I was driving home after 10 the other night, returning alone from final dress rehearsal of It’s a Wonderful Life, my husband having taken our son in his car just before I left. En route, I decided to call my mother about something or other related to ongoing bits and bouts of depression about my father’s death and the ending of a close friendship only a month apart. She began to tell me of some stressful things that happened during her day and as we talked I lost track of speed limit. About a mile from home a cop pulled me over. I was going 65 in a 55-mph zone.
The usual things happened: he took a long time checking my plates sitting in his car, then walked v e r y s l o w l y over to my door and flashed his flashlight throughout my messy little red Focus with kids’ toys and tissues and empty water bottles everywhere. He acted as if I were dangerous, perhaps because my leather bomber jacket seen from behind makes me look so butch. He demanded my license, registration, and proof of insurance. I was flustered, frustrated, and increasingly depressed as he took his time looking over what I handed him (after rummaging through my equally messy glove compartment). Pretty soon, my eyes were filling with tears, and all I wanted was to go home. He aimed his flashlight at me as I dabbed at them and I looked up into that too-bright light and said, “Look, my father died a few weeks ago, I was having a stressful conversation with my mother though I shouldn’t have been talking on the phone in the car, and all I really want to do is go home. If you need to give me a ticket, that’s fine” or words to that effect, all said deferentially and with as much patience and as few tears as I could muster.
He nodded sagely, then went behind the car and looked at my license plate some more and waited for the report on my driver’s license (don’t they have computers in their cop cars yet?). When he returned, I noted that he had not taken out his pad for writing speeding tickets, which made me happy, as I didn’t particularly want a speeding ticket. But he did pipe up with a fascinating question:
“Do you hate our president?” quoth he.
“Do I what?” said I.
“William Bush: do you hate him?”
“George Bush?” I asked, trying not to sound too condescending as I was asked this entirely inappropriate question. I then remembered the W with red circle-slash on the back of my car. I smiled through soggy eyes. “No,” I said with a little laugh, “I don’t hate anyone. I disagree with many of his policies, but I don’t hate anyone. I’m tired and all I want to do is go home and go to bed.”
He replied, “Sounds like you’re going through some real chaos right now. I’m just going to give you a verbal warning. Remember, this is a 55-mph zone not 65.”
“Thank you,” I said, sincerely. “I really appreciate your not giving me a ticket.”
He added something about getting home safe and we parted company, him doing a dandy super-swift U-turn in the middle of the road that would have landed anyone else with a pricey ticket.
I don’t think I really need to analyze this for my readers, do I? Clearly, he should not have asked me that question about our president, “William” Bush. That he did not know Bush’s name is funny in an absurdist theater way. And that he would have given me a ticket if I said I did hate Mr. Bush is obvious and infuriatingly sad. But that’s how things are when you have to talk to a policeman in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Yee-haw.