So today I had the highly unusual experience of regretting talking a cop out of giving me a ticket. Let me explain. For the last three years I have lived very close to Tysons Corner mall. It is an odd place to live because you wouldn’t think that you could be two minutes from Nordstrom, Macy’s, IMAX movies, the Apple store, and all those restaurants, and have a lovely backyard. But here we are. We live in a community where you can hear the Metro, the Beltway (and the nightly construction thereof), but mostly I hear only birds and see foxes and deer in the yard. This unlikely collision of worlds meets on a street called “Gallows.” Yes, Gallows. And for some reason, unbeknownst to anyone, for the last couple of weeks they have been repaving Gallows. I cross or use Gallows multiple times every single day and so I have wasted hours of my life on this repaving. They are literally tearing up the rode and re-doing it. They close lanes in the later morning and then open back up whatever they’ve finished in time for the afternoon rush. That mid-day construction window is the time that I go get Sammy from preschool and it is a ceaselessly unfathomable mystery why merging into one lane takes waaaaay more than twice as long as having two lanes. The math doesn’t work, but this is the fact: efficient merging is an impossibility. I know what it looks like in my head, but I’ve never seen it in practice. Have you?
All of this is background for the would-be ticket. Today I dropped off my carpool buddy’s daughter and proceeded to go home to meet the movers who will move us in July. As I turned onto Gallows (the only road that connects my house to hers), cones were spaced between the two lanes of traffic heading south. Since there was no cone blocking me from turning into the right lane and no cones blocking that lane, I drove in it. Now, I know they were about to come and pick up those cones because it was almost three o’clock and this has been their pattern. No cones certainly by 4 p.m., even between the lanes. There were also no construction vehicles as I passed along. However, Officer was waiting. He signaled for me to pull over, and although I explained to him briefly my rationale for driving in that lane (which included the fact that when my own street was redone a couple weeks ago, the workers told me, when I expressed hesitation to drive on it, that it is perfectly fine to drive on a “milled” road).
But Officer wrote up the summons anyway. When he brought me the ticket it said, “improper passing.” Now I was kind of in a bad mood already for unrelated reasons. Actually to be fair, I was in a foul mood. And I was ticked about the improper passing. I mean maybe some other description wouldn’t have gotten to me in quite the same way, but I actually hadn’t passed anyone. I was the only car in that lane. How do you pass improperly without passing anyone? So I kind of went off about it. I said, “I’m not signing that! And why are you sitting here waiting for someone to do that when they are about to pick up those cones? Is this like to raise revenue? What’s the deal? And I wouldn’t have driven in that lane had there been a cone obstructing my way, and I can promise you I won’t do it again.”
We went back and forth. Officer made some very good points. I admitted that I did feel guilty whizzing by all those suckers staying in the other lane — even though there definitely was not a VDOT obstacle to being in my lane at my point of entry.
Then he said something about just trying to do his job. And at this point I started to feel sort of bad, so I told him, “I am so indebted to you. Really. I so appreciate the fact that you protect me and my family. And I promise I won’t drive in that [milled] lane again.”
“You know,” he said, “People always say that. They say they’ll never do it again, and low and behold I run into them again doing the same thing…You know what? Forget it. I hope your happy. We get reprimanded if we don’t turn in all of our summons,” Officer said, heading back to his cruiser.
At this point I felt like a worthless human being. I followed him over to his cruiser.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m really sorry. I’ll take the summons.”
But he ripped it up and drove off. I walked back to my car, utterly dumbfounded. Sammy, who was the only witness, asked, “Why were you telling him ‘I’m sorry’ like that?”
I have felt sick about it all afternoon. My need to be right and argue until the guy was blue in face is not something I feel proud of, especially given that this gentleman really is a self-sacrificing protector of the peace. I am truly indebted to him, and I feel like I ruined his day.
Remember the classic movie, Fletch? Surely if you know me at all, you know I am a die-hard Fletchie. Well, remember the scene (click here to see it) where he says, “Go ahead, hug a cop.” That’s the way I’m feeling today, except genuinely. I am writing that Officer (already tracked down his full name and the proper mailing address) to tell him how deeply and sincerely I appreciate him, and how sorry I am for the way I acted today.
Proverbs 12: 18 says, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” This is certainly not the first time I’ve hurt someone with my words, and maybe that sounds really bizarre to say I hurt this police officer’s feelings, but I think I did, and I regret that.
May my words be fewer and wiser and bring healing.