Last night as I was watching In Plain Sight, one of my favorite TV shows, Mary (the main character) talked about the British security cameras mounted everywhere and how they can track a person’s movements all across London, Big Brother style.
It reminded me of our years in Wisconsin. Same deal, just without the cameras.
I think I have explained before how I once turned too sharply to the right and accidentally hung our Chevrolet station wagon on the garage wall, the two right wheels off the ground, and had to call a wrecker to get it off.
It was one of those incidents I felt could be kept. . . well. . . private. I was aware that some of the neighbors knew. After all, the spectacle of tow truck jacking up a garaged car to dislodge it drew a small group of onlookers. The driver, a real comedian who found the whole situation so hilarious he called back to his service station to tell them about it, sent me inside for a toilet plunger so that he could show me how to pull out the dent in the car. He allowed as how I might want to carry an extra in the car.
The speed with which “the incident” was transmitted to DB would make Homeland Security proud… and that was before cell phones.
He knew about it before he even left work. Not only that, he didn’t hear it directly from some stool pigeon, but from co-workers who were talking about it in a meeting, probably before the ink on the wrecker check even had time to dry.
But his favorite of the stories which filtered back to him involved my brush with The Law. Even today he will ask sometimes, “Have you written about the time you got the speeding ticket in Wisconsin?”
He knows perfectly well that I have not. If I had an urge to confess about receiving traffic tickets, it would probably be how I got stopped for speeding twice in the same day in Memphis and didn’t get a ticket either time. Even that is not much of a story since it was not because of any fast-talking on my part, but due to blind luck and the barking Akita hanging out the back window.
The Wisconsin incident. . . I’ll call it that because it did have an aura of ESP, Mother’s Instinct, and SSS to it. . . happened one day at our one-table, regular monthly bridge game. Three of us lived within two blocks of each other, but the fourth lived across town and we were playing at her house that day. Since we packed our own lunches, it required little effort for anyone except me. They were all closer to my mother’s age and had no children in their always tidy homes. I was in my 30’s and had a husband, three kids, a dog, and a disorganized streak, so I always panicked when it was my turn.
That day we had already eaten our lunch when suddenly a strange feeling of unease hit me. I waited awhile, but it didn’t go away, so I apologized to the group and left. I drove hurriedly but not recklessly and was a few blocks from our house when I saw the flashing lights of a police cruiser in my rearview mirror. Busted.
The officer took my license back to his car to write the ticket. I waited and waited…ten minutes went by and he was still back there. Finally, I worked myself into such an anxious state that I got out of my car, knocked on his window, and said something like, “I need to get home because I think something is wrong with my little girl. Could you either hurry up or drop it off in my mailbox so that I can leave now?”
At the time it did not seem the least bit out of line and he must not have thought so either because he apologized, saying he’d gotten tied up on a radio call. He let me go ahead without my license and said he’d stop by later.
I arrived home to find a sobbing Pogo walking down the sidewalk, confirming my ESP and Mother’s Instinct.
“Where WERE you? I fell down at school and bumped my head,” she cried, pulling up her bangs to reveal a small knot on her forehead. “They called but you weren’t home!”
Since her scum-of-the-earth mother couldn’t be reached, and having observed her for some time, Pogo’s teacher had allowed her to leave when the bell rang. She’d walked the five blocks home from school as usual.
I was preparing one of her favorite dinners as partial penance when the doorbell rang. It was the police officer. He’d grown at least another foot since he’d leaned into my car window a couple of hours before because his holstered gun now seemed practically at my eye level. I could not stop staring at it.
He apologized again for being delayed and asked how my daughter was, just at the moment she came skipping down the stairs at top speed, smiling brightly. Any thoughts of a pity pardon evaporated. He handed me the ticket and recited that I had three options: pay the fine, protest it in court, or go to jail. He put his right hand on his holstered gun as he said this.
With my eyes still riveted there, I asked anxiously, “Do you take checks?”
Needless to say, DB knew about it before he left work. The bridge hostess had called me earlier to see if everything was all right and I’d told her about the ticket. She must have immediately spilled her guts to her husband, who worked at the same company.
I was at the police station paying that ticket first thing the next morning, trying to rid myself of the effects of SSS: Scared S—less Syndrome.