It was a hot and humid 97 degree day last summer. I had an hour’s worth of driving to do in 30 minutes time. I had just picked up my 15-year-old sweat soaked son from his soccer practice, and we were on our way to his swim lesson, with three errand stops in between. He sat, shirtless, next to me, while I was my own GPS; “recalculating” my way between two small towns amid all the summertime construction and road repair.
You need to know that Wisconsin has two seasons: construction, and winter.
We were in July, or construction.
Earlier that day, with a string of errands before me, I had run out of the house barefoot, jamming two twenties into my front pocket. With just my housecleaning clothes on, I grabbed nothing on the way out except for my lemonlime Powerade. Before hitting the community pool, I had planned a quick stop at MickeyD’s for dinner to make tonight work, (I hear your gasps, and I know, and I don’t care) and then a run into the grocery store – which my son will have to run in and do for me – since I’m sans shoes and all. All this while, I know I have 20 minutes to make it to pick up my youngest son from his soccer practice at another field, in the next town.
I guess I must’ve been going too fast, because I looked in my rear view mirror, and I saw the cherries go on behind me.
Yup. Those cherries, the kind you find on top of police cars.
In the front seat, with my impressionable teenage soon to be driving son sitting next to me, I glance into the rear view mirror and say, “shysters.”
Visions of my littlest boy, forlorn as the Matchstick Girl, waiting at a soccer field for the mommy that never came, made me almost burst into tears.
“Mom! Is that the cops?? Are they after you?”
Holy frijole. “Yes. It’s the cops. And they are after me. And what’s worse? This is never quick. Never.”
“Mom? How do you know it’s never quick?”
“Well, I mean, you know, they have to check all your information… and… CRAP! I left the house WITHOUT my purse! Oh, they are going to nail me to the wall.”
The non panicking part of my brain kicks in. I start the smart dialogue to myself: The role parents play in the lives of their children is lasting. This is truly a defining moment. One my son will not soon forget. Great example. High expectations. Be that awesome role model!
I look across the seat at my young, still morally developing teen son. I take a deep breath, and say, “You know what we do now? We pull over. And then we stay in the car and wait. He’ll walk to us here.”
“Then what happens, mom? Do they take you to the police station right away? We’re going to be so late.”
“Yes, yes, we will be late. And I must’ve been doing something. And a sign somewhere must say what the speed limit is, but I didn’t see it.”
The police officer walks over to my rolled down window. “How are you this evening? May I see your registration and license?”
Me, extending my palm out: “Officer? Please give me a ticket.” My request was earnest.
I continued, “My son is at an impressionable age, and he needs to see what happens when a person breaks the law. Please serve me with the maximum allowable for breaking the law in a residential area— NEAR A CHILDREN’S PARK YET— in this obviously quiet, residential street.”
“Is that your son here?” the officer asks me.
“Yes, officer. This is my son. And I want him to see what happens when a person breaks the law. Please. Do everything allowable by penalty of law for speeding while driving.” I feel the need to have this ticket.
He peeks into the car, and looks at my son: “Hello, how are you? Ma’am? How’s your driving record?”
“Yes, officer. Perfect.”
::son whispering: “Mom! don’t lie!”
:: me whispering: “I’m not lying!”
“Let me go check, if it’s ‘Perfect,’ we’ll decide from there.”
The officer walks away with my registration information, we wait; a tense 10 minutes we wait. And don’t think there was quiet in the car: “See, son, because of this now we’re really messing the whole night up. I should’ve noticed the speed limit. Look, there’s a kid’s park, and it’s a single lane, all CLUES, honey… all CLUES…”
The police officer returns, “Well, your driving record is perfect. I’m going to give you a warning. Pay attention to the speed limit. There’s a kids’ park here.”
“Officer, I really need you to give me something. Like a ticket. My son needs to see this.” There is such an affordable lesson here, I want this ticket.
Officer: “Ah… I gave you a warning.”
“Officer, I think my son needs to know that I should have gotten a ticket for speeding NEAR A PARK.” I will plead my case.
“Ma’am, I did do something. I gave you a warning. You have a perfect driving record for 30 years. A warning is what you got for going six miles over the speed limit. Don’t do it again.”
“Officer, can you tell my son that speeding is wrong while driving? And that he should not do as I did, and he should pay attention to the speed limits posted?”
“Ma’am? I think he’s gathered enough information from our interaction here. I think he gets it.”
“Well, thank you, officer. Thank you. And this was a wonderful lesson. And God bless you. And I won’t speed again and I’ll make sure that I talk about this with my son some more and thank you for doing your job and pulling us over. This was a time appropriate opportunity, thank you so much. I’m so happy you pulled us over. This couldn’t have been more perfect –he’ll be driving soon, and this was just wonderful. Thank you…”
“Well, you seem like a very nice woman. And I think your son understands what happened here.”
“Officer. I know I should really leave this alone, my husband tells me this all the time. But, I just have to ask you one more time, can you give me a small ticket? Just like, a little bitty small one? You know, to show this is wrong… for my son to see…”
::son hissing: “Mom!! you should just go, dad is right. just.go”
::me hissing: “You need to see what happens when you speed! And don’t carry your license!”
“OK, then officer, thank you, again… this has been such a wonderful, wonderful night. Thank you!”
::son eye rolling: “Mom, you are so crazy. You know that? So. Crazy.”
“Yeah, well, honey, I may be crazy, but you won’t forget what it feels like to see cherries going in your rear view mirror and looking back at your own face reflected in officially issued regulation aviator mirror sunglasses anytime soon, will you?”