I've always wondered what kind of pull-over I'd be, since I've been fortunate enough to never have a real-cop-pull-over while driving.
I know that all of you who have driven with me are pausing right now and thinking "Hmm...really? Because she is SUCH a bad driver!"
I know! I've been really lucky ("blessed" for those of you holier than I am). But despite my typically poor driving performance, I have yet to be pulled over.
Or HAD yet to be pulled over, before this last Saturday.
Let me start off (do you like how I'm "starting off" on the fifth paragraph?) by saying that I know the craziness of this whole story is negated by the fact that I'm even telling this story right now as opposed to sitting downtown in San Diego lock up, and you all know I would do almost ANYthing to make a good story great...but that was really put to the test this time, because I did sacrifice the better story for my freedom and clean criminal record.
So Saturday, I woke up early to the sounds of my neighbor cleaning house (sorry to all of you who I convinced that she was dead--she's not), and laid in bed, not happy about it (I did just write "pissed" here, but had to erase it in case any of you thought I actually peed the bed...Shy Ronnie), until I got a really happy text from Mary asking if I wanted to join her out shopping.
So I got ready really fast (no shower, cleeearly) and drove over to Mission Valley. To make this part of the story short, we also wanted to go to Fashion Valley, and by sheer chance, my car was closer than hers, so we took my car over, shopped there, and headed back to Mission so I could drop Mary at her car.
As we're turning onto that street that runs by the mall (Camino something? I don't even know.), I noticed that there was a police car behind me, but did not think twice about it, because there were SO many people on the roads...there was no way to speed or run a stop sign or anything. But right as I was starting to signal that I was turning into the parking lot outside of the Rack (for those of you who are here...just picture that parking lot and its tiny one-way aisles and overwhelming number of visitors), he turned on his lights and followed me in. I saw him and said to Mary "Am I getting pulled over???", and we tried to figure out what I could have done to warrant a pull over while I tried to figure out where I could pull over in the first place, because the lot was totally packed. There were no open spots...no empty spaces to stop in...clearly...it's December at the mall. So at the end of the first aisle, Mary just said to stop.
Thanks, by the way, Mary, because I was so nervous about finding a spot that I probably would've just kept going. I just want to do it right!!
So I just stopped, blocking in three cars, and opened my driver door because I'm an idiot and my driver's window has been broken for like three months. What can I say...it keeps me out of the drive thrus, so I haven't gotten it fixed.
The officer came up to me, I explained the window and apologized, he asked for my license and registration, then told me that the reason I was pulled over was because my back tail light was flickering. Keep in mind that since I have never really been pulled over, I'm trying to remember what, exactly, a "registration" looks like, and sifting through Sea World maps, Wells Fargo deposit envelopes and cassette mix tapes, all of which were on top of it in my glove box.
During this, Mary is helping me look, and we find my proof of insurance, which is outdated (not the insurance...just the proof. I have insurance. Promise. I have Geico, almost entirely because of their commercials). For some reason, I say, out loud, to Mary, "Oh, I think this is expired. Yeah, it is." At that point, the officer, who had not, up until that point, asked for insurance, heard me, and asked for insurance. Awesome. I told him (directly this time) "Oh...this is an old one. I didn't print out the new one. (Pause...pause) I can look it up online if you want...?"
He didn't want.
Then he took my license and registration, and asked me to pull up into the red zone. Why didn't I see that before?? So I did.
While sitting in the red zone, I'm just chatting with Mary, waiting, and I told her she could go to her car, which she did not, because she is a good friend, which I ended up really needing because, the officer came back up to me, and at the same time that we see that there was not only just the one officer who pulled me over behind me, but three police cars, all with lights flashing, sitting behind me in the red zone, the following conversation transpired:
Him: Where were you coming from? (serious)
Me: Fashion Valley mall. We were just mall hopping! (happy, like I like to be)
Him: And where do you work?
Me: Point Loma Nazarene (always throw in "Naz" if it's something serious...with a smile)
Him: Oh, I was just over there the other day
Me: No way! Why? Oh, I guess I can't really ask you that. Sorry! (still my good old happy self with the widest, most innocent eyes I can muster)
Him: No--I was taking a statement from Kerry Fulcher--I guess his daughter was threatened by some crazy guy.
Me: Oh yeah, we all got an email about that.
Him: Did the guy ever show up?
