I got a traffic ticket…but it could have been worse.

870819 writing police officerLet me start off by saying that this is not meant to be a blog bashing the police.

I really want to be clear about that. I know cops. I’m friends with cops. I’ve been there when there have been absolutely awesome police on the scene, I’ve been helped by police, and I’ve seen when police have been in completely unenviable positions that would have driven me nuts or driven me to quit the job. It’s not easy being a cop. No questions. However, that said, there are bad cops, just like there are bad teachers and bad doctors and bad people. You can’t have a perfect police force any more than you can have anything be perfect when it comes to human involvement.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…

Yesterday, I was driving home from Austin. The traffic was horrible. Google kept telling me that the time to get home was going up, not down. The road was jammed, and it was not getting better. I was exhausted and in a bad mood. When Google popped up an option to take time off the drive, I jumped on it.

Which, it turns out, was a mistake.

The side road wasn’t bad, but there were a lot of jumps in speed because it was going through a small town. In Texas.

The last sign I saw said 55.

A cop appeared behind me, speeding up towards me so fast that I thought he had his lights on to pass me. But, nope, when I started pulling to the side, he pulled with me, and so I went into a parking lot (off the road), and he came around to talk to me.

I’ve been stopped before. Most of the time, the cops are decent human beings, doing their job, and if I’m friendly to them, they’re friendly right back.

Not this time.

This guy was rude as could be and told me that it was drivers like me who caused the traffic on the highway by taking the back roads. (I’m still not sure how that’s possible, but whatever.) He questioned where I was going, where I was coming from, and why I was in his town. He never once smiled.

He told me I was doing 63 in a 50. Yeah, I’m still going to argue that I never saw a sign that said 50. I admit that I often speed, but even I know better than to go almost 15 mph over the limit on a backroad in a small Texas town. I might like to go fast, but I’m not stupid.

He took my license, went back to his car, came back with a ticket, and got me to sign off.

End of interaction.

I was annoyed. I’ve been driving for over 20 years, and that was only my second ticket. And the way he gave me the ticket – the questioning about things that were really none of his concern and telling me off for having the nerve to drive through his town – I was tweaked.

But I was also lucky.

Lucky because I was a white girl driving with two other white girls in the car with me.

People say they don’t believe in white privilege, but I think I was part of a good example of it. If I had been Hispanic or black, what would he have said? Would he have questioned me further about why I was there? Would he have asked me to exit the vehicle? Would he have asked to see my passengers’ IDs? Would he have asked to search the car?

I can’t say that he would have done any of those things.

Maybe he was a good cop having a bad day, and he was just as annoyed as I was. Maybe he had a headache, just like I did. Maybe he wanted to be at home, just like I wanted.

I couldn’t help but think, though, that even though I got a ticket for almost $200, I got off lucky. Because I was white.


Sunrise in a police state

Let me explain.  I needed to get up bright and early so that I was able to “leave” before my son got on his school bus because otherwise he would have been confused – Mom isn’t allowed to leave without saying goodbye, and I had to leave before he could get home.  His bus comes a wee bit early, 6:20ish, and so I was up at 5:45 and went on over to the gym to work out to blow the time and fit in some exercise before I got stuck in a car for 6 or 7 hours. 

I was coming home at 7 am, and I saw some fog in the field by my turnoff on the way home.  It looked so pretty.  I loved that empty field.  I know that it’s just empty because of something to do with oil drilling or something environmental that means it will always be empty, and a lot of the time, you can see wildlife, especially birds, and every once in a while, if you’re lucky, a coyote.  But the sun was rising, and the fog was rising, and the mix with the light behind the trees and the mists…anyway, it was really pretty. 

So being that type of person, I pulled over to be out of the way of traffic, rolled down my window, and used my cell phone to take a few pictures. 

As I’m sitting there, though, taking a shot, I suddenly see flashing lights behind me.  It was a cop’s car.  He had pulled up behind me.  I had my flashers on, I was by the side of the road, and I thought I was totally out of the way.  Why was he coming up and talking to me? 

It was just because I was stopped, and he was checking on me.  Seeing if I was okay. 

I know, I should feel good about that. 

Thanks for checking on me!

I mean, if I was being abducted or my car had broken down or something else horrible was going on, yeah, that would have been great. 

But my car was running, my flashers were on, and I was just parked by the side of the road with my window down.  Instead of feeling good and happy that the cop cared about me, I felt constrained and controlled.  I felt questioned.  I felt overprotected, and like it was a weird sort of police state where stopping was a questionable action and wanting to enjoy nature was prohibited. 

The cop didn’t say anything that sounded rude, and he wasn’t an asshole or anything – there was nothing he did wrong.  He didn’t demand to see my ID.  But I felt like I had been caught doing something.  The flashing lights, the questioning if things were okay.  I felt like if he hadn’t liked the response, he might have asked me for ID, might have asked me to step out of the vehicle.

And what if I hadn’t been a white female?  What if I had been a black male wearing a hoodie who had decided to take that same picture?  Would I have wound up on the hood of the car, being frisked as people drove past me to work and school?  Would I have been detained while a K9 unit got called in to sniff my car? 

I was innocent of doing anything wrong, and the cop was also innocent of doing anything wrong…but it still felt wrong. 

Anyway, so here’s the picture.  Hope you enjoy it and that it was worth all of that.