Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A 'First' I'd Rather Forget

It’s been a week since it happened but I still can’t stop thinking about it.  His image still keeps haunting me; his voice, his words echoing in my head.  Worst of all, the look on his face seemed to have burned a permanent mark on my memory that I just can’t shake it off. 

For the very first time since I started driving, I was pulled over by a cop for speeding.  The speed limit was 35m/hr.  By the time I got close to the police car, I was still at around 42m/hr.  Dang it!  I knew I was too late and as I drove past his car, I muttered a silent prayer, still hoping that he would either pretend that he did not see me or that I was just driving at an acceptable speed.  As soon as I drove past him, I checked my rear view mirror and there he was, following me with his lights on.  Dang it!...again!  I had no choice but to safely look for a spot where I can park and wait for the verdict.

It wasn’t my fault.  He should not have been there, parked inconscpicuously on the side of the road, right after the end of a very long downhill path, obviously waiting for people like me.  

It wasn’t my fault that I decided to let momentum and gravity do their thing, and that I did not apply the brakes soon enough and hard enough to try to keep to the speed limit.

After about 3 minutes of waiting, I saw him finally leave his car and walk towards mine.  He stood by my door and with all the courage I could muster, coupled with a controlled smile which is not to be misconstrued as arrogance or annoying naivete either, I said, "Was I going too fast, Officer?"  I was not trying to be cute.  I knew cuteness would not work in this situation.  Besides, I just came from a walk / jog from the park and knew that cuteness was definitely out of the picture at this point. 

The police man was an older gentleman and politely he said, yes, I was going too fast and that by the time I saw him it was too late.  At this point, I had to tell him, that actually I did not see him, which was partially true.  I did not see him early enough.  Dang it, strike 3!  Then once again, with as much humility and honesty I could afford, I told him, "Yeah, it's that downhill part, I know".  I guess it was my subtle way of saying, "Officer, I swear I was not speeding the whole time and I'm not some crazy driver / speed racer.....Please pardon me.  Blame this hilly terrain in TN!"  That was my secret thought bubble, but I knew that denial and smart-assedness would only be useful if I wanted to dig my own grave at that point.  I was clear that I needed to show accountability and deference to authority, which my 11 years of Catholic school education prepared me well for.  I had no problem with that.  After all, I was the one on the wheel, was I not?  I was the one that decided to ignore my gut instinct when I felt I was already going too fast and intuition told me there might be a cop car lurking somewhere.  

I don't know what it was, but I'm guessing it was because he knew (from checking out my records prior to speaking with me) that it was my very first offense ever, that he only gave me a Warning.  I was given a very gentle reprimand which really was just a reminder not to drive more than 2 miles over the speed limit.  (When he said that, I thought, "Whoa?...just 2miles over??  I thought 5 miles over was the norm??!!").  But I knew I had to shut up, just listen, apologize, thank him for his consideration and then drive away as carefully as I could, throwing all belligerence out the window.

It was nerve-racking to say the least but as with most first time experiences, I probably won't forget this one.  It has caused me way too many sleepless nights, I think because I'm punishing myself for it; still unable to forgive myself for the carelessness and stupidity...MY carelessness and stupidity.  But I admit that somehow, writing about this now helps with the cleansing, as if I had gone to the confessional and having you read this absolves me in a way.  If only absolution offered selective amnesia.  I guess it never works that way.  Events happen, good and bad, and the mind remembers with the hope that not only the events themselves stick, but the lessons as well.  

Do you still remember your very first traffic violation for which you got caught?  Did your experience 'stick'?