Me: No, not that I know of.
Him: Good. So did you know that your license is suspended?
Mary: WHHAATT???? Oh sorry...sorry.
Me: Wait what?? I don't even know what that means!
Him: Yeah, your license has been suspended for four months.
Me: Wh...no...seriously...I don't know what that means.
Him: Well, it mean that you can't drive your car unless you're going to and from work.
Me: (no WONDER he wanted to know where I was going...I thought that was weird). Uh...I...I don't even know what to say. Why??
Him: We don't have a reason here--just that your license was suspended. The DMV has record that you were served.
Me: I was what?? What does that mean?
Him: That means that a peace officer (really? so they're really sticking with that title?) or a DMV employee presented you with notice that your license was suspended and you signed it.
Me: Wait...I never signed anything...I wasn't even shown anything!
Mind you, Mary and I are still both half shocked, half smiley/laughy at this point, because this is so flipping crazy. I mean, unpaid parking ticket? THAT I can imagine, because I'm totally that person who would forget to pay a parking ticket or something. But driving on a suspended license?? I literally didn't even understand the offense. He may as well have told me that I was driving with a hibbidy gibbidy.
Him: Well sometimes the DMV makes a mistake, but not usually...
Me: Right...right...I mean...I know you can't just take my word on it, but this is the first time I've ever even heard about this!
Him: Well I'll get some more information.
At this point, Mary says "I'm so glad I didn't just go back to my car," I agree, and he steps back to confer with the TWO ADDITIONAL OFFICERS who were called in for back up, talks on the little shoulder radio, and comes back with another officer who's older and looks meaner (I should say just plain old "mean," because the first guy wasn't mean at all).
New guy: When was the last time you were in court?
Me: I was there for jury duty about a year ago...?
Him: No...when did you last have to appear in court?
Me: Appear?? Never??
Him: The system is showing that your license was suspended for failure to appear after you failed to report an accident.
Me: I haven't even been in an accident!
Him: Well the DMV doesn't just make this stuff up.
Me: (again) I know you can't just take my word on this one, but I have no idea what this is about.
Original officer: So...we're going to have to impound your car...
Mary: nervous laugh
Me: What?? Like...right now? You have to take my car??
Him: Yes. Could you turn off the engine and step out of the car?
Me: Right now???
Me: Ok...can I get my new boots? (I haven't purchased anything in almost four months...this was the first...more about that later...but I have no idea why I was worried about that at the moment)
Him: In a moment.
Me: Ok...ok...do you need my keys??
Him: Yes, if you could just leave them in the front seat.
Mary: But take off your house keys first.
Me: Oh yeah (thanks for that, because I'm sure I would not have)...really?? I haven't even ever gotten a speeding ticket! This is my first pull over!
Him: Yes. Please step out of the car.
So Mary and I fully step out of the car and onto the sidewalk, and the first officer opens up my drivers' side backseat door, pops the trunk and starts to fully search my car.
As I'm getting out, I hear the lady in the shoulder radio say my name, and ask if I was out of my car.
So it's really me they're after. Cool.
I am in awe of whatever is going on, and Mary and I are basically laughing, because what else do you do in this situation???? At some point, the first officer must have asked the other two guys to help, because we overheard the meaner one (who really wasn't mean either...the first guy was just so nice) say "No way man, this is your citation." But then they all laughed, and started searching my car together. I mean, we were laughing, so why wouldn't they be laughing?
Pause here for a shout out to Mary, who is SUCH a good friend. She just kept saying "we're going to go to my house, get a bottle of wine and make a plan. We're going to have a plan so on Monday, you can get this all cleared up. This is just a paperwork issue, I'm sure." So happy she was there to experience this with me, and to keep me from...I don't know...crying or something. Whatever I may have done, had I not been able to say "What the heck. What the heck. What the heck." to someone who agreed with me.
And she knows that that's exactly what I needed in that sitch...just a plan.
So anyway, the second officer was looking in the passenger seat and said "Uh oh, whose marijuana is this?," very clearly joking (which, later, I thought about and got real nervous, because that shouldn't be a joke that you make with a police officer searching your car, right??), and Mary said "Oh no, I was the passenger!" also joking, and I said "Come on guys...what would the Naz think about that?" and we all shared in a laugh.
Then the first officer asked Mary if she also worked at Point Loma, to which she could not have more innocently replied "No, I'm a stay at home mommy!"
