Think about the last time you broke a rule (a big one, not just ripping the tags off your pillows). Were you burned, or did things turn out for the best?
In my 35 years of driving experience I’ve had about five speeding tickets. All were, admittedly, due to lack of awareness on my part for whatever reason. The third incident stands out as a particularly meaningful episode in my life … one of those clouds with a silver lining.
It was a beautifully clear Sunday morning in April 1999, about six weeks after my first marriage ended. I was experiencing a surreal period of my life; most unbalanced. I cried a lot, and by the grace of God and generosity of spirit of a few good friends I was hanging on.
One of these friends, who was also my shiatsu therapist, invited me to her country place for part of the weekend, including an overnight stay. Nestled in the heart of a beautiful rolling 50 acre woodland, her cabin was a 24 hour haven for me. When I left I was feeling the first glimmers of joy I’d known in a long time.
It was as I was driving home along the open, two-lane, hilly country road, not paying attention to the speed limit, that I got into trouble. I was lost in the immense sense of peace I’d finally found after weeks fraught with anxiety and sailing along enjoying a new-found emotional freedom.
And then there he was … the man in uniform. Just stepped out of the blue; flagged me down. My joy fled and was replaced again by an anxiety I’d hoped was gone ~ heart racing; hands shaking; helpless.
I tried to be sunny about it, but as soon as he started asking me questions I could feel myself choking up.
He was an older cop. Obviously seasoned. He looked at me with a bemused expression on his face and asked if I knew how fast I’d been going. I shook my head. He requested my driver’s license.
I scrambled for it in my purse and gave it to him. He scanned it back and front and pointed at the address.
“Is this your current address?”
I hesitated. “No … I live in Toronto now … ” My voice shook and faded.
“When did you move?”
“About six weeks ago.” My voice shook some more.
“Are you aware that you need to change the address on your driver’s license within a week of moving?”
And, that was it. I fell apart. I’d been rabid about changing back to my maiden name on all of my ID and forgotten my driver’s license. How could I have been so stupid? The only thing I could do was tell him what was going on in my life. I felt so terrible.
“You know,” he said blithely after a moment’s hesitation, “I could charge you with two offences today ~ a speeding ticket for 20 kms over the limit, and failure to keep your driver’s license current … but I won’t.”
“No … let me finish,” he pulled out his speeding ticket book, “the speeding ticket I can’t do anything about. It’s $120 fine and three de-merit points.”
He started writing. My heart sank. I sat there numb contemplating how I would pay such a fine and mortified at how this would affect my driving record.
“But,” he added as he handed over the dreaded ticket, “I encourage you to challenge this in court. Tell them the truth … and tell them that it was the first beautifully sunny day of spring and that you got caught up in it and weren’t paying attention to what you were doing, and that there was no other traffic around.”
He smiled in a gruff police-officer kind of way. He had a heart.
“What about my driver’s license?” I asked, trembling.
“Go directly to the driver’s license bureau and get … it … changed.”
I wholeheartedly agreed to do this and, notwithstanding the need to attend my day in court for the speeding infraction, I was really grateful to this kind police officer. He’d recognized my unsettled circumstances and done what he could to help.
Still, it was his parting words that impressed me the most, and not so much what he said as much as how he said them.
He stopped with me for a moment longer, leaned on the open window of my car and said with emphasis while looking me straight in the eyes, “Slow down.”
Not an unusual thing for a copper to say, but in that instant it was not just the speed at which I was driving my car that was brought to mind but the insane pace at which I’d been running my life since leaving my husband. Racing to close one chapter of my life while racing to start another.
The weekend away had brought me joy, but the admonition of the police officer helped me onto the road of peace. As I thanked him and drove away, I had a feeling that everything would, in the end, be fine. (And, of course, I drove straight to the government office to update my driver’s license.)
As for my court date … it came up about three months later. I attended the court local to where I’d been stopped, and a court officer heard my story before I went before the magistrate. I don’t remember much of what happened, except that my fine was reduced to $40, which I happily paid before I left.
I’m sure that police officer has said “slow down” thousands of times in the course of his career, but he will never know just how much the kindness behind his words that day helped me to begin to see my then frenetic life in a more self-aware light.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … every cloud has a silver lining.
Thanks for visiting …
©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015