In the span of two weeks, I've had three brushes with the law resulting in two tickets, which is two more tickets than I've had in the last 20, maybe even 30 years.
After the first ticket, I told myself I was just unlucky. After the second, I was sure I was being framed. It wasn't until the third run-in that it occurred to me the universe might be trying to tell me something.
Like: Slow down.
The one common thread in all three incidents is that I was either driving to work or driving home from work, a commute I've endured for more than 26 years now so I'm well-acquainted with every intersection, speed trap and impending problem. Or so I thought.
I first caught the attention of the men in blue while traveling north on Woodward Avenue approaching an intersection on my way home.
A Ferndale cop was applying his brakes as the light turned yellow at the same time I was flooring it so as not to appear that I had any choice in the matter whatsoever. Pulled over in a parking lot, the officer's first words to me were: "Doesn't look good when a cop stopped, but you drive right on through, does it?"
There was nothing to do but accept culpability. I sulked all the way home.
When I walked in the door, I kissed my husband and prattled on about my day as though nothing was amiss until he went outside to his altar: the grill of all grills. As soon as he was one with the charcoal aflame, I grabbed the checkbook and closed the door behind me in our walk-in closet. Quickly, I wrote a check to the court and changed into my sweats.
Later that night, timed for when the Red Wings were on, I slipped out and walked to the mailbox with my ticket. I wanted the ticket paid, mailed and done with, as if it had never happened. But then I wondered if Chris might question the red flag in the upright position when he walked Gordie early in the morning. There I was in the dark alone, barefoot, and I couldn't decide whether I was being stupid or silly or both.
After several agonizing seconds, I retrieved the envelope and sprinted back inside, like the common criminal that I am. Oh yeah, and a liar, too.
No less than a week later and less than two miles from my home, I was barreling (I admit it) southbound down the straightaway that is Kensington Road when I spotted a Bloomfield Township squad car tucked away on a side street. He was facing me, and so I thought: he's not going to pull me over; he would have to do a U-turn. Plus I just got pulled over LAST WEEK.
It was the fastest U-turn I'd ever seen. What's more, when I went fishing for my registration and proof of insurance, they were not there. They were not there because I'd taken them out when I got my previous ticket LAST WEEK.
"I just don't understand why it's not here," I was saying. "I just don't understand it. What a mystery." I felt like Peter when the rooster crowed.
"That's all right, Ma'am," he said. "How's your driving record?"
"Great," I blurted out, digging myself in deeper. And then I held my breath as he walked back to the car. Just as I was turning blue, my neighbor Alicia, the working mom with five kids whose driving record is probably really great and who probably never lied to her husband drove slowly by, her neck craning because I was sinking down in my seat.
This time, I was cited for not having proof of insurance, a relatively easy fix. Still I cursed my bad luck, checking the weather for full moon reports, taking solace in my daughter's observation: "Maybe because it's the end of the month, the cops have to reach their quota?"
A few days later, I was driving in the far left lane on I-75 southbound when directly to my right, a semi the size of Montana cut right in front of me. I am convinced that had I not slammed on the brakes and laid on my horn, I would not be here today.
Just as I did, the all too familiar sight of rotating gumball lights in my rear view mirror filled me with dread. But, this time, the cop flew right by me and pulled over the semi driver. I was so grateful, I almost started to cry.
That night I came clean with my husband. His concern, of course, was whether I'd racked up any points — I hadn't — and that the fines had been sent.
Finally, it was sinking in that even after driving the same commute for decades, I can't afford to be complacent. That it took someone else's bad example — in this case, a semi driver who came within inches of likely maiming me —to wake me up is not something I'm proud of. If you need a little humbling, take it from me. Being pulled over within walking distance of your home pretty much takes the cake.