I was driving to work one morning, taking the exact route that I had taken for thirteen and a half years. I was not paying careful attention. Everything besides my body and car, all my attention, my thoughts, my emotions were someplace else entirely. I don’t remember where, but whatever I was daydreaming, my thoughts were interrupted by the "whoop-whoop" of a police siren. Oh, dear!
I used my turn signal and eased gently over to the side of the street, trying to reconstruct the past few minutes and figure out what I might have been doing wrong. Let’s see, I was sitting on the sound stage and I looked about thirty pounds slimmer and my make-up was really good....
"Morning ma’am. Do you know why I pulled you over?" The officer standing at the side of my car looked very clean and very handsome and very young.
This is one of the interesting things about being my age. Suddenly some of the most unlikely people – doctors, high school English teachers, policemen – seem to me to be heart-rendingly young. And cute. I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised to come home to find this young man munching on a ham sandwich and playing video games with my older son; he looked that young and fresh and sweet.
Young though he might have been, I was certain that he took himself and his responsibilities very seriously. Instead of saying, as I was tempted,
"Look at you, all dressed up in your uniform! I bet your mother and daddy are so proud of you!"
I looked up into his handsome face and said seriously, "No, Officer, I don’t." "You were speeding," he said, "and," he sounded as if he was saving the best for last, "you turned right on red, which is illegal at this intersection!" He did not say actually say, "Woo-hoo! Score!" but his triumphant tone said it for him.
"Surely I wasn’t speeding! I might very well have been rushing a little, but not speeding!" Speeding sounds so irresponsible and dangerous. Rushing just sounds natural.
"Were too," he said and I had to bite the inside of my cheek to keep myself smiling indulgently.
"May I see your licence and registration, ma’am?"
"Certainly, you may," I said and clicked on the dome light. I was proud that I refrained from saying, as I often do at home, "It’s a pleasure to do things when asked so politely." Always reinforce good behavior!
"Ah, man!" he cried, as the light filled the car.
He said it with the exact inflection my son uses when he finds out that he is expected to spend a beautiful Saturday morning doing something really fun like stripping and painting window frames.
"What?" I asked and looked up at him. He was looking at the passenger seat as if he saw a fresh body part laying there or a gallon freezer bag full of drugs. I turned my head to look.
"What," he asked, "is that?"
"That is a stethoscope. I am a nurse and I am on my way to work."
"Man!" he said, the way he might have said it if he found out that after painting the window frames he would have to wash the windows too.
"What’s the matter?" I asked.
"I wanted to give you a ticket!"
"Well, okay. You can give me a ticket."
"No, we don’t give nurses tickets for minor things. As a courtesy."
I wondered if he thought that he might find himself in the hospital one day with a surgeon standing over him, scalpel poised to cut, and then I would run into the room and shout, "STOP! Do not save this man’s life! He gave me a speeding ticket!"
"Oh, now! You just go ahead and write me a ticket. I deserve it! I have no idea how fast I was driving!"
"No ma’am. You can go now," he sounded so disappointed.
"Now don’t you worry! You go ahead and write me a ticket! I deserve a ticket the way I turned the corner at that speed! Why, I might have killed someone. Please write me a ticket!"
"Have a nice day, ma’am."
I felt so sorry for him as I waved and pulled back onto the street. I hoped that there was a nice drug bust in his future or a bank robbery or something exciting.
But really, I was just as glad not to have a ticket after all.
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal and Michael Sowdal have been married 14 years and have six children together. She is a practicing RN and freelance writer.