I have driven to every corner of this country. No lie. Upstate New York, Charleston, Seattle, Bakersfield. All across the northern states, and down through the Southwest and into the Deep South. I am proud to say in all those thousands of miles, I have only been pulled over once. And it was epic.
Let me start with the caveat that I actually truly respect Officers of the Law. The Po-Pos. In fact, despite their heavy-handed use of pepper spray, they are who I would call in an emergency. That is why I hate when I get pulled over for speeding or some other bullshit offense. Shouldn’t cops be arresting vagrants or solving complex murder-rape cases? Exactly, so get off my bumper and save some lives.
I was heading through Arizona, where I was amazed to see the maximum speed limit was 75mph. In true cross-country fashion, I set my reliable old cruise control to…78ish and just drove. I was mindlessly listening to books on my iPod, there were maybe 6 other cars on the highway and I just drove. For hours. Until I got into New Mexico, specifically, Albuquerque. When you reach the city, where there is significantly more traffic the speed goes from 75 to 65. For good reason.
I saw this, and instead of putting my brakes on, released my cruise control and reset it when my car reached the desired speed. As I was losing my momentum, I saw a State Trooper, just poised and waiting to catch any cars that were clumsy enough to get caught in this speed trap. Oh yeah, I saw him, I think I even made eye contact with him. I thought to myself, “Gah, what a dick…just waiting like a tiny dickless dick to get some weary traveler who did not slow down fast enough.”
I continued on my way, heading back onto the desolate stretches of highway towards Texas. That is when I saw a car racing towards me in my rearview mirror. This big, white Trooper SUV is trying to catch me. I head over into the slow lanes, hoping to myself that he is not trying to catch me, but is, instead on his way to help some tiny child trapped in a well, when he cuts off a semi-truck to weasel in behind me and flashes his big ‘ole lights. So I pull off the highway and onto the shoulder, trying to find my insurance and registration information. It is at this point I should point out that I was driving from Washington to North Carolina with a car packed to the nines with all my belongings and my dog was riding shotgun with all her toys and food in the floor in front of her.
As I am searching the glove box for my documents, the State Trooper knocks on my passenger side window. So, this does two things. First, it annoys me. My car is 10+ years old and for some reason, the window only goes up and down with the controls for that door while the door is open. Second, it makes my dog freak out because there is some dude threatening her car-home, and she is having none of it.
I see the Trooper asses the situation (out-of-state girl with barking dog rummaging through her glove-box) and he oh so obviously puts his hand on his gun and knocks on the window again. I reach over, roll it down and without hesitating say, “This window is broken, you need to go to the other side of the car.” Trooper man does not let my brazen appeal fluster him and instead yells to me (yells because my dog is growling and barking at him) that he clocked me going, “72 in a 65,” and asks for my documentation. When he does this Zoe-dog gets a little more aggressive, and the Trooper asks me to meet him outside the car. I rudely roll up the window, loudly tell my dog what a good girl she is and take my sweet time getting out of the car.
I walk up the Trooper and casually mention how I saw him in the speed trap. I like to think it was some smooth, effortless and slightly intimidating display of knowledge, but I am sure it just came off as accusatory and rude. I told the Trooper that I always drive with my cruise control on and was slowing down when he hit me with his radar gun…then I insinuated that he was counting on that so he could catch speeders. Trooper just looked at me and said, “I am going to let you off with a warning, but you should really slow down.” I replied, “Yeah, thanks” and took off.
So, if my story has to have a moral or a meaning, I would say that it is to be assertive and stand up to authority when they are bullshitting you. Indeed, you do not need to stand idly by and let “The Man” get all up in your face. I am not saying you should escalate the encounter to COPS worthy aggression, but I am saying that sometimes, when you not breaking any laws, it is appropriate to treat an authority figure with the respect they have earned.