“I don’t know if I can do parallel parking,” she said.
It was the afternoon before her driver’s test and the nerves were a little on edge. Mine included. I just wanted it over for both of us.
“Would it help if we went and practiced in a parking lot somewhere?”
We drove to a large church nearby. I set up two garbage containers so that she could gauge in the mirror how to maneuver the car in between them.
After a half hour she was feeling more confident so we decided to make the trip back home. We talked along the way about how relieved we would be to have the test behind us. She had been practicing for months to prepare. This was my first experience as a parent sitting in the driver’s seat. I wanted nothing more than to see her achieve this goal and be free of me.
In rush hour traffic, we made our climb up an incline near my home. As she was coming down the other side, I felt that her speed was picking up due to going down hill.
“Slow down,” I said. “The hill is making you go too fast.”
As I said this, I noticed the speed limit sign come up on my right that displayed a ten mile an hour difference.
“Brake!” I said more emphatically.
“I am,” she answered back.
I leaned over to see that her speed was coming down as she slowed the vehicle. As I straightened back up in my seat, I saw the cop car sitting at the bottom of the hill with her radar gun pointed at the oncoming traffic.
For a moment, I thought we were in trouble, but my daughter had corrected the error and we glided on by her within the normal speed limit.
Apparently, this did not matter to the officer. She swung out of her hiding spot that was obscured enough to catch criminals and came up behind us. I wasn’t sure what to do because she didn’t turn on her lights to indicate for us to pull over. We kept on going down the road until I saw them flash.
“You are going to have to get over and stop,” I said with my heart somewhere in my throat region.
I watched in the mirror as a blonde young officer made her way to the driver’s side of the car.
When she put her head down and was making direct eye contact with me, I said,
“I am really sorry. She has her permit and we were out practicing. I told her to slow down on the hill as fast as I could.”
“YOU LET HER DRIVE THAT FAST??” she screamed at us.
“No,” I replied. “It was an accident. Her speed got away from her, and I was telling her to hit the brake to slow down. It wasn’t on purpose.”
“Let me see your license,” she barked at my daughter.
“She doesn’t have one,” I repeated. “She only has her permit.”
I felt my voice quiver out of anger and fear. She wasn’t listening to what I was saying and she seemed to have her mind made up that we were both out joyriding and breaking the speed barrier.
“Then, let me see your permit, and I am going to need your license.”
Both of us got out our wallets and handed over the requested cards.
When she walked back to her vehicle, I felt my chest tighten from the frustration of not being heard.
“She is going to run my license and see that I have a clean record.”
I had a small glimmer of hope that this would be smoothed over, she would see that we weren’t out to cause trouble and we would be exonerated.
When she returned, she had a number of pieces of paper in her hand.
“This is the speeding ticket,” she said without any emotion. “And the rest of this tells you how she has to deal with it.”
“She is supposed to take her driver’s test tomorrow,” I replied.
“Oh, she still can. And, this won’t be put into the system until next week.”
She practically threw the papers in the car at me and sauntered away.
That’s when we both started to cry as a result of the high intimidation level we had just endured.
I switched places with her and drove the few blocks to our house.
I went over the paperwork to find that this ticket was going to cost in the realm of $200, but there was a way out of it being counted against her and my car insurance. If she attended a session at city hall the violation would be waived. That still didn’t get us out of paying the ticket, however.
After a night of misery, she passed her test the next day with flying colors.
Within a week’s time, the ticket was processed, so we chose a date for her to attend a class.
I was able to sit with her as she was forced to watch over an hours worth of video about teen texting and driving. Various shots were taken of quite graphic scenes of people being mangled and smashed by distracted drivers. I recall one where a couple was hugging in the street and ended up sandwiched between two cars that crashed head on leaving them dismembered.
About half way through this, with both of us feeling sickened by what we were viewing, I whispered to her,
“Where is the video about going down a hill too fast? You weren’t texting. You weren’t distracted.”
My anger began to flare, and once we forked over the money and were leaving, I had an outright hatred for the entire police department.
And, it didn’t disappear. Every time I saw someone being pulled over I would comment,
“There’s some more money for the city to spend.”
