Red and blue lights flickered in my rear view mirror as I drove home from work one evening. I felt a pang of pity for the driver being pulled over, but I reasoned that they probably deserved it. People in Bridgewood were terrible drivers.
It took me a good 30 seconds before I realized that this police car was actually directly behind me. I glanced around the street nervously. It was late, and there weren’t any other cars around. But, surely, he couldn’t have been pulling me over. I definitely wasn’t speeding. My plates were up to date. I didn’t get in trouble. Like ever. What was going on?
I decided to pull over to the side of the street, hoping that the cop car would drive right around me, that it was a false alarm. But it wasn’t, and he didn’t. The car pulled over right behind me, and a police officer started to approach my car. Oh shit. I started to panic. My breath started to shallow. My body started to shake. I had never been pulled over before in my life! I couldn’t get a speeding ticket!
I opened the window to stick my head out, and I yelled before he even arrived at my door, “uh, s-sorry, hi. Were y-you trying to pull me over?”
I guess I was hoping he’d say no and go away. But he didn’t. He continued right to my door and shone a light into my car. He was buff, handsome, and looked almost too young to even be a police officer. He nodded at me with a stern expression and asked, “Yes. Do you have any idea why I pulled you over?”
I shook my head honestly. Had I been speeding? I really couldn’t remember anymore.
“You rolled that stop sign back there,” he explained, motioning in the direction from which we’d come. “The one by the school.”
That was two stop signs back. I tried to remember passing it, but I really couldn’t. I was too busy thinking about eating the donut I’d just bought and binge watching Teen Mom until I fell asleep. It was certainly possible I hadn’t made a complete stop, that’s just how we drove in Bridgewood. I stammered, glancing up at him with my big brown eyes, “I-I’m so-so sorry. I’ll n-never do it again.”
I was serious too. From this moment forward, I vowed to always stop completely at that particular stop sign. I would always keep an eye out for police there. I would count to three each and every single time, slowly. The cop nodded in acknowledgement and asked, “can I see your licence and registration please?”
Ugh. This was actually happening. I was actually going to get my first traffic ticket. I was so mad, I could kick myself. I decided I would take it like a woman. No tears. I blinked determinedly as I reached into my glove compartment and pulled out my car’s ownership and insurance papers. I watched my hand shake as I handed them to the officer. Then I reached onto my passenger’s seat to get my hot pink Kate Spade purse. As soon as I picked it up, I knew something was wrong. It was too light. Fuck.
“Um, so,” I tried to explain, my voice unusually high. “I’m on my w-way home from w-work right now, at the-the Tap, the steakhouse. I-I started work at 4, and I got home from s-school, university, Shire University at 3:30, so I-I was in a hurry to g-get to work, and I-I j-just grabbed my purse from my backpack qui-quickly, s-s-so I forgot my wallet at home.”
The cop stared at me blankly, looking slightly concerned, slightly confused. “So you don’t have your driver’s license?”
I hung my head as I shook it again. Rolling a stop sign, check. Driving without a licence, check. I wondered how many more laws I would break before the night was over. The cop sighed and gave me back my documents. For a split second, he hesitated, and in that second I suddenly blurted out, “b-but I live right around the corner. T-two seconds away. If if if you want to follow me, w-w-we can go there, and I-I can show it to you. If if if that’s okay.”
“Okay. Sure.” He agreed. The cop agreed?! I could barely believe it myself. What kind of cop made house calls?! Well, I could think of some particularly handsome young cops in particular types of movies, willing to make particular types of deals… but, no. Obviously that’s not what this was. Maybe he felt sorry for me because I could barely form words.
His lights shone as he turned his car back on behind me. I took a deep breath, my head spinning with terror. A cop was following me home. This was absurd. I convinced myself that it was all going to be okay. I made sure to signal as I pulled back onto the road. I didn’t dare drive a kilometre over 20 as I slowly made the left turn onto my street.
