Another Sunday morning rushing around the house, trying (but inevitably failing) to make it to church on time. Everyone is dressed, teeth brushed (maybe?), shoes and coats on. We get halfway down the country road leading to the interstate when I ask my oldest son if he remembered his basketball clothes for practice after church. Of course, he didn’t. Therefore, we turn around and head back home.
Once again, on our way. We could still just barely make it on time if I fly down the isolated country road with a speed limit of FORTY MILES PER HOUR! (No one travels 40 MPH down this road unless they are old, lost, or on probation from their last speeding ticket (don’t ask me how I know this).
Just rounding the curve before we arrive at a stoplight, I spot a sheriff sitting at the intersection. He is, of course, biding his time, waiting for someone like…me. I get that familiar knot in my stomach and immediately slow my speed. It’s too late. I see him inch out to make a turn and head my way.
And there are the familiar lights I’ve come to know (and dread). CRAP!
I tell the boys to be quiet, that Mommy is being pulled over (an all-too-familiar experience for me, though I have never been pulled over for speeding with my kids in the car). Major Mom Fail. Will it scar them for life? Will they think I’m being hauled off to prison? Will they beg for mercy for their dear, sweet, loving Mother? To ensure they are not overcome with fear, I ask my youngest if he is afraid. “No. I’m cool” he replies and takes advantage of a little extra Kindle time, playing his favorite game.
It is not lost on me how inconsequential my fears of being pulled over are, compared to that of a woman of color.
My main concern is my insurance rates going up, having points on my license and trying to afford a lawyer to make the ticket magically disappear from my driving record. Whereas a woman of color in my situation has every reason to have a real fear of jail or a violent interaction with the police, even if she’s simply been caught speeding.
I find the perfect spot to pull over and dig around my seemingly bottomless purse for my license and insurance. I know the drill. I have them in hand when the officer comes to my window. Holy cow. This guy is like twelve years old! Can a sixth grader really issue me a ticket? I could be his Mother, for heaven’s sake! Perhaps I should offer him the over-ripe banana I grabbed in a mad rush to get out the door (the second time)? Nah, that could be construed as bribing an officer. (But he is a growing boy, and he looks hungry)!
The officer taps on my window and I roll it down. I’m mentally doing math in my head to figure out if I’m still on probation from my last speeding ticket. No, I think I am two and a half months clear. Thank the Good Lord. Oh, speaking of the Good Lord…
“I think you know why I pulled you over,” the young officer says.
”Yes, sir. I do. I was speeding.”
”Are you late getting somewhere, Ma’am?”
Mentally weighing the truth of where we are headed versus him thinking I’m lying to get out of a ticket, I decide to take a gamble and tell the truth. “Well, my boys and I are on our way to church, and yes, we are running behind.”
He takes a look in the backseat and sees the boys buckled up and looking as innocent as lambs, playing videogames, completely unaware of the high stakes their mother faces if issued another speeding ticket this soon after the last one. The officer takes my information and goes to his car. I compliment the boys on being quiet and respectful and then I start praying this young child officer would find favor with me and let me off with a simple warning to slow down.
After what feels like hours (but was probably only eight minutes), Officer Baby Face comes back to my car.
Handing me my information, he says, “I’m going to give you a warning this time. I appreciate you are all buckled up and on your way to church. But there’s no harm in being a little late, so please pay attention to your speed. Okay?”
WOW! This has NEVER happened to me. A warning! Is he for real? (I am usually so irritated by being pulled over that I try to come up with every option in the Life Handbook of Manndi as to why I DON’T deserve a ticket). The one time I admit guilt, humbly appeal to his senses by being apologetic and very, very upset is the one time I am granted a free pass. Hallelujah! It’s a miracle!
I know I deserved a ticket. Yet, I admitted my wrongdoing. I promised to do better, and I really will try. Kind of an ironic lesson on the way to church, wouldn’t you say? I have been forgiven, exonerated and allowed another chance.
Just because I didn’t get a ticket this time doesn’t mean my loudmouth son didn’t spew the news as soon as he saw his Grandparents for lunch that day after church. “Mommy got pulled over! She was going sooooooo fast! But the officer just gave her a warning because we were wearing seatbelts.” He proceeds to break into a cocky innocent smile as I shake my head and narrow my eyes, thinking of the horrible time I had giving birth to the 9 lb., 11 oz. little imp.
Oddly enough, my Mom shared with me that she, too, was pulled over on her way to church years ago. Little Manndi was much more perceptive and concerned than my two sons (I thought the police officer was hauling my mother off to jail and had a major meltdown in the backseat). My scared and threatened outburst probably saved her getting a ticket that day (you are welcome, Mother!), just as my boys’ quiet, respectful, courteous demeanor helped me out today.
The best news is that I don’t even have to monitor my speed. My eight-year-old-eagle-eye-cop-in-training told me no less than four times on the way to school this morning: ”Mom! You better slow down. You don’t want to get a ticket, do you?” as he half-smiled and gave me a sarcastic wink of amusement.