You know you’re a novice driver when a state trooper pulls you over, asks for your license and registration, and you reply “No. What do you want it for?” For a first timer, I would describe being inside of a police car a ‘neat‘ experience. I was sixteen at the time, driving my sister and her friend to school in my mini van when we were stopped. We were typical late, as in, we would be able to socialize in the hall for around seven minutes before the late bell. I was not speeding when the cruiser came up behind me -- I was preparing to speed -- that much was certain. Oncoming traffic had to clear before passing the god-fearing vehicle in front of me. Herein lies the problem -- it's not illegal to drive a vehicle 55 miles per hour on the highway; however, it is unlawful to do it while drafting two feet behind the vehicle in front of you.
As soon as I saw the blue lights behind me I looked to my speedometer -- exactly 55mph. “What the hell does this guy think he’s doing?" I said that aloud, dumbfounded that anyone should dare bother me on my way to school. Maybe I should get his badge number after this misunderstanding, I thought. Prevent this from happening to someone else. The officer, however, was certain he had the right vehicle.
As he finished the ticket, I was uninterested in the trivialities of appearing in court or paying the fine. I was inspecting the array of gadgets implanted into the cruiser’s dash, overcome with the urge to push colored buttons and flip switches. What would he do if I pushed the red one? I could hold off on the buttons, but something inside of me was brewing a rebuttal. Before exiting the cruiser I snatched the ticket from his hand, opened the door and blurted out “well, thanks for ruining my day,” and slammed the door. It seemed very dramatic at the time, and I felt as if I had gotten the best of him.
Of course it wasn’t him who was out of line for pulling me over. The urge to mouth off to someone ‘keeping you down’ is on every teenager’s wish list. I just happened to be stupid enough to do it. What I didn’t count on was seeing the officer in court. Or the fact that he marked the ticket with a star, a sort of scarlet letter, to remind him that I had been a dick at the time of the incident. My attorney informed me that the officer wasn’t keen on lowering my charge of ‘following too closely.’ The two spoke in private for a few moments and settles on a deal - apologize to the office, or the charges stick to my driving record and I pay the ticket. After it was over I did the math: Each word of my apology cost me $50 a piece.