A suburban girl’s second brush with the law.
The first is a tale for another time.
Author’s note: When A) your ride to work fails to show up because they are the worse for substances, and B) you are late for work in a job with an employee retention policy modeled on Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, and C) you have a perfectly good car in the garage lacking only legal paperwork, you have to carefully consider your transportation options.
And after careful consideration – if you are me – you pick the one option with the highest likelihood to end up with your car on a flatbed trailer and your driver’s license suspended.
So you put on your Taco Bell uniform, slap an old license plate on your unregistered vehicle, drop the kids off at the babysitter and speed your way through a construction zone on your way to work.
What could go wrong?
Which is exactly the sort of careful decision making that led to the following exchange between myself and a less than helpful yet charmingly sarcastic Inkster police officer circa 1996.
For reference, the statements are his. The questions are mine. The asterisks are just for fun.
You were speeding.
And you have no tags on the car.
It’s insured, does that count?*
*Not for a whole lot it turns out.
The license plate doesn’t match the vehicle.
How important is it that they match?*
You’re going to have to step out of the car.
I have to get out of the car?
*As the product of a suburban middle-class upbringing I honestly had no idea a conversation between a white girl and a police officer could end in anything other than a flat tire getting fixed or a phone number exchange. Sometimes both.
Because your vehicle is being impounded.
What about my kid’s car seats?
Take them out if you need them.
Am I supposed to carry them?
You can leave them.
In Inkster? On Michigan Avenue?
Or leave them in the car.
Can you give me a ride to work?*
*Yes, I honestly thought he might give me a ride. Remember – white, suburban, middle class. Nothing in my experience had led me to consider that protect and serve might not include shuttle service.
No I can’t.
Is that rule or are you just being mean?
That’s a rule.
What if I lose my job because I don’t show up?
I’m sure Taco Bell will understand. Besides, it may be time for a change.*
*That last sentence was my own inner monologue.
What if I get killed?
Then I can arrange to have somebody pick you up.*
But what do you expect me to do?
Go find a pay phone.
In Inkster? On Michigan Avenue?
I didn’t say it would be easy.
Can you give me a quarter?
No I can’t do that.
Is that a rule or are you just being mean?
I’m just being mean.
Then where can I get a quarter?
Like a prostitute?*
*Anyone who has ever spent any time on Michigan Avenue in Inkster knows a prostitute is much easier to locate than a pay phone.
She might have a quarter.
What about the car?
It will get towed.
The impound lot.
How do I get it back?
Pay the fine.
How much is that?
Thirty dollars a day. Plus registration fees. Plus 75 dollars for towing.
What if I promise to drive it right home and swear I won’t drive it again until we get the plate and tags? How much is that?*
*The car got impounded.
The police officer did allow me to use his phone.
And my friend sobered up enough to come and pick me – and my child car seats – up off the corner of Michigan Avenue.
And I was most definitely late for work.
Sadly, I did not lose my job.