Here’s a post my mom won’t want to read. (So mom, don’t read it. Yes, everything’s fine. I’ve got a sweater on.)
I drive fast on the highways.
I just do. I’m not a speed demon — but I admit, I get a bit of a rush running with the big dogs in the left lane. I don’t want to be No. 1 in the line, I don’t want that pressure. But I want to keep up with the line. I want to be of the line. So while most people are going probably 5-10 over the speed limit in the other two lanes, me and the other folks in the left lane are getting places. Doing things. Shaving minutes off that GPS assumption that we’re getting there at 6:48 and proud when we get there at 6:45.
We all have our faults. We all need that testosterone rush from something.
Today, I got caught. First time since the early1990s, mind (that said, I have never owned a car and only began driving semi-regularly since I met Maury, who has never not had a car). Back in the day I was an intern at WGBH’s “Ten O’Clock News” and was working on a weekend, and as the intern I had to fetch lunch. I raced back to the office so the food would be hot and I could be doing the things I would rather be doing at work. And I got stopped.
I was going 50 in a 25 zone. Truly, though — if anyone knows Cambridge and can imagine Western Ave., the road that juts off of Mass Ave and heads toward the border between Cambridge and Allston … yeah, that one. No need for 25. Just no need. But. I was going fast. I got a $300 fine and panicked. That’s a lot of money for a starving college student and I had no one to blame. I sucked it up, found the money and paid it.
Not so much as a parking ticket since.
Which I admit, makes you bold. But my theory is this, such as it is: If you’re going with the flow of traffic, if you’re not No. 1 or doing a crazy weaving, you’re generally safe. Yeah, they can pick anybody they want out at any time, but even the slow lanes do more than the speed limit. They just do. Safety in speeding numbers.
Insert moment here for everyone to lay out reasons to go 55 in terms of saving gas and ultimately the ability to survive an accident.
Everything happened so fast today I just didn’t have time to process it. I was in the fast lane with everybody else and then began to realize that … everybody … was … moving … into … the middle lane. It was like that. And the brain said, “That might be a sign.” So I began slowing.
But not fast enough. Suddenly the lights were behind me and three things happened:
- I imagined Ice Cube’s “Today Was a Good Day” lyric: “Didn’t even see a berry flashin’ those high beams”
- I thought, “Oh, he’ll need to get by, I’ll move over.”
- “He’s following me over. I’m caught.”
So we ease over into the shoulder and I’m vibrating a little from the nerves. Maury reaches calmly to get the registration, and tells me to put my hands on the wheel. I get out my license and do that. He suggests I roll the windows down but there’s a huge rush of wind from the highway and I roll them up. Also, my brain is searching through all those “these are your rights if the cops pull you over” videos I watched a while back and you do not have to roll down your windows all the way.
Also, what’s in my head is, “You ran with the big dogs and now you pay the price.” I was speeding. I was toast. No fight here.
At last the policeman — I want to say trooper but I could be wrong — comes over to the passenger side (probably too dangerous to come to my side and the window goes down and he asks for the license and registration. Asks some questions, where we’re from, where we were coming from, what we were doing in Massachusetts over the weekend. Clean-cut young guy with a name on his brass tag that made me think of pierogis. Asked me if I had any idea that I completely blew right by him going 20 miles over the posted limit.
I did not say, “I never saw you officer,” because that sounds pretty bad. But it’s the truth. I was processing cars moving out of the line of fire. Putting me at the head of the line. I never saw him until he was behind me. But I was as friendly as I could be (and jumpy) and bright and perky and waiting for admonishment. I did say I was driving with the flow of traffic, but that didn’t go over well considering, you know, I blew right past him.
Then he asked when I’d last been pulled over. And I said the early 1990s. Which was totally completely accurate, and possibly before he was actually born. “That long ago?” he said and I was like, “Yep!”
Then he handed back the license and registration and gave us a warning. He said next time it could be a $300 ticket. Three-hundred dollars! Again!
And then he withdrew.
It was like a gift out of nowhere. A total, perfect, absolute gift.
“Must be nice to be a pretty blonde,” said Maury, which is something he says now and again. (I disagree this has anything to do with anything, plus as I say: I’m possibly old enough to be this guy’s mom.)
But for real: Gift.
As we merged back into the (far right slow lane) to continue on our journey, all I could think of was how not only did I get a rare gift today — a pass on what could have been a huge ticket — but it reminded me all over again how it is easier to be a white blonde girl behind the wheel of a car. Pretty or no. There have been so many incidents recently of black men not only not getting a pass — but in some cases not ever getting out of their car ever again, and black women taken into jail only to end up hanged in their cells — for far less than what I was just pulled over for that I felt this huge wash of unfairness and guilt that I didn’t know what to do with.
I still don’t, and I’m still processing. I’m glad that I can process. That I can write about this from the comfort of my own home and computer mere hours later. This was a momentary blip in my day. For far too many it is life-altering, and not in a good way.
We may never know just what allows us to pass through our days unimpeded and unobstructed. But every day we do come out on the other side without harm coming to us or our loved ones is another kind of gift. And because of that daily gift, we should be hyper-aware of the ways in which the world does not bend so easily for some, for the ways in which the road sometimes rises up with giant teeth and eats others alive.
I got away with it. Not everybody can, or does. But we all deserve the same level of treatment, the same level of respect. And if I could guarantee that no one would ever give me a pass again for whatever superficial element of my appearance might make them decide to do so — so that everyone else’s appearance would also not matter when it comes to violations of the law — I would happily pay the fine.
So I did, in part: I went over to Black Lives Matter and paid part of my fine there. (I’ll do more later once the bills on our basement nightmare settle down.) You can too, if you think you might also have been given a pass recently — or just because you want to lend a hand — go here.
Three-hundred dollars is a large sum for a ticket, but it’s a tiny drop in the well of fairness.
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