Earlier last week, my friend Brandi and I got ourselves in a little bit of a..."situation."
We got pulled over by a cop.
In a school zone.
(I broke up that sentence to make it sound more dramatic).
Now, before I tell this tale, I feel I must throw out a disclaimer that I got Brandi's approval to blog about our mishap, since we were in her car when it happened. Gotta attempt to protect people's privacy. But Brandi assured me she didn't care, so here we go (Thank you, Brandi).
Brandi and Lindsay Get Pulled Over, Scene One
As a girl who lives in the middle of the woods, across from a corn field and down the street from a cow farm (Yes, I can hear the cows mooing at night. It's quite peaceful, actually. Maybe I'll put out a CD: "The Sounds of Nature, Volume I: Cows"). I generally have to drive at least 15 minutes to go anywhere that has something I might need, want, or have to do. This means I welcome carpooling situations like a soccer mom with five kids.
This fall, I signed up to be a coach of an after school program for girls called Girls on the Run; the program took place at an elementary school about 45 minutes away. Brandi also served as a coach with me, so we created a convenient system where I would drive to Brandi's apartment (about 25 minutes away) and then she would drive us the rest of the way to the elementary school to coach. More time to chat, less driving time for me, lower gas emissions with fewer cars on the road (Go green! Save the environment!). Bada-bing, bada-boom. Life is good.
On this particular Monday of our weekly carpool trip, Brandi and I were anxious to get home after coaching. At practice, the girls had been antsy, I had been starving ("I feel like my stomach is eating itself!") and Brandi needed to head up to Alma to go to Pizza Hut with friends. (It is important to state Brandi was going to Pizza Hut. That place is delicious; I do not blame her for speeding).
We hopped into Brandi's car and drove out of the elementary school parking lot, turned left, and headed down the road towards Saginaw like we did at the end of every practice. As girls do, we were intensely chatting back and forth, talking about the practice, pizza, and what we were going to do when we got home. We didn't even see the cop without his lights on, sitting on the side of the road, until he pulled out as we passed him.
Sneaky, sneaky cop.
Brandi's eyes jumped to the rearview mirror. She slowed down.
"Did you see that cop?" she said to me.
I didn't turn around, playing the game "If I Don't See Them, They Won't See Me" like a kindergartner playing hide-and-seek. But yes, I had seen him.
"It's okay, he didn't even pull out behind us," I said.
"He just did," Brandi said hurriedly, her eyes on the mirror. Sure enough, I looked behind me to see the white vehicle now behind us, gaining speed.
What I then said out loud to Brandi:
"It's fine," I told her. "He probably is just driving, going back to the station."
What I thought in my head:
"Oh, crap. He's following us. He is going to pull us over, he is going to pull us over."
See, if you're my good friend, you probably already know this about me: I hate driving, especially in places I have never been before. HATE. And I dislike cops almost as much, if not more. It's like a Police Phobia. I recognize it's ridiculous, but you cannot pick what you fear. If you could, I would fear something less common, like, pink-winged dinosaurs. Brown unicorns. Taylor Swift songs that do not include a pause at the end where the music slows and it is just her singing (And I say that as a Taylor Swift fan).
Yup. If I had to choose, I would not choose to fear the police.
I want to be clear: I don't have anything against cops as people and am grateful for their services (one of my best friends' dad served as the Chief of Police for years; another one of my friends is a cop). I recognize the profession is difficult and you gotta do what you gotta do. But still. Cops, especially in their cop cars, freak me out.
Even if I catch a police car in my peripheral vision, my eyes dart so fast you'd think I was watching Forrest Gump play ping-pong. My hands clamp tight to the steering wheel like a vise and I have to remind myself that I am not doing anything illegal. I don't know what it is about cops that cause me anxiety or why it occurs. If I had to guess, it's because they have the power, with one little piece of paper, to tarnish my driving record, deplete my bank account, and provide more support to my dad's sexist belief that women are terrible drivers.
Plus I just feel stupid being pulled over.
I think the birth of my cop anxiety began the first time I was pulled over (I haven't been pulled over a lot, but there have been a couple of times, I admit). I was in high school, it was 2 a.m., and I was driving home from a friend's house. There was no alcohol in my system; I was driving the speed limit like a good citizen. Minus the fact I was breaking my dad's midnight curfew rule (hated that damn rule) I was doing nothing wrong. I was like a driving angel, might as well have given me wings.
Then I saw the cop car behind me.
Since it was late, I was pretty much the only one on the road. I was a lone ranger, sticking out like a sore thumb in my '87 Mustang with the cow-covered seats and hanging dice.
"Oh, crap," I thought. "There's a cop. Oh, no." Hands grip tighter on the wheel. Knuckles turn white. Pulse quickens.
I slowed down, even though I was already going the speed limit. "If he pulls me over," I thought, "I will have to tell my dad, and then he will know I broke curfew, and I will be in major trouble."
Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.
As I continued to drive, the cop was immediately behind me now, since I was driving so slow a turtle could pass me; paint would dry before I reached the next street. And then I met my obstacle: a series of blinking yellow lights.
