One child dropped off; one to go.
Twelve minutes to get him there.
I see a police car nearby.
I watch my speed, mind my habits,
as all of us do when a police car is nearby.
I turn on my blinker.
I change lanes.
The police car doesn't follow me.
Well, that's good to know.
Maybe she's just prowling the area,
keeping us all safe.
She trails me for a couple of miles.
I'm watching the clock, watching my speed, watching traffic.
I know the pattern: I can only make the second light if I'm in the starting position at the first light.
I'm two cars back.
I probably won't make the next green light.
But I might.
The light turns green, and we all make the turn.
The next light is green,
I want to get my son to preschool, and
I slip under.
It turns red over my head.
Red and blue lights flash and spin behind me.
I pull into the middle lane -
maybe she needs around me to catch a real criminal.
She follows me.
Well, it looks like I am today's criminal.
"Ma'am, obviously I pulled you over for running that red light."
"Yes, I see that. I'm sorry about that."
"License, registration and proof of insurance, please."
I retrieve them all from the glove box. Robb has taught me faithfully to keep them at my fingertips when driving (although I don't think Mr. Citizen of the Year ever needed to call upon them at a moment's notice).
"Ma'am, are your plates expired?"
I recall the sticker that came in the mail.
"No, they're current."
"Well, your registration has expired. This form expired in 2011."
(I wanted to say, and we are roughly 23 days into 2012. Happy New Year.)
"Well, my insurance is up to date, but I think I forgot to put the new card in my car."
My husband always did that for me.
"Ma'am, your insurance card is expired as well, but I'm talking about your registration right now."
I can't really listen to what you're talking about right now. Because all I can see is my husband handing me the new insurance card, four months before the old one expired, reminding me to keep both of them in the glove box, just in case.
Oh, how I drove him crazy with my carelessness about such things. "Robb, it's February. I don't need that until April."
"Tricia, put it in there, please. Just... please."
On day three of my forgetting, he would move it from the kitchen counter to my glove box.
Just in case.
"Officer, my husband died one year ago. This is a detail he took care of for me. It, um, this one apparently slipped through the cracks. I assure you - everything is current."
"Well, I will need to make sure of that. Do you know that it is a summonsable offense to drive a car with an expired registration? I take people to jail for this."
I could practically hear Tyler's eyebrows shoot through the ceiling as she walked back to her cruiser.
He was terrified.
He has one parent left, and this police officer just threatened to take me to jail.
Not because of the threat,
not because of the pending ticket,
not because I was pulled over at all.
I cried because I missed my husband.
Tyler asked a million questions.
"Mommy, why did she take your stuff with her?
Where did she go?
Is she coming back?
Are you going to jail?
Am I going to school?
Why are you crying?
Are you crying because you're going to jail?"
I'm crying because this is the 'just in case' Robb tried to prepare me for.
The officer returned to my window.
"Ma'am, I called the DMV, and your registration is in fact current."
(I told you it was.) I nod.
"But that phone call is not my job, ma'am. That's your job."
Add it to the list. Everything is my job now.
"Ma'am, what were you thinking when you saw me behind you?"
"I was thinking, I need to get my son to preschool."
"Yes, but I saw you driving patterns change. What were you thinking? Were you thinking you could get away from me? What were you thinking as you ran that red light?"
And now I am under an interrogation.
"I was thinking, I hope the light stays yellow so I can get my son to preschool."
"Ma'am, I am sorry for your loss --"
and before I can thank her, she continues --
"and I'm certain I don't need to explain to you how precious life is."
I look at her. I wish I were not crying.
"Certainly, you, of all people, know how quickly things can change."
Certainly, I assure you that I do.
"Ma'am, drive more safely. Don't run red lights just to get to preschool."
It was yellow.
And it was a mistake.
Add it to the list.