Looking back, I'm pretty sure that there were several times when they all looked at each other and said "Really? This isn't making any sense at all." This had to be one of those times.
They were looking in my truck about this time, which is, at the moment, full of clothes for Buffalo Exchange and Goodwill, and I felt it necessary to apologize, so I said "Oh sorry about all the clothes...that's embarrassing," and "Well, this is my first pull-over. At least it will be a good story." They liked that. Or hated it. I'm not really sure. That may have been another point that they had second thoughts about all of this.
So one officer was standing, listening to Mary and me talk (maybe to try and figure out what the heck was going on, or maybe waiting for me to admit it all), and I said "I can't believe they're taking my car," to which he replied "You should be glad he's not taking you to jail. This is a misdemeanor offense, and you could be arrested."
I could be ARRESTED??????? I could be arrested. I could be arrested!! That's about all that went through my head. Mary and I laughed more about this, because it was just too much.
I then noticed that there were two mall security "officers" standing about 30 yards away, staring at us, talking conspiratorially to each other, and not coming over. The real police also noticed this, and started making fun of them. One guy literally pretended to talk into his shoulder radio and said "Yeah, can we get mall security over here for back up?" We also all laughed about that. We were really having a great old time together.
So at this point, we're standing on the sidewalk beside my car, and there are three police cars with lights on behind me, so CLEARLY people walking around the mall parking lot were intrigued. I'm sure I would have been. But, in the spirit of the ridiculousness of the whole situation, for some reason, I was moved to wave at the people who had stopped to stare at me until they were embarrassed for being called out and went away. I did this to several people, until the first officer popped up from the car search and said "Do you know those people?" I told him I did not, but wanted to acknowledge them, because they were looking at me. He also thought that was funny, and told the other officers who were
Another group laugh.
I'm also, throughout all of this, working out with Mary what on earth may have happened to get me to this point. We had pretty much decided at this point that it must have been an issue with one of my 20 rental cars this Fall. Maybe someone right after me had crashed and not reported an accident. Maybe I had accidentally backed into someone in a car and didn't realize it. Maybe this was all a huge mistake.
So while we're talking through our "plan," the car search ends, and the three officers go back to the first officer's car, and I overhear--hold on--you know how sometimes you hear something, but it doesn't make sense, so you don't process it right away? Then later, when you get it, you think "OHHHH...so THAT'S what they were talking about when they said...."--so I overhear without processing: "What do you mean, you didn't run the number?"
So Mary and I are talking about how I need a ride home, how she and I are going to work this out (oh man, thanks again Mary...I'm not sure I would've handled this well without you there), and how I will have to pay SO MUCH MONEY to get my car out of impound, when officer the first comes back up to us.
Him: Well girls...I'm gonna give you a break.
Him: So...so they gave me the wrong information. Your license is not suspended.
Him: Yeah, you're just fine. There's Ashton Kutcher...you've been punked.
Me: (after I actually turned around when he pointed, because I was so confused, and also after I had to actually fight an urge to hug him, which, as you all know, is a HUGE deal for me, and shows how out of it I was, and then had to fight the urge to ASK if I could hug him). Wait, seriously?
Him: Yes. I'm sorry about that...they gave me the wrong information.
Mary: just laughing
Me: So I can take my car?
Him: Yep. You're good to go.
Me: This was my first pull over (why was it necessary to communicate that again??)
Him: Well I'm Officer ____. I'm glad I could be here to walk you through it.
Me and Mary: just laughing. More out of relief, but also because that was funny.
Him: So you girls are free to go.
Me: Thanks for not taking me to jail.
Him: You would never make it in jail.
Me: (I know...that's why I didn't want to go to there) laughing
Mary: Wait...which tail light was flickering?
Thanks again, Mary. Let's bring it back to the actual problem, because all I could think about was "I almost went to jail today."
So I took my keys, and pulled out of the red zone with such extreme caution (because I would be that girl to get out of this situation, then hit a police car), dropped Mary off at her car, laughed and laughed and laughed more our of sheer nervous energy than anything, and went to her house, just to continue to share in a few moments of disbelief.
That just happened, everyone.
I know that, like I said, the story is totally negated because I'm actually writing about it, which I would not be doing if I was in jail...but somehow, I was almost in jail...and I needed to pass that along.