Brian (digibri) wrote,


Monday night I was driving home from work, like you do.
I was in the left[edit: duh!] right lane of the highway and then took my exit. Immediately, I saw flashing lights in my rearview mirror and so pulled over on the shoulder of the exit ramp. Having had minor skirmishes with
police officers in the past I knew that small considerations can pay off in the experiecne, so I pulled as far to the right as I could, to make it easier and safer for him to approach.

He approached.

He was young. Maybe 22 years old, if that. I bet he barely weighed a buck-o-five with his vest.

He was nervous.

He didn't knock on the glass with calm sense of authority I've witnessed in the past, he just kind of stood there, shifting from one foot to the other.

I turned from the steering wheel where I had kept my hands in plain sight, made eye contact and smiled warmly. I wanted him to be comfortable and relaxed. Holding up my hand, I pointed down to the window crank. Then I leaned forward and picked up the window crank off the floor, attached it to the gear shaft (I had disassembled the door panel the other day to repair the window track) and rolled down the window.

Again I smiled warmly. "Evening officer, what can I do for you?"

"You failed to use your turn indicator when you exited the highway."

I was genuinely surprised, to me this was a non-issue infraction. "Really? Oh. Ok..."

The newbie officer was quiet for a moment. Occasionally, he would peer through the window into my back seat. He was obviously looking for probable cause.

"Also, the sticker on your tag isn't in the proper position."

I thought for a moment, trying to translate what he had said. After a bit I realized he meant that my property tax sticker wasn't in the correct position on my license plate. I replied, "Really? I had no idea."

"Yes, you're covering the year on the plate and that's not right. It looks like you've sliced the sticker like you're told, so you can't really remove it. I just wanted to make sure you knew."

"Ok. Thank you."

Looking around he continued, "Do the turn indicators work?"

"Yes sir."

He didn't seem entirely comfortable being called "sir". However, I knew better than to address a police officer with anything other than the utmost respect. Besides, he has a tough job and I genuinely respect the career he's chosen.

Still looking around he thought for a moment, "Well, let's check out your car."

I stared at him, not knowing what he was talking about, "..."

He stared back.

I didn't know what he was thinking or planning, so I just waited.

He moved to the rear of my car a few steps and said, "Please turn on your left turn indicator."

I did so. The indicator blinked on an off, and on and off.

"Ok, now the right one."

Blink blink, blink blink, blink blink, blink blink.

"Ok, now turn on your 4-way indicators."

For a moment I panicked. I though, "Four-way indicator, what's that? Do I have one of those? where is the button? Then I stopped and realized, "Oh good lord, he means the hazard lights."

Blink blink, blink blink, blink blink.

He stepped back into view. "Ok, now let's do the front."

I was surprised to learn that none of my indicators showed on the front of the car. I was glad to learn this and told him.

He then asked me to honk the horn.

Being far more confident in the horn than the flashers, I was startled to find that it didnt' work either. I'm sure the look of surprise was broadly painted on my face, as he reacted to it.

"Ok, well just have that looked at."

He peered into the back seat again for a bit. Longer than I would
expect, really.

There really wasn't much to see back there. I have the door panel for the driver side door, some trim for the same door, a couple of cassette tapes, a wrapped gift for a friend, and maybe a little trash but not much if any. I figure he was looking for drug paraphanalia or other stupid things like firearms and the like. That's his job, and I understand. If he had asked I'd have let him search my car, as I know there's nothing interesting or illegal to find. However, I refused to make such an offer - if he wanted to look, he would have to ask.

"Well...I'm just going to write you a warning on the failure to indicate your exit. I'll be right back."

After about 10 minutes he returned, gave me the warning and left.

The best I can guess, is that I was the subject of automobile-profiling; otherwise known as DWP (Driving While Poor.) Though not technically poor, my 14 year old Corrola certainly looks it. I live in a boring suburban city, and I think that the officers tend to investigate beatup vehicles, having seen such tableaus frequently over the years.

It's good to realize that my car has officially crossed the line into "questionable". I'll make sure to be more diligent about signalling in the future.


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