After several years of driving with a clean record, most of it while I was awake, the unthinkable happened. On a recent drive, after turning up the radio while singing along with the high parts of Boston’s “More than a Feeling,” I looked into my rearview mirror and saw something we all dread.
No, it wasn’t one of my daughters and her boyfriend in the back seat fondling each other’s iPhones, but the ominous flashing of lights. Yes, I was being pulled over by the po-po.
Like most drivers in this situation, my heart started pounding, and I broke out in a cold sweat – as if my wife had just asked me to take my three daughters to shop for swimwear. As I pulled to the shoulder, anxious and somewhat irrational thoughts raced through my mind: “Is my driver’s license expired? Has the Nyquil worn off? Am I currently wearing pants?”
When the officer came to my window, dressed and equipped like he was about to take down an entire drug cartel, he asked for my license and registration, and informed me that I had been speeding in a twenty-mile-per-hour school zone. Although I wasn’t sure that my vehicle could actually travel that slowly unless I was pushing it, I thought it best not to argue (or mention the Boston). Instead, I simply told him I didn’t realize that I was in a school zone – and that my water just broke. No, really, I just admitted that I wasn’t paying attention and the next time one of those police officer foundations called, I would donate my children’s entire college savings.
Unfortunately, the officer said he couldn’t just give me a warning since I was in a school zone, even though I said “Sir” a lot. As he walked back to his patrol car to prepare the citation while countless drivers passed by and gawked, I did the embarrassed doofus-slump as far down in my seat as I could get, until my nose got hung on the bottom of the steering wheel. When the officer finally came back to my window, I took my ticket, thanked him for the important work he did, saw him roll his eyes, and pushed my car the rest of the way to the high school to pick up my eldest daughter. Naturally, I blamed her for the ticket.
When I went to City Hall to pay my fine later that week, the clerk suggested that I take a defensive driving course so that the violation could be removed from my record and I could brush up on my safe driving skills – like how to avoid road rage when the driver in front of me sits there updating his Facebook status on his cell phone after the light turns green, instead of updating it once he gets going again – like a normal person.
Rather than taking a face-to-face defensive driving course, which inflicts the added punishment of having to get up before noon on a Saturday, I opted for the reading-intensive online version. With my crack English major skills, I figured I could breeze through the course in no time. I soon realized, though, that the course is programed to require you to spend enough time on each screen to translate the entire text into Mandarin Chinese.
In addition to the reading, there were also occasional videos that appeared to have been produced by film school students in the early 1980’s. My favorite video focused on tire safety. It featured an attractive couple (complete with shoulder pads and feathered bangs) standing beside a stack of steel-belted radials while making flirtatious banter amid segments dealing with proper inflation, premature tread wear, and optimum performance. (I’m pretty sure that one was rated PG-13.)
I did eventually finish the course, and I actually learned a few things, like how to read about air bags while ordering hamster food on Amazon.com, – all from the comfort of my wife’s bathrobe. Most importantly, I learned that while driving, you should be vigilant regarding school zones, especially when your favorite jam is on the radio.
“I closed my eyeeees, and she slipped awaaaaaaaaay!”