To add insult to injury, I began to hear that others were being pulled over on the same hill for speeding. The police had a nice racket going because some people weren’t aware that the speed limit change would shift so quickly until it was too late.
Many times when someone would speed by me or nearly cause an accident, I would remark,
“Gee. Where are the police when you need them? Oh, they are sitting at the bottom of the hill hiding so they can collect some more money.”
I had never had these feelings before this incident. I had been trained as a child to respect authority and never question it. Now, I was wondering why I had given the police so much honor in all the years prior.
As time clicked by and my animosity was not changing, I decided to make a bold move and go in and speak with the chief of police.
“How may I help you,” he said as he came into the small conference room. I shook his hand and told him my name.
I went over the details of the incident and the unfair situation that I felt I had been put in.
“You don’t think she deserved the ticket?”
“No,” I replied.
“Why not?” he asked.
“She still had her permit. I was telling her to do the right thing and your officer did not care. I explained everything and she acted like it was done on purpose. And, I had no clue she was even pulling us over. She didn’t turn her lights on but just followed us.”
“Well, we don’t want to scare the other drivers by turning on our lights.”
Each time I explained my side, he countered with a justification. We were getting no where, and I again felt that I wasn’t being heard.
“You know what,” I said. “I am going to make sure that every parent who is teaching their kids to drive in this community knows that the police do not care about us. We are out here trying to teach them the proper way on how to do things, and your officer did not care one bit about that. She wanted to make money,and my daughter was sent to a class that had no relevancy to what happened. To me, all of this says, you do not care.”
I saw him straighten up slightly in his chair. My eyes were locked on his,and my children have told me that when I become angry, my stare can melt plastic. I wouldn’t know because I can’t see it, but I always have taken their word for it, so I reserve it for special occasions only when necessary.
He cleared his voice and said,
“I see your point. I can’t undo the ticket.”
“I know you can’t. I am here to tell you that you need to have a meeting with all of your officers and let them know that parents are doing their best to safely train their children to drive. We don’t need to be hassled and made to feel like criminals while doing so.”
“I can do that. Some people come straight out of the police academy and follow the rule to the letter. If they see a speeder, they will give them a ticket no matter what. I have been doing this long enough now to know to ask questions and find out what is happening.”
“Then you need to train your staff on that otherwise it appears that you don’t care.”
We ended our conversation with him saying this,
“I do go by an old saying: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
“That is a good one to go by,” I said. “I wish you would have been the one to pull us over that day. I think you would have at least taken into consideration my side of the story. I live by an old saying as well. It is this: What comes around goes around. What you sow, you will reap. So, the way I see it, your officer has some unfair situation coming her way. Probably a lot worse than mine. She needs to treat people a little more fairly for her own sake.”
“I will talk to her directly and let her know everything we have discussed.”
Once he dropped his wall of defense and became a real person talking to me, I found that we had common ground.
“I am sorry that this happened to you and your daughter,” he said as I left.
Did this magically make me trust the police in my area? No. In the years that have passed, my outlook has adjusted somewhat, but this encounter changed me. Instead of believing that all people in uniform are out for my own good, I realized, sadly, that some were not.
I am more aware of where the police situate their cars to catch speeders, and I make sure that as I drive by, I slow down further and look them directly in the eye. When I am followed by an officer who is right on my bumper, I refuse to speed up to go faster than the posted limit. Maybe I am saving him from his next accident.
I have had to go about my days and put it behind me, yet, I now know that injustice can happen to anyone because we live in a society that is run by imperfect humans.
With the recent violent eruptions taking out good people who were doing their jobs correctly, I have to say that all of this is a heart issue wherein we don’t honor the sanctity of life that God has given. It’s so easy for people to get angry in this day and age and go out and destroy a life which in turn has a ripple effect. Revenge trumps sanity leaving broken pieces in its wake.
Therefore, we must come to the understanding that these troubles are far from being explained away by claiming it is all racially driven. It is the hearts of men that have grown cold toward one another. This is the issue that must be addressed for healing to come.
Not a simple task to get a handle on, and one with many grey areas that are not so black and white.