Story time: on Monday I was walking home from work when I was pulled over by a cop. I’d like to say I was doing something nefarious, like jay-walking, but in fact I was crossing the street while the light was green. Having just missed my chance to press the walk button, I’d decided to cross anyways rather than waiting through an entire cycle, which seemed like an inefficient use of time (especially since this particular intersection has no specially marked turn lanes or green arrows). Alas, poor Yorick, a policeman was the second car across the way. He flicked on his lights, turned the car around in the intersection, and got out so that he could ask me – just as I’d gotten back up on the sidewalk – if I knew what the big red hand meant.
I told him I did. This didn’t seem like enough, so I added that I’d also assumed that I was safe to cross since the light was green. As it turns out: no I was not. He asked for my license, presumably to make sure there weren’t any outstanding warrants for my arrest, and (when it turned out that there weren’t) let me off with a warning. “Ma’am,” the young man was good enough to add, “if you were hit by a car while crossing without a walk signal, they couldn’t get in any legal trouble for it.”
Good heavens. I’m sure that would be the first thing on my mind if I was hit by a car while crossing the street.
However, not wanting to appear ungracious for this solicitude, I thanked him. He drove away, I walked the rest of the way home, and, once the door was shut behind me, bawled my eyes out.
I’ve reacted to rebukes like this since I was child. Actually, a couple years ago my parents admitted that I was the easiest kid in the world to punish. Mom would ask mildly, “What do you have to say for yourself?” and: weepy apologies. Dad would give me a disappointed look: instant tears. This wasn’t youngest child sway-you-with-waterworks manipulation tactics, this was Katy-bar-the-door-I-wish-I-could-hold-them-back-but-I-just-can’t tears. Now that I’m older the main difference is that I can usually hold off until I’m somewhere private. That, and I interject my weeping with despairing – if somewhat unintelligible – cries of, “Grow up!” “Stop crying, you pathetic baby!” and “What’s the matter with you-hoo-hoo-boo-hooooooo!!!” Verbal self-abuse has not, I’m sorry to say, decreased my oversensitivity.
Fortunately, I’m brought up as quickly as I’m cast down. About fifteen minutes later the whole thing struck me as funny, as it should have from the start.
Honestly, I’m a really big fan of the police. I think they do a hard job and get a lot of flak for it, mostly because people hate to be confronted by their own wrongdoing – whether major or minor (and sometimes: especially minor). Even in this case he was simply following the law to the letter. The absolute worst construct I can put on the whole affair is that he’s the kind of cop that drives around town during the summer, shutting down lemonade stands when their underage employees can’t produce a city-sanctioned business license. Not exactly the Sheriff of Nottingham.
(The best is that he was so struck by my overpowering beauty that this entire thing was a ruse; he took the chance presented to him to ask for my license, and will spend the better part of six months stalking me now that he knows my name and address. Yes, I’m so desperate that this is the good construct.)
(Of course, he also would’ve discovered that I’m older than I look, which would explain why a guy that looked my age had the unforgiveable audacity to call me “ma’am.” Instead of stalking me, he’s likely wiped a hand across his brow, congratulating himself on his close shave.)
(In other news: )
But here’s the real take-home lessons from my brush with the law. That:
- The big red hand means that I can be legally mowed down by turning vehicles, and
- It’s actually quite nice to live in a town where the cops are so bored that they have nothing better to do than pull over pedestrians for crossing the street out of turn.