left a lasting impression on my life. Maybe letting him know can make one on his.

1 comment:

fiberjoy said...

Lump in my throat.
Beautiful.