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Posts Tagged ‘Bike Lane’

The Shield

I used to teach comedy traffic school many years ago when I was fresh out of college and didn’t know what to do with my life. It was great. I worked in the office with friends signing people up, then learned how to teach the course, then eventually taught all over the Bay Area. Funny thing though, the class I meant to audit to become a teacher, I actually had to enroll in because I got a speeding ticket. There was lots of laughter from my fellow traffic violators when they learned that. One of the things I learned, and taught violators was that for every 2 to 3 thousand times we violate a traffic law do we get caught. You can see where this is going, right?

The other day, I was driving The Littlest E to preschool. We take a certain route down Colfax Avenue and sometimes there’s traffic. To go around the traffic I sometimes drive in the bike lane before making the right hand turn I need to make to avoid the traffic entirely. Well, on this particular day, while I was making said violation (along with another car in front of me), there happened to be a police car next to me as well as an idiotic mother and child wanting to jay walk across the crowded street. For the record, it’s okay to drive in the bike lane, if and only if, the line is split, not solid. I wasn’t doing that.

Bike Lane!

I made the turn, and another left turn to get to Chandler Boulevard, that is the way I take my son to school, and sure enough the police car followed me, turned its lights on and I pulled over. I was hoping they’d follow the guy in front of me, but no. It was my turn. As I was stopped the car, I told my son, “I’m getting pulled over by the police.” He asked, “Why Mama?” I said, “Because I may have done something wrong.” At this point my heart was racing, was I going to get a ticket or warning? Was the police officer going to be nice? Was this going to be a positive teaching moment for my son who observes everything? If I got a ticket, would my insurance go up? Would I have to attend traffic school? All these questions entered my head in the seconds it took me to pull over.

The most important thing for me regardless of whether I got a ticket or not, was that my son witness a positive encounter with the police. The Littlest E is not aware of events that happened in Ferguson, South Carolina, New York, or Florida, but he may have seen a bit of the Ferguson coverage while I was watching the news. Did he fully understand know what happened? No, but he doesn’t like me watching the news anymore. He’s only 5 and, to our knowledge, hasn’t yet really experienced overt or inadvertent racism in his short life. It’s important he know that police officers are there to protect and help us and catch us if we break the law. I was impressed by a recent video of a young black man, Will Stack, who was pulled over by police and after posted a video of his encounter on Facebook. (Google “Will Stack Video” to find it.) We have talked to our son about racism in an age-appropriate way. As The Littlest E grows up, we will definitely fill in the details more thoroughly.

After I stopped, I took my sunglasses off so the officer could see my face. He came over and my window came down. I asked, “Did I do something wrong, Officer?” He told me I was driving in the bike lane. I said, “I thought you were allowed to ride in the bike lane before turning.” He basically told me I was in the lane for too long and I almost cut off a mother and child wanting to cross the street. Mind you, they were going to jay walk, but that’s beside the point. The office didn’t need to hear my inner monologue about that. What I needed for my son to hear was that I was respectful of the officer. He asked for my license, registration and proof of insurance. I then had a “senior” moment not remembering what my registration looked like. To him I probably looked flustered so I then added “It’s been a long time since I’ve been pulled over.” Went into the glove compartment and got the registration and insurance info and gave everything to him.

LAPD

Now the next part is questionable whether I should have said this or not. As the officer walked away with my info, I asked him if he was going to give me a warning or ticket? Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut, but the words tumbled out. A good friend said to me after she heard the story and what I said, “What, were you crazy?” The officer replied, (and he didn’t have to) “Let me check your info first.” While we waited I kept explaining to my inquisitive son what was going on, what the police were doing and how I made a driving mistake and the officer was telling me about it. A female police officer was outside our car standing on the street. I looked at my son and said, “Hey, there’s a female police officer,” while I waved to her.   She came over to the car and I explained to her that I was telling my son about what police officers do and how they are there to protect us and keep us safe. It was probably overkill, but I wanted to make sure my son was okay while all this was going on and that he knew I was okay, too.

Algona Traffic Ticket

The officer in charge came back and told me he was giving me a warning because he wasn’t comfortable giving me a ticket knowing the other driver who did the same thing wasn’t getting one. He instructed me not to drive in the bike lane and told me I could have hit the mother and child. I apologized and promised not to do that again. With sweaty pits, I took back my info, thanked the police officer and started the car. I made sure to obey all traffic laws while driving The Littlest E to school. All the way there, he kept asking, “Mommy, why did you get pulled over?” and other questions. I kept telling him that I broke the law and the police officer was nice enough to give me a warning. He then asked, “Can I tell my teachers about it?” Sure, why not.

It’s been a couple of days and as my son and I drive the route to school, he asks, “When did the police start following you?” “Is this where you got pulled over?” “What did you do wrong, Mommy?” I answer and explain. I’m very grateful that this became a positive teaching moment for both my son and I. It’s important to obey the traffic rules. We think we won’t get caught, but inevitably we do. He saw that the police officers were people and they were helpful. All in all it was a win-win for the both of us. I’m especially grateful that I didn’t get a ticket. My hope is that this will be his only encounter with police. That is my hope.

©2015 Melanie Elliott

Images: banspy, Greg Whalin, John Liu, Keith Tyler

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