In my defense, I had just gotten my license, so Driver's Training 101 lessons were still fresh in my mind. "At yellow lights," the words in my driver's training booklet flashed in my mind, "You must cross with caution."
And so...I crossed with caution. Meaning I slowed down at every single blinking yellow light, stopped, looked cautiously, and proceeded ahead. After about the third light of me looking like a fool by stopping and going like a bad football game, the cop finally had enough. On came the red and blue flashing lights.
"I knew it," I groaned. "But I was driving cautiously!"
I pulled into the 7-11 parking lot, the cop right behind me. I stared at my lap and rolled down my window as he got out of his car, strolling towards me.
"Are you drunk?" he peered down at me, a mix of amusement and confusion on his face. He was tall with a thick mustache, Tom Seleck-style, clothed in a dark blue uniform.
"No...." I said, my voice quivering, looking up at him.
"Well, then why the hell are you driving like an idiot?" he said, not harshly, just matter-of-factly. He bent down.
"Because...I'm...scared," I said slowly. I didn't know what else to say; it was the first thing that came into my head.
The cop looked at me, now even more confused. What a thick mustache, I thought. I wonder if he could grow that when he was like, five-years-old.
"Okay then," his face softened. "Make sure you know what you're doing."
"Yes, sir," I said.
I drove off, thanking God I didn't get a ticket stamped, "For Driving Like an Idiot." That would have been hard to explain to Dad. When I got home, I immediately looked up the lesson on yellow lights. Oops. Blinking yellow lights mean you can go. And the Idiot Award goes to....
And so, Lindsay's Fear of Cops was born. I also have an appreciation for Tom Seleck.
Brandi and I had turned left now, the cop still behind us. All of a sudden, red and blue lit up the semi-dark sky.
"There he goes," Brandi said matter-of-factly. The cop was pulling us over.
"It's okay," I said, more to myself than Brandi. I had a flashback of my Yellow Light incident. My pulse was quickening again, but Brandi remained calm.
"Okay, Lindsay, we are definitely getting pulled over," she said cooly. "Andddd we are pulling over," narrating her actions out loud. I remained quiet.
Since it was getting dark, the policeman's lights lit up the parking lot we had pulled into, an Italian eatery that looked to be closed, though the lights were on inside. An heavier middle-aged woman with an apron looked out the dirty window, perplexed. You could read her thoughts on her face: "What is going on?" She walked to the back door, peering out at us through the screen.
Brandi and I looked at her, waving.
"Yup, no worries," we semi-laughed while looking at her. "He's here for us." We continued waving as the woman looked at us, smiling a little bit and nodding her head.
We waited. Brandi rummaged around for her license and registration, going through papers and receipts. I stayed quiet, noticing how cool and collected Brandi remained. I knew if it was me instead of her getting pulled over, I would have been more like "Oh my God, oh my God, where the heck is my license?!" type of response.
"Lindsay, I'm shaking," she said. I looked at the registration in her hand and sure enough, the paper was trembling. I found a bit of relief in the fact that I wasn't the only one that got shaken up from being pulled over.
The cop came up to our window.
"Hello Officer," Brandi said in an almost cheery voice. Despite her shaking, she appeared calm. No tears. No hysterics.The perfect person to pull over, if there was such a thing.
"Do you know what the speed limit was back there?" the cop asked.
"Um..." Brandi paused.
Thirty-five, I thought. Thirty-five.
"Thirty-five," Brandi said. Atta girl, Brandi.
"Yup. And you were going 45," the cop said.
"I'm sorry," Brandi replied genuinely.
"How's your driving record?" he asked as he grabbed her license and registration.
"Fan-tas-tic," Brandi replied cheerily and confidently. I smiled. Brandi laughed nervously.
"Okay, hold on." The cop walked back to his car.
"Lindsay, I guessed on the 35 mph thing!" she immediately turned to me. We laughed, because what else can you do as you await your ticket sentence?
"I don't think he will give you a ticket," I said, trying to will it to be true.
Soon, the officer walked back to the car. Moment of truth: ticket or no ticket, ticket or no ticket.
"Slowww dowwnn," he said in almost a father-like way, handing Brandi her papers back. I looked to see if there was a ticket in his hand. "I just saved you a lot of money and points."
"Thank youuu," Brandi responded in a similar sing-songy way. We had avoided the ticket. Whew.
The cop drove off, and Brandi started her car back up. As the engine roared, so did our simultaneous chatter:
"Oh my God, I can't believe we just got pulled over."
"He didn't give us a ticket, thank God."
"I wasn't even sure it was 35 miles per hour, oh my God."
"I am so happy we didn't get a ticket!"
The following Saturday, I got into Brandi's car as we begin our last carpool trip for Girls on the Run.
"I still can't believe we got pulled over," Brandi said.
"I know it," I replied.
At that moment, we turned on to the street.
"Oh, look, Lindsay," Brandi said.
I looked ahead. A cop car was coming towards us.
"It's a conspiracy!" we laughed.