Friday, February 24, 2012

Speeding. If you're not doing it, move over.

I recently read that if a woman needs to engage her husband in an important conversation that may involve conflict that it is best to do this when sitting side by side in a car. The reasoning is that the male brain evolved as a hunter and therefore feels less threatened by side-by-side contact than the ever offensive face-to face method. They are more likely to have a flight-or-flight response if they feel like someone is squaring off with them. So instead, you pretend to be a hunting buddy getting his back and he will be more open to the communication. I thought, "My goodness aren't men sensitive little babies? and how many generations do we have to evolve before they drop the threatened hunter schtick?"

I always like reading research on how the male brain and the female brain operate differently. It is fascinating and satisfying to learn that the reason John can open the fridge and spend ten minutes looking for the mayonaise finally concluding that there is no mayonaise in the fridge and then I walk up and open the door and reach immediately for the Costco size jar in a prominent place in the front of everything on the center shelf. Apparently his brain is good at pinpointing single objects at a distance (like a stalking saber toothed tiger or a deer in a forest) whereas my brain can take in and unconciously inventory lots of objects at very short range which makes me more likely to keep my babies contained and protected. This is also why I can read facial expressions, remember past social connections, keep up on neighborhood gossip and know if the kids are lying about brushing their teeth even if they have carefully wet their toothbrushes.

The thing is, John and I argue while we are in the car because we are engaging in very thing we disagree about the most. Driving. We don't just use a different style while operating a motor vehicle, we have completely opposing viewpoints about how it should be done. And lately we have been resorting to low-blow territory and each of us has been indoctrinating the children about weather or not the other is a "good driver". Normally I wouldn't go there in a million years, but when I hear my sweet little four year old in the back seat saying "Mommy is speeding because she is weally weally bad at dwiving." I get his attention and explain that speeding doesn't make a person a bad driver, it simply makes them a fast driver, and if you want to see a bad driver, check out your dad about an hour after a carbohydrate binge when he can't keep his head in the upright position. And when dad says 'curb check!' its not a funny game, it is an unintended collision and its illegal".

John's basic argument in that since I have received speeding tickets in my lifetime and when I was a teenager I had an accident or two, I am a dangerous driver. Never mind that it has been damn near two decades since I was on the wrong side of the badge, and never mind that I'm not even sure John has witnessed my actual driving in his life since he insists on being behind the wheel no matter what. He has his mind made up.

I, on the other hand, do not need foggy memories from decades past to form my opinion of John's driving because I get to experience it every time the two of us are in the same car. My favorite argument is that he is a "professional driver" with advanced training. We will be sure to call upon him if we even need to perform a Pit Maneuver during the morning carpool run, but when it comes to getting people where they need to be in the quickest possible way, I'm your gal.

My favorite thing that ALL cops ask when they pull a car over for speeding is "Why were you speeding?" I always feel like drawing a diagram for them and explaining that when you travel at a faster rate between two points, the time required for travel decreases. Of course I have been married to a cop long enough to know the only way to go when dealing with a traffic stop. The officer is a beautiful brave genius, I am a thoughtless, lead footed retard that is so thankful for the intervention because who knows what would have happened had I been left to determine for myself what is a reasonable and prudent speed for any given set of road conditions. Now-a-days I just have to work the fact that I am a cop's wife into the exchange immediately and I can be on my merry way, which seems unfair but in reality is not unfair because this particular free pass has been earned. Believe me. I've earned it.

John gets scared that I will speed in his town. It almost made me sad when I had to break it to him that his town is the only place on the planet that I am GUARANTEED to not get a ticket and because thats too valuable a privilege to squander, when I cross the city border, I accelerate by at least 5 miles per hour. Writing a fellow cop's wife would make you as popular at the station as writing the cop himself. I'll always ask John for details just to be sure "Who is the guy who is always running radar by Higley High? Oh, him? Okay. He has sat at my kitchen table and eaten a meal. He wouldn't dream of it. Thanks! Bye!"

