Friday, July 4, 2008

Good Cop, Bad Cop

I try to be a fairly law-abiding citizen. I don’t litter, shoplift or carry a concealed weapon. But this week I had two run-ins with the Long Arm of The Law.

Monday afternoon I took my son out to run an errand before his voice lesson. I Mapquested the route to the store he wanted to go to since I’d never been there before and decided to take a shortcut through our neighborhood. We were cruising along in a 40 MPH zone, and I wasn’t paying attention to my speedometer since I knew I wasn’t going too fast. And then I saw him. He was parked off the road, hiding behind some overgrown weeds and I immediately hit the brakes. Thankfully, so did the guy behind me.

He pulled out anyway and started flashing his annoying red and blue lights. The guy behind me pulled over and I think, Whew, close one, but the policeman pulled out around the truck behind me and came in for the kill. Darn it. (Not really what I was thinking, but I had my son with me.) I pulled over and he said, “What's the hurry?” And I thought, Is that the most original line you can come up with? So, nonchalantly I said, “I’m just taking my son to his voice lesson.” He responded by telling me he clocked me at 42 in a 30 MPH zone. “Thirty?” I asked. “I thought the speed limit was 40.” It was 40, about ten inches before he stopped me, when it became 30 because the road narrows. You know the drill: license, insurance, registration, sign here, blah, blah, blah. He handed over a slip of shiny paper from his handy-dandy portable ticket maker and told me I had to show up some place in our city and take care of it within 15 days. I asked, “Is this a warning?” to which he replied, “No, ma’am, it’s a ticket.” Double darn it! I wanted to look into his reflective sunglasses and say, “I’ll bet you were a tattle-tale as a little kid, weren’t you? You probably hid behind the trashcan at school and watched your friends and then told the teacher which kids were chewing gum and sneaking answers to their tests, weren’t you?” But I didn’t. Instead I stewed all the way to the store, and the afternoon I planned to spend with my son, riding around and catching up with what’s going on with him, was ruined.

Flash forward a few days and I’m in downtown Dallas where my children and I have just had lunch with friends of ours who are in town from St. Louis. After lunch I walked with three of the five children to the nearby School Book Depository so we could tour the Sixth Floor Museum featuring JFK’s last trip to Texas. On our way from the Depository to the Dallas Convention Center to watch our friends’ daughter play volleyball, I got a little lost. We were walking in 95 degree heat, my daughter was tired and wanted to be carried, and I couldn’t figure out how we got turned around. We came back a different way because we wanted to see the Grassy Knoll and Dealy Plaza. Finally I stopped a woman who quite possibly had a worse sense of direction than I do. She was friendly but no help at all. Luckily, a policeman walked by us and I snagged him and asked if he could point us in the direction of the Convention Center. He suggested we take the train since we were standing in front of Union Station. Apparently I looked a little confused and I mumbled something about having kids with me and he said, “It’s just one stop. Come on. I’ll ride with you.”

So this kind policeman boarded the train with us, told me not to buy a ticket but just stay with him, and rode with us to our destination. Short of holding my hand, he got off the train with us and walked through the station until we reached the street. From there he pointed and we could see the convention center just ahead. I wanted to hug him but I didn’t. Instead I said thanks and thought about how my view of law enforcement officers is now positive. Once again, I do love a man in uniform.

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