To my horror, I then realized I was simultaneously breaking two additional laws at once. First, I had forgotten to turn my headlights back on. In addition, I hadn’t put my seatbelt back on either. I hoped to God that he didn’t notice these things as he drove behind me. Luckily, I was only two seconds away from my hou —
Oh my God. Holy shit. I opened and shut my eyes furiously to make sure of it. I wasn’t even on my street! Nooo! In all the excitement, I had actually turned one street early! With a cop following me, I had turned onto the wrong street! How could I do that?! I’d lived on my street for 10 years and never made this mistake! My heart started pounding heavily in my chest. This was insane. I had told him my house was right around the corner, singular! Not around three corners, sending him on a wild parade around the neighbourhood. I hoped desperately that he didn’t think I was trying to lose him or something.
But there was nothing I could do except keep driving. Finally, after our unanticipated detour, we were heading toward my house. My breathing stabilized, and I began to relax again. This was almost over. I just had to show him my licence, accept my ticket and pretend the whole stupid thing never happened. I would pay it online immediately, and I wouldn’t tell a soul about it.
Except, as I pulled onto my driveway, I noticed the lights to my dad’s SUV flashing as he locked it. My father was outside, heading onto our porch, oblivious to the fact that his youngest child had come home with a police escort. Great. I leapt from my car, joining him on the porch, silently hoping that he wouldn’t turn around. The cop idled in front of our driveway. We’d almost made it through the door when another SUV ‘s bright lights lit up the dark street and pulled in front of our house too. Instinctively, my dad turned around to see my mom also getting home from work. What the hell!? How was everyone arriving at this exact moment?! This was a nightmare.
My mom and the cop got out of their cars at the same time, and my dad watched the scene curiously. There was no time to explain. I wanted this to be over. I ran into the house, quickly grabbed my licence from my wallet in the kitchen and ran back outside. My mom and dad were taking turns shaking hands with the officer now, and my nosy neighbour from across the street was observing it all from his own porch. Ugh. There’s nothing I hate more than an audience.
“So what happened?” My dad asked.
“I’ll let her explain that to you,” the cop replied, motioning toward me as I approached. I wondered if there was a hint of sympathy in his eye. “I need to speak to her in private now.”
My parents went into the house obediently, and I handed him the card. Now I was out of breath from running around, and still shaking. The cop took one glance at it and handed it back to me. What now?! “This is your health card. Are you drunk?”
Drunk!? Oh God, no!
“No, no, no! I-I’m not. I swear, I-I must’ve grabbed the wrong card.” I explained, trying urgently not to cry now. He smiled at me, almost teasingly. He replied, “I know. The Ontario health cards and Driver’s Licences do look very similar. Go back inside and get your licence.”
Phew. I went back in and triple checked my licence before handing it to him outside. Finally, he announced, “okay, Alexis. I could give you a $110 dollar ticket with three demerit points for rolling the stop sign, but I’m not going to. Your insurance rates would skyrocket, and I don’t want to do that to you.”
I let out a huge sigh of relief. Thank goodness.
“But I do want to show you something,” he explained, leading me into his police car. “Have a seat.”
I sat in the passenger’s seat and on a small screen inside the car, he pulled up a surveillance video. It was me! Weird. I didn’t know they filmed us. I watched myself drive down the road toward the stop sign. I watched myself slow down, briefly at the stop sign. Then I watched myself drive directly through the three-way intersection without ever stopping my car completely. Damn. He was right.
“It looks worse on video than it feels in the car, right?” He commented. It did. “I know it’s 10 o’clock at night on a Friday, during March Break, but that area is still a school zone, and we have to be the most vigilant on these roads. Come Monday morning that street will be filled with teenagers walking around, and we have to ensure their safety.”
I nodded solemnly. He was completely right. I felt awful. I should have been paying more attention. I apologized again, and I promised to drive more carefully. The words were coming out more cohesively now that I knew I wasn’t in any actual trouble. He finished off his lecture by adding, “Thank you. And remember. You shouldn’t be afraid of cops. We’re here to help.”
Afraid? Me? What gave him that idea?