What’s the stupidest thing you could possibly say to a cop? I recently found out.
Those of us who have a little problem driving the posted speed limit dread the sight of those cherry and blueberry flashing lights in the rear view mirror. My first reaction is to be a model citizen and move to the right lane so they can pass and pursue the criminals, but when the cops speed up and add the siren, I am always genuinely surprised to discover that I am the crime.
Despite my attempts (documented in this blog) to live with greater integrity and acceptance of the consequences of my actions, I must admit I have a blind spot when it comes to speeding: it’s never my fault.
It was a speed trap.
They targeted me because of my out of state license plates.
They profiled me because I drive a sporty Subaru with a big spoiler.
There’s a rainbow sticker on my bumper and they hate gays.
My psychic defenses in this situation are amazing (and a little paranoid).
Last Tuesday while driving along the gorgeous Oregon coast, I left a small town behind and resumed dreaming of a greasy patty melt smothered in onions when suddenly: flashing blueberry and cherry.
By the time the officer approached me, I had removed my license from my wallet, but didn’t grab my proof of insurance from the glove box. I’ve created training for police officers, and know enough to keep my hands visible at all times. I kept mine in the 10 and 2 position on the steering wheel.
(Why is it that after I’m busted, I find myself eager to prove I am a safe, law-abiding citizen? Why the hell can’t I be concerned about following the law ten minutes before the cops clock me going 47 in a 30? This time, it totally was not my fault. It was a speed trap.)
He asked me why I was in the area (vacation), if I noticed the posted speed limit (no), if I knew I had been speeding (no). He was polite. I was contrite. And yet I could sense the web closing around me…this wasn’t going to end with a mere warning. I can’t burst into tears on command and I don’t have good excuses, so my strategy is to look gloomy, as if I’m in big trouble at home if I get a ticket. This never works.
When the officer asked me to show proof of insurance, I said, “I’m going to get it from my glove box.”
My hand moved toward the glove box in slow motion, which looking back, was probably pretty spooky for him.Why was I acting so weird?
“Wait,” he said, “do you have any weapons in your car.”
I turned to him and said firmly, “No.”
Then, I paused, remembered something, and hoped he didn’t notice.
“Wait, what was that?” he said. “Why did you make that face.”
Before I could stop myself, I said, “I don’t have any weapons in the car, but I have a big axe in the trunk.”
Why the hell would I tell that to a police officer?
Good lord, I am an idiot. I had just finished explaining that I was on vacation from Minnesota. What kind of tourist drives his axe across five states? Clearly, only the murdery kind.
Two weeks ago, I drove to Oregon to work on an organic farm. The week prior, I confirmed that the farmer needed wood chopped for winter. I eagerly suggested I bring my axe and in his reply, he wrote, “Sure, if you want.”
I know it’s odd, but I like chopping wood. I like my axe. Earlier this summer, I had my axe sharpened at my local hardware store and filled a gas can in the same batch of errands. My neighbor witnessed me crossing the lawn wearing my red flannel overshirt, carrying the axe and the gas can and she said, “Boy, that combination looks dangerous.”
She was joking of course, but I can’t help notice that she and her housemates stopped saying, “We should totally get together for drinks sometime.”
Thank god, I didn’t say to the police officer, “No, no, I didn’t kill anyone. I just really like my axe.”
Huh. I guess there is something worse I could have said.
After volunteering news that I vacation with an axe in my trunk, the officer merely laughed.
And then, he wrote me a speeding ticket.
While driving through Montana today, I relayed the incident by phone to my friend John. We howled at why a person would volunteer details on trunk cutlery. We snickered at my getting yet another speeding ticket, and my ongoing refusal to take ownership for my shadowy behavior.
John asked, “Were you wearing your red flannel and camouflage pants?”
(I find it mildly alarming friends who know me well can predict my wardrobe from three states away.)
“Ah,” John said. “It now makes sense. The flannel, the axe, and Minnesota plates. I assume you were unshaved and unshowered. Plus, you’re driving around in Babe, the Blue Ox. He thought you were Paul Bunyan.”