I got pulled over by the Sykesville Police yesterday. My crime? “Operator not restrained by seatbelt” according to the citation I received.
For the record, I was wearing my seatbelt. I just wasn’t wearing it properly. I had spent a long day and a long drive home (my commute is over an hour) in an uncomfortable dress that turned my breasts into one monolithic lump that gave the seatbelt nowhere to rest comfortably in between, forcing the belt to slide over under my right armpit and slice into my neck on the left. I drove that way for 45 minutes before I couldn’t stand it any longer and chose to tuck the seatbelt under my left arm for a brief respite. And that’s when I got pulled over.
Do I dispute that I was not wearing my seat belt properly? Nope.
Do I acknowledge that yesterday was the first day of the Click it or Ticket National Seat Belt Enforcement Mobilization campaign for 2014? Apparently yes, it was.
So why am I complaining?
I live with my parents. I’m back in the house where I grew up. Which means I’ve been driving in the Sykesville area for over two decades now. At times off and on, but early on and again more recently with regular consistency. During those 22 years, I’ve been pulled over by a member of the Sykesville Police exactly three times. More than most maybe, but certainly not an alarming number of times over the course of 22 years. The first two times I got pulled over were for speeding. I felt no need to write anything about those encounters. I was speeding. The officer was polite and efficient each time. I paid my fines. It was effective enforcement. I carefully monitor my speed when driving through the town of Sykesville, as I did yesterday, and every day.
What was different about yesterday? Why do I feel compelled to write?
I have no problem with the office pulling me over. I didn’t know I was breaking the law, but I was. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse. I firmly believe that. I also have no problem with the ticket he wrote me. I broke the law and I accept the consequences. What I do have a problem with is the officer’s condescending and demeaning attitude towards me. My brother is a police officer who routinely pulls over much more serious offenders than a sober woman not properly wearing her seat belt, and yet, he manages to treat each person he pulls over with dignity and respect. But the officer who pulled me over yesterday for failure to properly wear my seat belt chose to belittle me instead.
I suffer from anxiety and depression. Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that my depression has been worse than usual lately. It’s not something I can control. God knows, I wish I could. When I got pulled over yesterday, I started to cry. I was mortified that I was crying. If you know me, you know that I HATE crying. It makes me feel weak and vulnerable and out of control – all the things I hate the most. I have wished on more than one occasion that I could be more robotic or even more sociopathic so I could better control my emotions. The absolute last thing I wanted to do in this situation was cry. I have never cried in front of a police officer before – not one that was pulling me over anyway. Is it a stereotype that women cry to get out of tickets? Yes. Is that what I was doing yesterday? No.
“Crying about it isn’t going to help you,” the officer sneered at me.
I’ll take your ticket, sir. But I won’t take your condescension.