Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cops hate me

Yesterday, I was leaving Old Navy when a cop flashed his lights.
I nervously ran a list of reasons why he could have pulled me over. I ruled out speeding, drunk driving and being a fugitive.

Perhaps he knew how many outstanding parking tickets I have? Or that the grocery store put a bag of apples in my cart that I didn’t pay for?
Did he know about all that moonshine I drank a few weekends ago???

The cop came up to the passenger side window, peered in the backseat, circled my car and walked up to the driver’s side window.

“Excuse me, but a black man dressed as a woman just robbed a bank nearby. Do you know anything about that?” he asked.
(Really, I couldn’t make this up.)

I blinked twice.
“How long have you been in this parking lot?” he interrogated.
“Just a few minutes!” I said. “I literally just ran in and out of the Old Navy.”
“Do you know anything about the robbery?”
“Have you seen anything suspicious?”
“Hmm.” (He actually said “Hmm” like he didn’t believe me.)
He then let me go, and made a crazy illegal U-turn and sped off in the opposite direction.

I sat there for a minute, considering that I might have just been on hidden camera. Do I LOOK like a black man dressed as a woman? Do I look like an accomplice?

That story provided a great deal of comic relief at the office, helped by the fact that the police department emailed our newspaper the release about the robbery, and a photo of the she-man, who, really, looked nothing like me.


Yesterday’s encounter wasn’t the first time that a police officer has pulled me over, but it’s the first time I got pulled over without getting a ticket.

Two years ago, I was speeding (OK FINE I ADMIT IT) and a cop car pulled out from behind some bushes and promptly flashed his lights.

I was lost in a small South Carolina town (Is there a limit as to how many times your car can execute 3-point turns??) and I was late for something.

The last thing I needed was two cops (Yes, two!! Were two really necessary??) coming up to both sides of my car, peering in all the windows.

“Excuse me, ma’am, is there a reason why you are speeding?” the cop near my window asked.
“Yes, officer, there is,” I said. “See, I’m a newspaper reporter, and I have to go cover a story about some disabled kids putting on a school play…at the church.”

I was totally serious, and figured it was a good enough reason to get out of a ticket.
DISABLED KIDS? SCHOOL PLAY? CHURCH? It was like the holy trinity of law enforcement excuses.

The cop looked at me, emotionless.
“Look, see?” I said, grabbing my reporter’s notebook with the address for the church and the time, 2 p.m., in big numbers, circled twice.
I looked at the clock. It was 2:02.

“Look, I’m really late and I don’t know where the church is, so…” I trailed off.
“Hold on one minute.”

He came back at 2:12 with a sloppily written speeding ticket.
“What!” I said. “I really got a ticket?”
“Yes, ma’am, you were speeding.”

“That heartless BASTARD!” I screamed to my twin sister, Joy, over the phone, on the way to the church.
“I’m not surprised. Cops are assholes,” Joy said.
(Joy is deathly afraid of cops, and literally thinks they will cherry-pick her Ford Explorer out on a busy road and arrest her for something.)

I ended up being 20 minutes late to the church, but it turns out disabled kids don’t exactly start things on time, so I didn’t miss anything. But, still. I was in the market for a punching bag that afternoon.

Another time when I was speeding (OK FINE I ADMIT IT, AGAIN) I not only got a speeding ticket, but another ticket for having a Louisiana Driver’s License when I had “clearly established myself in South Carolina.”

“But, it’s not expired yet!” I protested.
“That doesn’t matter,” the cop said. The ticket was for $250.
“If you get a South Carolina license and show it to the judge at your court date, he’ll drop it,” the cop said.

So, that’s how I got strong-armed into getting a South Carolina Driver’s License, and it was a complete pain-in-the-ass.
I got all the way to the DMV and waited in line for 30 minutes only to be told I had to bring a utility bill in my name to prove my address, and the water bill didn’t count for some reason.
“But it’s a utility!” I screamed.

No matter. It all got figured out, and by the time I got to court, I had a nice, shiny South Carolina Driver's license with a decent picture.
The courtroom was like a big auditorium, and the judge spoke into a microphone so all 60 people in there knew who was in trouble and for what.

We all raised our eyebrows when a very well-dressed older man approached the bench for a cocaine and assault charge.
My name was finally called and I approached the bench.

“Do you have your South Carolina license?” the judge asked, flipping through my tickets.
“Yes, your honor!” I said and opened up my purse.
I then turned white. My wallet was not in my purse.

I knew at that moment exactly where it was. It was in my cute “going out” purse that I had taken to the bar last night, that was still on my bedroom floor. I hadn’t moved my wallet into my “day purse.”

Panicking, I kept rummaging around my “day purse” thinking it would magically appear.
“Um…” I nervously giggled. “I…I don’t have my wallet.”
The judge peered down at me. He then took to the microphone.

“Do you mean to tell me that you have a ticket for not having a South Carolina Driver’s License and you don’t have your wallet with you today?” he asked, for all to hear.
I cringed.
“Yes your honor.”
“And, I assume you don’t have any money to pay for these tickets?”
“No, your honor.”
“And you drove to court today without a license?”
I looked up, with my most pathetic face (it wasn’t hard).

“I don’t know why these things HAPPEN to me!” I finally wailed. “I’m really sorry. I did get my license, I swear!”

He groaned and stamped something on a piece of paper and pointed (yes, pointed) his finger at me.
“You drive home RIGHT NOW and get your wallet, young lady!”

I nodded. My court date got pushed back a month. I didn’t look at anyone on the way out, who had heard the entire exchange on surround sound.
I knew what they were thinking: Dumb blonde.

Yes, dumb blonde. Dumb blonde indeed.
NOT black man dressed as a woman.


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