Not too long ago, I wrote an Ode To The Po-Po where I talked about my experiences with the police and how they weren’t half bad.
I take it back.
I got a ticket on the way to work this morning.
I haven’t gotten a ticket in years. The new century had just dawned the last time I was pulled over. I am a good driver. Yes, I know everyone thinks they’re a good driver, but I really am. My insurance company says so with the good driver discount they give me.
I have an excellent sense of spacial relations. I can and have parallel parked in a spot with only two inches on each side to spare. I have never been in an accident that was my fault. I don’t text and drive. I always use my turn signals. I don’t put makeup on behind the wheel. And most importantly, I pay attention. I always know who’s around me. It’s part of the hypersensitivity I got as a result of being sexually abused.
Before this morning, I’d gotten all of four tickets in my life. Two for speeding, one for throwing a cigarette out the window, and one for improper left turn that christened my newly minted driver’s license just a few weeks after I started driving. Other than the first one, they were total bullshit. This one is no exception. Allow me to elaborate.
This is a representation of a normal California freeway clusterfuck. To be fair, California has some of the oldest freeways in the United States, built when cars had a max speed of like 20 oxen per nautical mile, and not for today’s speed demons. Anyway, California freeways are positively idiotically stupid. Traffic merging on the freeway and traffic getting off have to cross streams. Always. Like so:
The people coming from the on-ramp have to share the same lane as the people trying to exit. The exiting people are trying to get over to the right, while the on-ramp people are trying to get to the left all in the same lane. Can you see how that would lead to some confusion? Now, put a bunch of sleepy drivers who aren’t paying attention and think they own the road on there in what we like to call “rush-hour traffic.”
This is me in the stylish grayish blue rectangle and the arrows are my intended path:
I needed to get over to the right because my exit was next. Enter Police Cruiser:
I saw a gigantic Mad Max police SUV in my peripheral vision on the on-ramp, because it’s impossible not to notice a black and white nearly-a-tank vehicle that unreasonably large, and because I’d started looking to the right, preparing to cross streams with oncoming traffic.
I put on my turn signal. Unlike most people on California roads, I use turn signals. I even put them on before I turn. I know! Can you believe it!? There’s a thing right there next to your steering wheel that will alert fellow drivers as to what you intend to do. It’s not magic or fortune-telling; it’s called a turn signal.
I use them as a habit because I come from the city of Detroit where traffic laws are more of a suggestion. If you don’t alert people to what you are doing, they will hit you. Sometimes, they’ll hit you anyway because they don’t like the cut of your jib. Turn signals are imperative in Detroit.
I put on my turn signal and glanced in the rear view mirror. There was no one directly behind me. I glanced over my right shoulder and saw the Police Mega-Thunderdome blocking out the sun. Even though the Police Monster did not have a turn signal on, I made the educated guess that it was going to try to get over to the left like everyone else over there. I judged the distance, still with my turn signal on, and slid over right:
There’s a thing called right of way. Most people are woefully unfamiliar with this concept. It’s pretty simple and it could save your life someday. It goes something like this: the traffic already on the freeway has the right of way. This means that, if you are on an on-ramp, you’re hosed. You have to navigate around the traffic that’s already there, because they have the right of way. It’s okay though. Once you’ve managed it, at the next exit, you will have the right of way. It’s give and take.
At this particular moment in time, I had the right of way since I was already on the freeway. By law, The Policasaurus Maximus had to merge with me, not the other way around. Instead of noticing my turn signal and waiting for me to get over to the right, where it could easily slide into the spot that I vacated, Policasaurus decided to bear down on the freeway like a hammer to a nail. It sped right the hell up and nearly rear ended me.
I had angered the Policusaurus Maximus. It was all flashy lights and noises. It was growling at me. My first instinct was to run from the danger, but my law-abidingness overtook my sense of self-preservation. I pulled over.
I sat there, not moving, with both hands on the wheel at 10 and 2 O’clock. I have heard that police like to see hands when they walk up on an unknown vehicle. I refrained from waving.
