A Moment in My Life – Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Have you ever encountered the police and cringed? I don’t encounter them often, but the few times that I have, I tend to cringe. I’m glad police encounters are the exception rather than the rule. Today, I was about to make a right turn onto El Camino North. I hesitated and hit the brakes when a car suddenly U-turned in front of me, going towards El Camino North. The car behind him did the same thing. I was glad I stopped, especially when my peripheral caught a black and white SUV first in line at the red light on El Camino North. Everybody was going in the same direction today. I did nothing wrong but spotting the police vehicle shot up my blood pressure. You can imagine me gripping my steering wheel so tightly when that same police car pulled up behind me in the left-hand turn lane at the next intersection. I took a breath. I told myself I wasn’t doing anything wrong and convinced myself that the cop was behind me because he was heading back to the station after the turn. He was.
Growing up, adults said to trust the police yada, yada, yada. A part of me does treat the uniformed officers with authority and respect, while the other part of me feared them. Yes, I fear them. It doesn’t matter their skin color or their shape, or their size. The uniform makes me nervous. You’d think I had many run-ins with them, but that’s not so. Well, I take it back. I got pulled over once.
It was 6 a.m. on a dark spring morning on my way to work. Seeing it was clear, I turned left onto the street. As soon as I turned onto the road from the condo driveway, headlights abruptly blinded me from behind. I swore it was pitch black a second ago, or was it? At the moment, I wasn’t so sure anymore. The next thing I knew, there were red and blue lights spinning in the dark of the early morning. Ugh. It was a police car behind me! I moved into the first clearing to the right, and the police cruiser filed in behind me, confirming it was me the cop was after.
As I waited for the Officer to walk up, I pulled down my mental dialog box and pondered my options. Option A: lie that I didn’t see him. Well, that would have been a partial truth because I didn’t see him—not until his headlights came on. Option B: play dumb that I knew nothing and know nothing. Maybe he’d let this dumb blond go. Oh, wait. I’m not blond. Rats. (Sorry, blondies, I mean no malice. When I was a kid, I dreamed of being a blond. I thought blond hair was the most beautiful thing in the world.) Option C: own it. That’s what I did. I chose to own it and deal with the consequences. I’ll accept the ticket and go to traffic school. No way I’d pay the fine for whatever reason I got pulled over for. As you can see, I’m a planner. I had everything planned out before the Officer approached me.
“Good morning, Miss.”
“Good morning, Officer.”
“Did you know you pulled out in front of me?”
“Yes, Officer, I realized that when you pulled me over.”
So far, so good. The Officer took my driver’s license and registration to run them through his system. When he returned, his demeanor softened, and he said, “I’m going to issue you a verbal warning this time.”
“Oh, thank you, Officer. I appreciate that very much.”
“Be careful. This is a dangerous intersection.”
Dangerous? Really? Since when? This neighborhood is the most uneventful bedroom community around. I’m not sure what happened that morning, but I was relieved and beyond grateful to the point where I wanted to thank him with baked cookies. I didn’t, though. I much rather stay as far away from the cops as possible.
Three weeks later, a black and white turned left onto my street as I turned right onto the road he came from. Just as he made his turn, his headlights went black, and that caught my attention. He turned off his headlights at 6 a.m. in the dark of a March morning. I was right. He didn’t have his headlights on the morning he pulled me over. I thought I imagined things, but this morning, he assured me that I wasn’t crazy. I’m glad I didn’t bother giving him a thank you gift. Whatever for? He tried to bait me. I did nothing wrong. He did me no favors.
This incident added to my distrust of cops, but it didn’t change anything for me. I continued to respect them for what their roles stood for. I also continue to fear them because they have the power over me to arrest me at a whim, and I would have no voice. Not all cops are bad. What amazed me was that I am still afraid when I see a police vehicle near me in light of current events where there is disdain towards the uniform with the whole defunding the police bit. You’d think we had the upper hand, but as I said, nothing changed for me.
Come to think of it. I’m just a fraidy cat. One day last summer, a young Asian man in a police uniform walked up to me on my driveway, asking if I saw anything on the main street earlier. He was investigating a crime that took place. My immediate response was fear, but this time I wasn’t fearing “the cop” but instead fearing that he was a “fake cop”—someone trying to do me harm dressed as an Officer to mislead my trust. So, what this means, people, is that the poor police can’t win when it comes to me. They’ll have to live with me being afraid of them one way or another. Maybe one day after the police reform, etc., they may earn my trust and eradicate my fear, but I’ll continue to treat them with mixed emotions for now. I’ll respect them and obey their authority, and with that said, I will pray that they don’t abuse their power. I believe that Officer, who pulled me over, tried to up his ticket quota in a sneaky, not kosher way. Lucky for me, I’ve never gotten a ticket for anything, and he had no excuse but to let me off. He never knew that he added to my distrust of cops. There’s nothing I can do about what happened except lighten up the memory. I do that by poking fun at what happened every chance I get by adding these words to conversation. “Yes, Officer, I realized that…”