My SUV roller coastered up and and down the rural hills of Route 198. My teenage daughter Cara, the new owner of a five-day old driver’s license, and I were on our way to an afternoon doctor’s appointment in Erie, PA. We had another thirty miles to go and thirty-five minutes to get there when I noticed a state trooper clocking drivers from his police car.
“Nuts and bolts!” I yelped. The brakes slammed, a common reaction to a cop parked with a radar gun. “Were we speeding?”
“I don’t know, mom,” Cara answered.
“Chutes and Ladders! Please don’t follow us. Please don’t follow us,” I plead aloud like this, as if the policeman could hear me on his CB. Guess what? He pulled out and followed us.
Why wasn’t I paying attention to the speed limit? “Oh boy! This might stink. This might really stink.” I’m an outloud babbler, especially when my nerves snake around my guts. “Breaker, breaker, please don’t put your lights on. Over.”
Our car, creeping with a newfound, overcautious turtle pace, crested another hill. “Were you speeding?” I asked. “What even is the speed limit out here?” Then the trooper’s lights flashed, rapid red and blue blinks. I have issues with talking to myself, scolding myself in third-person, and speeding.
“Dammit, Donna!” I yelled.
“Mom, shouldn’t you pull over?”
“I think his lights are on for us, but I’m still not sure. Maybe he just needs me to get out of the way? He doesn’t seem urgent. I’ll just keep driving until we get up there to the Park and Ride.” I glanced in the rear-view-mirror, seeing him get closer to us, nearly tailgating. “Oh oh. Pretty sure he is coming for us.”
“For us? You’re driving, mom.”
“Let’s not get technical. And I want you to take note that he is closer than two-seconds behind, an unsafe trailing distance.”
“Thanks for the tip.” Yes, I was the speeder, and my young driver bore witness to me getting caught breaking the law.
It was taking 70,000 miles to get to the Park and Ride, so I stuck my hand out the window to beckon the trooper to follow me. If you wonder what in the Sam Hill I was thinking, waving on a cop like that, so do I.
It’s just that my mind fumbles and gets nutty like trail mix when I’m in the middle of screwing up, and something told me that I was screwing up and needed to stop the low-speed car chase.
“I better just pull over.” I considered thumbing him to the right but used my better judgement and put on my turn signal. Keeping both hands on the wheel, I safely steered to the side of the road and parked, about a ten-second drive to the Park and Ride. “Okay, this is it. Here he comes. Cara, get out the insurance and registration from the glove box. It should be on top.” She gave me the paperwork.
My window was already down from all the waving, and the trooper, a younger man with a gentle demeanor, peeked inside and said, “Good afternoon.”
“Oh. Hi there. I’m sorry I kept driving and driving, but I thought we could go to the Park and Ride to avoid distracting other drivers.”
“I see. I usually get people to pull over in that parking lot back there though.”
“Oh geez. Sorry I didn’t notice. I’m pretty sure I was speeding, right?”
“Yes, you were doing 62 in a 45 mph zone.”
“Geez oh man! How terrible! That’s way too fast! I am sorry.”
He offered a kind smile. “Where you headed?
“We’re on our way to a doctor’s appointment in Erie.”
“Okay, I’m going to need to see your license and registration.” I handed him all my documents, then he chuckled and said, “Thanks, but I’m going to actually need your license.” I gave him my debit card, accidentally.
“Oh my! I am so sorry.” We traded plastic cards and he went back to his car.
Cara looked at me and shook her head. “I can’t believe you gave him your bank card.” When I’m anxious, embarrassed, and vulnerable, I struggle to keep it together. I’m supposed to be in charge, you know? I’m the mother. The teacher. The role model. The rule giver. And there I was, busted, stripped down to a rule breaker. “You’re somethin’ else,” she snickered. The kid didn’t mind seeing me sweat, probably thinking she earned a get-of-jail-free card for a future blunder.
“No kidding! I keep messing up today. During sixth period English class, I mistakenly called 9-1-1 from my cell phone.”
“What?! How does that even happen?”
“I was looking for a contact, and 9-1-1 was in my recent calls, and I accidentally hit send. By the time I realized I made the call, the dispatcher said, “Hello, this is 9-1-1 what is your emergency?” and I said, “Oh no no! I have no emergency. I didn’t mean to call you this time. I’m supposed to be teaching ninth graders and they’re all looking at me and laughing. Please don’t send anyone to the school to check on us. We are A-OK. I’m the one who called you last week to report that my telephone pole was on fire.” She remembered me and believed we were safe and said, Goodbye, Donna.” I forget her name, but she is awfully nice.
“Our telephone pole was on fire?” Cara asked.
“Yeah, I thought I told you. Our electricity went out and the neighborhood smelled like burnt tires. Always something. But this day is exceptionally wacky.”
The trooper returned and said, “I’m assuming you have updated insurance, right?”
“For sure. Did I hand you another mistake?”
“Yes, I believe you are carrying insurance, but this card is old.”
“Oh my! Just cuff me now.”
“No. I’m not going to do that or write you a speeding ticket. I’m letting you off with a warning.”
“Really? Just a warning? But I keep messing up today. Earlier, I pocket dialed 9-1-1 instead of teaching, then I was speeding and almost bribed you and showed you expired insurance, and my daughter, here, is just sixteen and a brand new driver, and I feel worse that this happened in front of her. What a bad example…”
“You just need to slow down and be a good role model to her. Yes, you are free to go this time. It’s rare that people actually admit to speeding. Be safe.”
On the way to Erie, I gave Cara a long lecture about all the things she should NOT do when driving, specifically all the goofs I just performed. She got it. We safely made it to her appointment, a tad late.
After, we enjoyed the evening together shopping, sharing sushi, and shooting the breeze. I offered her the keys to drive home, but she was tired and happy to be my passenger. As much as I dislike driving, I am grateful to still chauffeur her when I can. I can’t slow down how fast she’s growing up, so I need to avoid speeding through this busy phase of her life.
The ride back was uneventful and peaceful, no red and blue lights blinking, no sirens blaring, just a mom and her teenage daughter going home together, slower than when their trip started.