It should be far more illegal to drive slow in the left lane causing other drivers to have to pass you on the right than it is to go 36 mph on any inch of Hunt Hwy. (and don't even get me started on the posted 45 on Ironwood. That road is two lanes each way with no turns or intersections for 15 miles flat and straight in the middle of the desert. If you didn't know better you'd think you were on the I-10.) When other cars whiz past me I make an effort to think "You must have something important to do right now."

I am also privy to the fact that speed traps and ticket quotas are not mythical or unspoken. Your fines and penalties keep all of the worker bees at the traffic court with a paycheck and the cop who "gave you a break" and wrote you for a civil ticket instead of criminal "which he could have" wasn't nearly as cool as you gave him credit for. He was checking off his stats the minute he saw you coming. There really is a set of steak knives for the guy who gives the most citations.

This driving argument has been the longest standing most unresolvable debate of our marriage. I am a known and admitted speeder but I am never anything less than one hundred percent alert behind the wheel. There is no possibility that I could fall asleep while driving, because I have never even fallen asleep as a passenger. Sleep is illusive to me in the best of circumstances (in my bed in a cool quiet dark room) but while sitting up and belted in traveling 65 miles per hour? Not a chance. I dont even think I have ever really fallen asleep as a passenger on an airplane and I have been on some seriously long and boring flights. I once took an overnight train where I had a private berth with a full blown bed and I just laid there wide awake in the dark under the covers until finally the sun came up and I could quit pretending. Then theres John who "gets low blood sugar" between the hours of 3pm and 5pm and will literally nod off during rush hour traffic while I sit next to him white knuckled and occasionally reaching over to pinch him on the fleshy part of his inner arm (that will wake anyone up for a minute or two) or scan the stereo for upbeat music that may arouse him to wakefulness.

One of the first conversations I ever had with John was about how to get out of tickets. He didn't mention the stealth strategy of marrying him at the time but believe me, I was already doing the math. We determined early on that crying is unacceptable, being a smart ass is unforgiveable, and even indifference is bad. Your only viable strategy is pure humility and outright regret. You are screwed no matter what if the city is running a traffic sting or if its the last day of the month to turn in statistics.

Once I got pulled over in Pinal County. I mentioned that my husband was a police officer and got no reaction whatsoever. The guy just kept on filling out my info. I didn't know if he hadn't heard me or didn't care. I felt exactly like that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry puts a dollar in the tip jar but no one sees him do it so he wants to take it out and put it in again when they are looking but then of course they see him removing cash from the tip jar. If I mentioned it again would it just be obnoxious? I had to try. The dude was going to have to acknowledge and dismiss my badged husband or he was going to hear one hundred creative ways to awkwardly work it into the conversation. Luckily the second time I said it he caught on and it stopped him dead in his tracks. "What? did you say you're husband is an officer? Why didn't you say so sooner? I wouldn't have had to fill this whole thing out! Delete. Tell him to be safe out there."

Another time a DPS officer asked me who my husband was and who he works for and wrote it down and went back to the car and actually called my husband's police station and verified that he was for sure a cop married to a woman named Staci and then tried to call my husband on his cell phone to tell him personally that he was letting his wife go and to tell me to slow down. He came back to the window and announced that I'm married to a good cop. He was miffed that John wasn't answering his calls right then and there. I told him that he had worked all night and was asleep. Not that he was in his underwear in front of the TV watching the military channel and wondering who the mystery number on his caller ID was. Good luck with that, by the way. You'll need more than a gun and a squad car to accomplish that.

