Excuse Me, Officer


Four years ago, my family left Illinois and moved to Texas. I went with them, since I'd just graduated from college and had nothing better to do. Three months later, I got a job and moved to Oklahoma. In the time since the Reese family moved south, in both Oklahoma and Texas we've all observed a notable difference in how people in Illinois drive versus everyone else.

I hold the correct opinion that I am an excellent driver and that everyone else is slow and incompetent. I regularly fly by cars on the highway when I'm only doing 5 miles over the speed limit. This is, in my opinion, unnecessary. But before you start thinking I'm some kind of crazy driver who's just never happened to get caught yet, you should know that during my decade of driving, I have never been directly involved in a negative driving event (unless you count accidentally rear-ending my friend in my church parking lot while driving at approximately 2 mph, which I don't) or a police encounter of any kind. 

Slow highway driving is not the only annoyance I've had to endure. In Illinois, stop signs are more of a suggestion than an actual rule. The act of actually completing a full stop will cause those behind you to honk their horns in frustration while giving you the gesture. In Oklahoma, stop signs are a bit more highly regarded, but I doubt there's any state that respects those red hexagons as much as Texas. There's actually a sign in my parents' neighborhood that says: Complete Stops Free. Rolling Stops $$

As a result of such threats, when I make the three-hour drive south to visit my parents I've had to put aside my frantic Illinois driving tendencies and perform a complete stop at all stop signs. This is especially true once I enter their town limits, where the small-town cops have nothing better to do but lie in wait for illegal rollers. 

On this particular Friday afternoon, Jordan and I were driving to Texas for my cousin's wedding that night. We'd had a late start and were already running behind. I finally turned off the highway, just five minutes from my parents' house. (Jordan was sitting in the passenger seat reading a book.) I pulled up to the first of four stop signs--a T at which I needed to turn left. I looked to my left and right; there was not a single person in sight. Then I put my foot on the brake, slowed down, and (I thought) stopped quickly before turning left. I made it halfway down the street before I looked in my rearview mirror and saw a black police cruiser with its lights on. 

"Crap!" I said. 
Jordan looked up from his book. "What?" 
"I'm getting pulled over!"
"Are you kidding?"

It became clear I was not kidding when an officer opened his door and started walking toward my car. Impatient due to the fact that we were running late, and frustrated because I wasn't completely sure what I'd done, I didn't wait for the cop to actually get to my door. Instead, I leaned my head out the window and shouted, "What did I do?"

At this, Jordan said, "Just wait!"
"But I want to know!" I said. He sighed.
By this time, the cop had reached my window. "You didn't stop at that stop sign," he said. 

"Well, I did." That was my brilliant response. 

"No," he continued while Jordan turned a bright shade of red and tried to hide his face in embarrassment. "You rolled through that stop sign." 

"Well, I didn't. I always stop at stop signs." I sighed. "This is really frustrating." 

He held out his hand. "Can I see your license?"

I signed again and handed it to him. "This is really frustrating," I repeated.

"Thank you, ma'am," he said and walked back to his car. 

I spent the next five minutes asking Jordan what on earth was taking so long. He just kept repeating, "I can't believe you were sassing that cop! What is wrong with you?" I assume he was wondering, for the umpteenth time, why on earth he ever proposed to me. 

By the time the cop began his walk back to my car, the realization that I was going to be handed a $200 ticket was sinking in. I had also been replaying the scene in my mind and knew--even if I didn't want to admit it--that I had rolled the stop sign and therefore deserved the ticket. Added to that was the fact that we'd now been sitting on the side of the road for 10 minutes, and we still needed to change for the wedding. Needless to say, I was on the verge of tears. 

"Well," said the cop, "I watched the video, and you did roll through the stop sign." 

The tears that had built up spilled down my cheeks, and I gave a small sob.

"But," he continued, giving me a kind smile, "that's neither here nor there. I'm just going to give you a warning this time."

At this news, I began an all-out wail, of which I am now greatly ashamed. 

"I'm sorry!" I said between sniffles as I angrily swiped at my cheeks. "It's just that I've never gotten pulled over before and...and, well I never thought I was going to be one of those girls." At this, he chuckled. "But, but I guess I am," I finished lamely. 

"It's okay," he said, handing me a pen and pointing to the line I needed to sign on the warning ticket. "I know being pulled over by a cop is nerve-wracking."

"It is!" I started wailing again. "But I'll never roll through a stop sign again. I promise." I signed my name while I sniffled and repeated this a few more times like an idiot as if I was worried he'd doubt my sincerity and decide to give me a ticket after all.

The cop tore off my copy of the ticket, handed it to me, and said, "Have a better day," before walking off. He waited for me to start moving before he pulled out behind me, and I had to endure three more stop signs with him directly behind me. I'm sure he was laughing to himself as I counted to fifteen at each stop and drove 5 under the whole way. I made it home without any further incident, unless you count me continuing to cry while Jordan told me how ridiculous I had just acted. 

"I would have given you a ticket for sure," he said, shaking his head. "I can't believe you sassed him and cried, and he still didn't give you a ticket." 

The worst part is, he's right; I should have gotten a ticket. I'm not proud of how I acted. Apparently I'm one of those girls who cries when they get pulled over; I'm apparently also of the type to talk back to the cop. I don't know why I only got off with a warning. Maybe it was the fact that I was from out of town or because I didn't have any hits on my record. Either way, I'm lucky to have gotten a free pass. And now I know firsthand just how serious Texas cops are about stop signs. Complete Stops Free. Rolling Stops $$. As in, a $200 ticket.

Don't mess with Texas, people. 
Justine said...

Well, I am terribly sorry about the stress this incident caused you, but it was certainly entertaining to read. You are hilarious, and I miss you!

Anonymous said...

Oh my word. I cannot believe you sassed the cop and then cried. And I REALLY cannot believe he let you off with a warning.

What I CAN believe, however, is the lax attitude in Illinois on observing stop signs. Once, my uncle and I were driving home (to Oklahoma) from a family reunion in Collinsville, Illinois. I rolled through a stop sign, and shortly after, a cop pulled me over. My uncle was going on and on about how I had rolled through the stop sign. I said I had thought it was a yield sign (I really had thought that), and he was giving me so much crap.

Then the cop came up to my window and asked if I knew why he'd pulled me over. I said no. He said, "It's because your passenger there is not wearing a seatbelt. We have a no-tolerance policy on seatbelts in Illinois."

He then proceeded to write my uncle a ticket for $60 for the seatbelt violation and left me alone completely. Not a word about the stop sign. Which just convinced me that it really had been a yield sign. But after reading this post, now I'm wondering again...

Anyway - no more cop sassing, missy! You might not get off so lucky next time! And no more crying either! That is such a lame cliche!


Amanda said...

I completely agree with you. CLICHE! Ugh. I hate myself. And yes, I believe your story about Illinois. They are weird about seatbelts. Not so much about stop signs.