Brush With the Law

I got pulled over today. Not my first time. On the other hand, a police officer apologized for pulling me over today. That was definitely a first.

So there we were. I was driving Julie (and I) home for lunch. At a critical moment, I was simultaneously engaged in the following three activities:

1. I was thundering down the road at 32 mph - a good 2 mph above and beyond the legal maximum. Criminal!

2. I was casually scratching my ear. This wasn't just a brush either. This was serious. Prolonged. We're talking wax retrieval.

3. I was gibbering to Julie about something. Probably a fictional forest creature I'd invented while I was supposed to be working this morning, or maybe I'd come up with a new name for something that already had a name? Who even knows what I talk about. It doesn't matter.

Then BAM! I see a cop ahead to the left. No worries. It's cool. We're headed up hill and just by letting off the gas I was able to casually ease back to 30. Yikes. That was close! I didn't even stop operation #2 or #3, because I'm like a ninja.

At this point, Julie makes fun of me for slowing down.

Immediately afterward, that cop pulls me over.

So I'm thinking, "Wow, 32? We're running a tight ship these days." Dude gets out and walks up.

Cop: My name is Sgt. [something?]
Sgt. [something?]: The reason I pulled you over is I saw you talking on your cell phone.
Julie and Charlie (same time, incredulous): Really?!?!

I should explain. On the first of this year, a local ordinance went into affect that prohibits the use of "electronic communication devices" while driving (unless you are the police or other emergency personnel, because they need to). The intent is to ban texting and cell phone use while driving. For the record, I think that's a great way to live your life, but I voted against it because I didn't see it as directly causing harm. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe it's a great idea. Who knows? It passed. There it is.

Sgt. [something?]: I saw you with your hand at your ear, talking.
Charlie: I was scratching- You saw what you saw. It's not worth arguing about.
Sgt. [something?]: (Takes my documents back to his car.)

At this point, I'm assuming that I'm going to have to pay a ticket for scratching my ear. I wasn't mad or anything, just bemused. I did think it was a little frustrating that there was really no way to prove my innocence.

Sgt. [something?](Returns to my window after about a minute.)
Sgt. [something?] :So, I'm obviously not going to write you a citation.
Charlie: (confused) Thanks. I appreciate it.
Sgt. [something?]: It's a $136 ticket, I wouldn't think you'd be smiling so much if you were really on the phone.
Charlie: Holy cow. That would have been worth some more conversation.
Sgt. [something?]: I'm sorry I pulled you over, I just thought...
Charlie: No problem. I'm just happy you changed your mind.

Here, I got stupid. I could tell that he felt bad. I figured that he still thought there was a good chance I was on the phone, but he wasn't sure. I suddenly had this vision of him going home and thinking he'd let me get away with something. Then he'd lose sleep and come down extra hard on somebody tomorrow. I had this ridiculous notion that I wanted to show him he was right and restore his faith in humanity.

Charlie: I'd be happy to show you my phone.
Sgt. [something?]: No, I don't need to see your phone.
Sgt. [something?]: Again, I'm sorry I pulled you over. Drive safe.

Then we all drove off. Everybody was fine. My offer to continue the investigation after I'd already been let off was politely refused and all was well. Still, I now understand why so many people go to jail because of what they volunteer to the cops. I'm told that defense attorneys desperately wish their clients would just keep their mouths shut. I guess when you get tense you want to make friends or something. Weird.


Now Julie watches my hands when I drive. I have to keep them at 10 and 2. No ear scratching. It's a hard world. Seriously, it is a little un-nerving. Always before I felt a little bit like police cars were predators looking to catch me at something, anything. Before, I thought I just had to worry about not breaking any laws, but now I know I have to not appear to be breaking any laws. The sense that I had no way to show or prove to anyone that I was innocent was really unpleasant. (Note: I don't suspect a cell phone history would/should be good enough. In fact, this situation gave me a great idea for an app that let you put your phone in "incognito mode" while driving.)

I felt bad for the police officer though. I was really impressed that he changed his mind, told me he was wrong, and apologized. Most people have a hard time doing that with trivial stuff. I know I do. Even more so when it involves professional judgement. I'm sure apologizing to people for pulling them over is not his favorite thing. Kudos to him.


Brenda said…
Good grief, I'm always scratching at my ears, especially on a long drive!! I love to see how much ear wax I can come up with!!!
Anonymous said…
So, what did ya have for lunch? A sandwich?

Rob (I did not understand the whole choose an identity thing so I just chose anonymous and then signed my name).
Rob, I had some croc pot roast+rice+carrots thing that Julie made about a week ago and I've been working my way though. It was nice.

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