I am blogging because I am curled up on my couch watching tv and looking at my cat (which is as close as I get anymore, since they refuse to cuddle now that the couch smells so much like dog). The reason for this is that I refuse to go anywhere near a moving vehicle for the rest of the day and possibly the rest of the week.
Today, I am cursed.
This morning I walked the dog a little longer than I should have and headed to work a little later than normal. As I sat at a traffic light on Route 1, minding my own very muddled and sleepy-headed business, the world shifted slightly. And abrubtly. I glanced up in my rearview mirror and saw a sunglassed brunette chewing on a muffin and waving at me distractedly. Evidently, the effort of scarfing down her breakfast was so exhausting that it became impossible to hold her weary foot on the brake pedal and so, weak with hunger, she Hit. My. Car.
I was furious. I leapt out of the car and banged on her window, screaming obscenities and demanding an apology. She cowered and cried, sobbing profuse regrets and whimpering under the stern glare of my steely-eyed fury. I let her go after repeated promises to stay alert, focus on safety and never cause another accident again.
Actually, I yelled at her from my car and made repeated and violent arm movements, increasingly infuriated by her stubbon refusal to acknowledge wrongdoing. When the light changed, she switched lanes and sped off in her poncy little red convertible, still chewing and still oblivious to the cold restrained fury of my irritatingly ineffective middle finger.
I managed, after a long day otherwise occupied with saving lives and bettering society, to forget the incident and finally, only 6 minutes late today, I crawled into my baking hot oven of a car and headed towards home. Not five minutes from the shelter, I flicked my eyes to the rearview mirror and clocked a cop behind me, far behind me, must have been right behind me at the stoplight I'd just been waiting at. But he was still far behind me, like he'd lingered at the light, and I had plenty of time to carefully assess my speed and drop from 38 to the posted limit of 35. Those of you that know me know my ingrained and inflexible terror of getting in trouble, my utterly catholic fear of authority, and my insanely bad driving skills all combine to create the most infuriatingly slow driver in Northern Virginia, so I didn't think twice about the police car and instead focused on staying in my lane.
Imagine my heart attack, then, when the lights flickered, the siren sounded, the cop was on my tail and gesturing to pull over. Muddled with anxiety and confusion, I did so, wondering if he had the authority to pull me over for my outdated stickers and reasoning that since I had the current registration in the car I'd probably be just fine. When he swaggered up to the car, I had my window open, my hand on the registration, a very curious look on my face.
"Did you notice the posted speed limit on this road, ma'am?"
I had, but I think this is an inefficient conversational track. "How fast was I going?"
"Did you notice the speed limit, m'am?" He is irritated now.
"I wasn't going over the limit," I say. "I know I wasn't, I looked when I saw you!" I am earnest, pleading.
"Ma'am, the limit on this road is 35 miles per hour. Do you know how fast you were going?"
"I guess I don't, I really thought..." I am terrified now, babbling, confused.
"I had to go over 60 to catch up with you. You blew right past me at that light."
Well, the light was green, I thought. But still. I am shocked. "I am shocked." Pause. "I really, I honestly didn't think I was speeding." I point at my dashboard. "I looked, the needle was right here."
"You had to go over 60 to catch up with me??"
"I'm not going to go back and forth with you over this," he says. He backs away from the car a step, then two.
"To CATCH UP WITH ME?"
He is definitely backing away at this point. "Look, have a little respect for the law, is what I am saying. You need to be more careful and slow it down."
I babble a bit more, I am thanking him for letting me go, apologizing, pledging future caution. And, yet...my high school physics teacher is screaming at me in my head, straining to be heard over the ingratiating apologies. The officer gets into his car, gestures abruptly for me to drive on, I carefully change lanes and proceed at a turtle pace down the road. But, thinking...
Now that I have settled, my heart has stopped pounding and my stomach stopped twisting, I have two good theories about what caused his rapid change of attitude. One is that he saw my shirt, my uniform proclaiming me to be a member of the city's public service, a fellow soldier-in-arms in the battle for public well-being. It would be in pretty poor taste to hang me out to dry over such a questionable complaint. But, primarily, I think that his high school physics teacher caught up with him, too, as he realized the questionable science in asserting that I was speeding because he had to go above the limit to catch up to me from behind.
I've tossed this around so much that my brain hurts, and I know I wasn't speeding, unless my speedometer has suddenly broken. But what really frightens me is the idea that an authority figure, someone armed and trusted with the power to issue citations and penalties, can be so arbitrary and, at the same time, so dense.
Meanwhile, I perhaps should put those stickers on my car now.