In the rear view, all I could see was an angry Policasaurus grill and pretty flashing colors. Then I saw a tiny beige speck emerge from the Policasaurus earhole. The speck sidled up to my passenger side. I rolled the window down and a tiny person, barely tall enough to appear in my window, in a tiny voice said, license and registration. I had to lean in very close to be able to hear Cindy Lou Who, just like Horton.
It’s in my bag, I told Cindy Lou Who, and I pointed to the bag on the passenger seat between us. What’s the problem, officer?
You made an unsafe lane change. You didn’t signal and I had to step on my brakes. I nearly hit you.
Oh no, brakes! You had to step on your brakes when entering the freeway? That’s a travesty! It’s a good thing your Police Tank was installed with such unnecessary frivolities as brakes! Who would have thought you’d need brakes in Los Angeles rush hour traffic? And I can totally see why you didn’t see my turn signal way down here at ground level from your police-helicopter-on-wheels that you call a cruiser.
When I heard Cindy Lou say that my calculated lane change with turn signal was “unsafe,” my entire being screamed BUUUUUUUUUULLLLLLLSHHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITTTT!!!!1!! All of the injustices that I’ve endured woke up and clambered through my consciousness. This last cruel tyranny was enough to break the whole system. A burning white light of unfairness went supernova in my center. I let out a primeval scream from the bowels of my soul.
But I said nothing.
I reached in my bag for my wallet and found it was not there, much like the Christmas that The Grinch stole from Cindy Lou. Who stole Christmas, Cindy Lou? And while we’re at it, who stole my wallet?
I began to panic.
I carry a large backpack to work with lots of stuff one might need in a regular workday and then some. When I go to the dog park, I usually take a small bag, just large enough to fit my wallet, phone and car keys. When I get home from the dog park, I transfer it all back to the backpack. Obviously, since I was in the car that was not parked at home, I had my car keys. I reached in the backpack where I keep my phone. That was there, too. Well, where is my wallet?
The last twenty-four hours scrolled through my mind like a movie flashback. I saw getting up, taking the dog out, work, driving home, taking the dog to the dog park, dinner, bed. Wait, rewind a bit…
If my life was a movie, this would have been the moment where it cuts from the scene on the side of the freeway to a shot of a small bag at home to let the audience know that my wallet is probably right where I left it in the bag I took to the dog park last night. Even without that establishing shot, I figured it out pretty quickly on my own. Strangely, my first thought was that, without any money, I won’t eat lunch today.
I had zero proof of who I am. As far as Cindy Lou was concerned, I was a criminal in a stolen car since I couldn’t prove my identity at all. Cindy Lou Who practically begged me for some sort of identification. A gym card, a credit card, anything with a picture ID. All of that is in my wallet which is not here, I helpfully told her. On top of not having a driver’s license, I also had no car registration nor proof of insurance, because that, too, was stowed in my faraway wallet. Great.
I dug around in the glove compartment and found the temporary registration they had plastered to my windshield until I got my license plates. It had my name and the car information on it. It’s not valid anymore and it doesn’t have a picture, but at least it has my name as owner of the potentially stolen car I was driving. I handed it to her. She handed me a pad of sticky notes and asked me to write down my full name, address and date of birth. I wrote down two addresses since I just moved and I have no idea how far along in the change of address process the Department of Motor Vehicles has gotten. She pulled out a rope ladder and climbed back in the Policasaurus earhole.
After approximately ninety days, Cindy Lou returned with my temporary registration and a ticket. She told me that she wrote me up for unsafe lane change (BULLSHIT) and for not having proof of insurance. She helpfully told me that if I can prove that my car is insured, when I go to court, that one will be dropped. Well, thanks a fucking bunch, Cindy Lou.
Cindy Lou told me to gain speed on the shoulder and merge into traffic when it was clear. Always helpful, that Cindy Lou Who. I wanted to ask her how she can reach the pedals of the Policusaurus Maximus.
But I said nothing.
As an added bonus, the Policusaurus Maximus followed me almost the entire rest of the way to work. I am going to give Cindy Lou the benefit of the doubt and chock that up as coincidence.