Blue Lights In My Rearview

It was late and dark in my sleepy little town as I entered the famous speed trap. Speed limit is 35 mph so I was going 32. No kidding. If you go even a fraction of 1 mph over, they stop you.

As I passed the high school, I smiled as I remembered the story I’d just heard at a wedding on Saturday about this very stretch of road. “My son’s new girlfriend visited last month. She got a ticket in front of the high school on the way to our house and was very upset. Then she called us when she got home that night to report that she got another ticket on her way home in the same spot.” I’m proud to report that I did not say what I was thinking when I heard this story: your son’s girlfriend sounds a bit daft. Did she really think her first ticket would ward off another and intentionally speed? As I drove at snail pace through the famous mile at the end of my fifteen hour Wednesday, I was feeling smart and smug and quite exhausted, yet certain that I was unstoppable. I follow the rules, you see. Especially when I know someone is watching.

My 9 pm lecture had gone well enough, I thought. Most of the 160 students participated, though it was late on the fourth day after stupid DST and they hadn’t grown physically accustomed to the time change yet. Some of them were just trying to stay awake or playing on their cell phones. Lots of yawning. The professor (me) faked her way through and did NOT yawn or show that she had worked another double-day. She did not reveal her doubt that saying yes to this job might have pushed her over the cliff of exhaustion. Instead, she acted like she’d just woke from a refreshing nap and had a strong cup of coffee.

I have some theatre experience. I can fake it.

I held it together until the 75-minute lecture finally ended and I shut down the two projectors and the computer, made the two giant screens retract for the night, answered students’ questions, packed my bag and turned off the auditorium lights before I dragged my old bones to my little green car.

Last task of the day: the 40 minute drive home on the dark highway. Cruise control was a brilliant invention that used to make the ride home easier for me–all I had to do was steer, sing, and stay awake. But, alas, about a week ago my cruise control went wacky. I finally figured out that I only have daytime cruise control now. When I turn on the headlights, the cruise flicks off. Crapola. So I have to steer and work the gas pedal all at once. No more singing–that’s too much multitasking for me so late at night.

Each late night, when I exit the highway, I am delighted again that some brilliant engineer has installed a road pad for detecting my little car. As soon as I land on it, the light changes to green for my left turn. One night last month, I exited and was greeted by a line of five cars just sitting there. Waiting for the light to change. I joined the line and sat there for almost sixty seconds while the line grew to a dozen cars. Then I lost it–my endurance gave out–and I pulled up the right side of the line of cars, stopped close to the first car and rolled down my window to wave at the idiot woman staring at the red light. When she rolled down her window, I waved my left arm and pointed and yelled at her.

“You have to pull up on the thingie or the light will never change!”

“What?” She thought I was a psycho. Arrghh!

I pulled up on the thingie for her with my left front tire.

She beeped at me.

The light turned green and she swerved in front of me to be first around the turn. The car behind her waved me in.

See the things I have to deal with?

Anyway, on Wednesday, the exit ramp pad worked great. No one else was around. Everyone was at home in their pjs on the couch or already sleeping. I drove the two miles into town all alone and approached the speed trap, driving like a little old lady on a Sunday morning. And then, out of nowhere, blue lights in my rearview mirror.

Are you freaking kidding me?

I turned right onto a dirt road and stopped. Mr. Police Officer shined his 50 megawatt white light into my car and blinded me. He leaned his twenty-year-old head into the passenger window and said, “Tag light’s out, ma’am.”

He might as well have told me my pet anaconda had escaped. Tag light? I said, “Oh. OK. I’ll get that fixed tomorrow.”

He asked for my license and registration. I dug them out of the disaster of my glove box, still blinded by his white light.

Then, I sat there on display for all of the other drivers (all ten of them), thinking I could be home in bed by now, while Deputy Junior stole twenty minutes of my life to write me a warning about my “defective equipment.”

I replaced the tag light the next day. Next week I think I’ll just speed through with my license plate glowing (that’s what a tag light does–it illuminates your license plate). He won’t stop me twice, right?


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