I set some rules for John to follow in regard to traffic stops that I honestly think should be made federal law. Here are his choices: Give a ticket and no lecture or give a lecture and a warning. If a cop is tempted to give both the ticket AND the lecture, they need to stop and think about it. If you are giving the ticket, it doesn't matter what you say to the driver, you are the enemy. In their mind you are nothing but a big fat jerk and they don't care to hear about how much brain matter you've stepped in or how many fatal accidents you have seen. They are only listening to hear what is going to happen to them. Your lecture is totally wasted on a person you write a ticket to. In fact, human nature dictates that they will most likely not just tune you out, but they will go out of their way to mentally discredit every word you say, even if it is wise advice that would save their lives. They are too busy hating you to listen to you. Its a fact.

But… If you are giving the driver a warning, by all means, talk yourself silly. There is actually a chance that they will listen to what you are saying and even make a mental note to change their behavior in accordance with your lecture as long as you are not a villan. They will listen to you as a friend and be grateful for the break. I know that most of the cops out there are all too crusty and jaded to even give a crap about who they pull over but I would at least like to save them the effort. Ticket or lecture. pick one. never both.

I enjoy going on ride alongs with my husband. First, I find him outrageously attractive in his uniform but also I am fascinated by the job itself. It is crazy to get to walk into people's homes and take a peek at how they roll, but its especially entertaining to do it on the worst day of the person's life. The day their husband beats them or the day they got into a wreck, or the time their teenager threatened suicide. Its a voyeur's dream come true. I couldn't handle it every day but a few times a year is perfect. There is a certain rush that you get when you flip on your lights to pull a car over. It is intoxicating to have all of the power. The person has to pull over and obey you or they will meet the ghetto bird or a set of stop-sticks. It is so odd to know exactly what kind of emotional response you are eliciting from them the minute you engage the light bar. It makes me squirm and feel really really guilty even if the reason we are stopping them was blatantly wrong and the person needs to be removed from the road for the public good. It is unnerving. Last time I was out with John we were bored and so we set up in a hiding spot and ran radar. Every driver was moseying along at what looked like unreasonably slow speeds. We were there for about fifteen minutes when we got a hit from the radar gun. A woman was going 63 in a 45. The thing is, those radar guns are aimed so far down the road that when it clocks you, you aren't even aware that there is a cop in the neighborhood. Then they see the cop hiding on the side of the road and every car automatically brakes. Then they drive past at five miles per hour under the posted limit and as they pass you can see them look down and double check their speedometer. They are all identical. And if you pull them over they always say, " I looked down when you clocked me and I was going exactly the speed limit." I don't know if it would help to point out that the violation occurred half a mile before that moment, but I am amazed by how consistently and predictably people behave.

So last time we did this, John caught a nice lady who was obviously a Mormon mom about my age. She is someone's primary teacher or visiting teacher and the minute I looked at her, I knew I couldn't be a part of ruining her day like that. She shuffled with papers to try and find her registration and insurance and I was turning red and having a panic attack. I had to intervene. John was running her plate to be sure that she wasn't a dangerous criminal and I sat holding my breath and preparing my argument. "John, we will just let this one go and then I swear I will never even suggest it again. Please baby, Its Christmas time. Make her day. Give it to her for Christmas. She will be grateful and I'm sure she will stop speeding. She is praying right now for help from God and you are the only one who can help God answer her prayer. As your wife, you are not allowed to ticket this woman. I am sorry. I know its not my place but it would be bad karma for me to allow this to happen."

Yes, I pulled the Wife Card to save some random woman from a few hundred dollar fine and a giant pain in the ass. The best part was that when John told her that his wife was riding along and wouldn't let him give the ticket, she got choked up when she thanked him. The worst part was watching poor John turn purple and die of embarrassment when he struggled to explain that "his wife said no". Had she been way younger than me or in a super expensive car or sporting a liberal bumper sticker, I wouldn't have wasted my one and only lifetime veto on her but I could picture her telling the funny story of how she once miraculously got out of a ticket every time the family was hanging out and telling cop stories. She will probably leave out the part where she actually committed the crime, but that just makes me relate to her that much more.

1 comment:

jymmebe said...

Loved this! I find it coincidental that my wife and me have some of the same arguments about driving, go figure...

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