A Good Day
April 2nd began as a regular Tuesday.
In January, I added bi-week stationary rowing classes to my exercise regime. A wide water wheel provides the resistance for my thirty-minute core, quad and upper body workout.
That Tuesday after toweling off my post-rowing sweaty forehead and slurping some water from a nearby fountain, I continued directly upstairs to my sixty-minute yoga class. There in the dimly lit studio, bathed in soft far-eastern music, I stretched, improved my balance and nudged out any negative cerebral nuggets that the current political atmosphere had spawn. By the time I finished my exercise routine at 10:30 am, I was ready to face the day.
Turning down Main Street, I noticed a Township police cruiser parked on the right-hand side next to the sidewalk. I smugly reflected on a recent conversation I had with my husband.
I don’t believe you.
Nope, I have never had a speeding ticket in the 50 years that I have been driving. Honest.
I had three in one day. In three different states.
I am sure you did.
Feeling empowered, I was tempted to wave to the officer as I slowly cruised by at 34mph in the 35mph zone, but I resisted. I was on my way to buy sticky buns for my ninety-two-year-old mother-in-law. Over the weekend I had arranged to take Nanny out to lunch near her home in the Philadelphia area on the upcoming Wednesday. I wanted to bring her a treat. My own mother instilled in me the habit that you never visit anyone without bringing something. So, sticky buns were my something.
As I passed through the small town and glided directly into the next smaller one on my way to the bakery, I noticed flashing lights in my rear-view mirror.
In response, I glanced at the speedometer and noticed that my speed was up to 37mph.
Oh no! I jinxed myself by bragging about my clean driving record. I was speeding!
Just in case the police officer was on his way to another call, I obediently pulled over to the shoulder next to the fire department to let him pass. But alas, his cruiser followed directly behind me to the side of the road The five garage doors of the fire station were open, but there was no sign of of any activity. I was the only excitement on the street.
I have watched enough police shows to know that I needed to get out my registration, insurance card and my license. The first two documents were dutifully organized in plastic sleeves in the glove compartment and my license was in a small purse on the seat next to me. I switched my car to park, engaged my four ways and put down my window and prepared for the worst. A burst of fresh manure tainted air swiped my face as I turned my head to look for the approaching officer.
Good morning ma’am. This conversation will be recorded.
The officer spoke into the device on his shoulder and asked for my papers.
He took my documents back to his cruiser. I followed him in my rear-view mirror. Meanwhile, several cars passed by. I hoped all of them were strangers.
When he returned he handed me an 8×10 piece of paper along with the set of papers I gave him.
Do you know your registration has expired?
No… I did not. I bought this car last March. It is new.
Still strapped in my driver’s seat I started to fidget. I looked down at the registration now on my lap. After receiving it in the mail, I remember putting this permanent registration paper in the car but I did not examine it closely at the time. I did not realize the form was only in effect for three months. I had been driving illegally since June 2018!
In addition, your inspection is expired.
Next, I glanced at the sticker on the inside of my windshield. Yep, it expired on March 31st. I chomped on my gum.
I did know the month was now April. In fact, I knew that Monday was April Fools Day. During my usual morning’s phone call with my adult daughter, she shared some of her family April Fools tricks from the day before.
Oh, I know yesterday was April first, sir.
Tempted to keep going and share how my daughter took the creamy filling out of some Oreo cookies and replaced it with toothpaste and how she taped a picture of an open-mouthed shark under the kid’s toilet seat, I decided otherwise. The officer might have insisted I exit the vehicle for a sobriety test.
This is just a warning. Do you have access to the Internet?
You can renew your registration on-line and actually print out the documents. You can even renew it for two years now.
Oh, I will go right home and do that now sir. Thank you.
You know that if you get pulled over again there will be a $200 fine.
Oh sir, I am going right home now. I am not even going to get Nanny’s sticky buns.
The policeman did not acknowledge my morning’s destination— not that it would have mattered. I violated the law and he was giving me a chance to make it right.
Thank you so much officer. I do not know how this happened but I will take care of it right away.
I spoke directly into his recording device. I wanted my message to be heard loud and clear.
Have a nice day ma’am.
When the policeman drove away, I turned the car around in the parking lot and made the 2-mile trip home. Under the speed limit. My palms were moist and my head was spinning like a child’s top from my stupidity.
Reluctant to get on the Pennsylvania Turnpike the next day without updated documents, I considered phoning Nanny to call off my Wednesday trip. But I knew how much she was looking forward to my visit. Remnants of her cheerful voice echoed in my head and inspired me to take a deep breath and start fixing my mess.
Thank goodness I have a printer and could navigate the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation web site. Within twenty minutes I had signed up for the two-year registration renewal and printed out the new certificate.
Next, I needed to see if I could convince my dealership to squeeze me in on short notice for an inspection.
I need to drive to Philadelphia tomorrow to visit my 92-year-old mother-in-law and I just got pulled over with an expired registration and inspection.
I was babbling like a lost tourist.
I have the registration now and I was hoping you could help me and fit me in for an inspection today.
I was prepared to take it up a notch and beg. But, the voice on the other end of the phone was youthful, calm and reassuring.
These things happen and when they do, we have to help one another. Can you be here at 2:20?
Of course. Thank you.
My universe just righted itself. Two people in the last two hours stepped up to help me. Two people understood that life sometimes gets in the way and did not shame or chastise me for my foolish mistakes. This duo restored my faith in humanity. At least for a day.
I spent an hour in the dealership waiting room enjoying a free cup of coffee and reading a new novel that I brought in my purse. The pager vibrated on the table next to my plush chair so I exited to the check-in area to claim my car. From across the counter, the same kind man that spoke to me on the phone now engaged me in a personal conversation about his kindergarten-age son.
He is going to the same elementary school that I went to as a boy. It is wonderful to walk the halls now as a parent. I am so glad I live here.
I am glad I live here too young man.
He had no idea how sincere my words were.
It was now 3:30 pm. I felt relieved. My registration and inspection were updated. Now all that was left to be done was to find some sticky buns.
Across the road from my car place was a deli and bakery. Having gone there many times in the past, I knew they had excellent sticky buns. I just hoped that they had not sold out at this point in the day.
Score! And with pecans.
On Wednesday morning, the sunshine announced my new, shiny inspection stickers with its low, bright rays. I turned up the 60’s on 6 on Sirius radio and started singing along with a familiar tune. About a mile on to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, a State Trooper whizzed past me with flashing lights.
I had not yet reached the posted Turnpike speed limit of 70mph yet so there was no need to panic. And of course, I had two year’s worth of vehicle registration documentation in the glove compartment and current inspection stickers on the windshield. But more importantly, I had sticky buns to deliver. So, I kept singing as the officer’s car flew past in a blur.
Today was going to be a good day.