This is an old story, but one that is punctuated by a police officer telling me, That’s how you get out of a ticket, so it seems a worthy one to share.
About a year ago I was driving the kids to school in the rain. I’ve written before that weather is so infrequent in Southern California that when it actually does rain, the windshield wipers are often dried up and ineffective. It was one of those mornings, hard rain and lousy windshield wipers.
I waited at the four-way stop to make a left. It’s a busy stop sign with the drop off lane going in one direction and a crossing guard working two other directions. I checked the cars, I checked the crossing guard and I made a left. Next thing I knew there were lights flashing in my back windows.
I was being pulled over in front of my kids’ elementary school for reckless driving. I was that mother.
One hilarious thing about being pulled over is that I automatically put my hands on the steering wheel to show that I wasn’t packing. Not that I expected him to approach me with a gun drawn shouting Show me your hands! but it seemed like a prudent thing to do.
That’s the sum total of everything I ever learned while watching Law & Order.
The officer told me that the crossing guard had put her foot in the road before I made my left which, obviously, I didn’t see. I tried to explain this to the officer through the open car window with rain falling on both of us.
…and it was raining and I couldn’t see and I volunteer at the school and I would never endanger the kids on purpose and my windshield wipers weren’t working and I even know the crossing guard and say hello to her every day and…
He listened dispassionately. When I finally took a breath.
Officer: Oh. You’re special then.
I had lost him. I resigned myself to getting a ticket. He still stood at my window and the empty space in the conversation was too much to bear.
Me: Sir, I’m sorry. I made a mistake and it won’t happen again.
He relaxed. He told me that I could go. And as an afterthought, he said, That’s how you get out of a ticket.
Later, a friend told me that her police officer friend told her the same thing, that admitting to screwing up will serve you better than almost any excuse.
(Though, I think My wife is having a baby and I need to get to the hospital! is probably still effective.)