A couple days ago, something happened to me that hasn’t happened since I was 17: I got a traffic ticket.
That isn’t to say I haven’t gotten pulled over in the past fourteen years, because I have. However, I’ve been able to get off with warnings most of the time, partly due to having a father who used to be a cop and partly due to the privilege of being a white woman. But apparently my luck ran out a couple days ago when I was sitting in traffic at a red light and I saw those blue and red lights flash behind me. I pulled off the road into a small parking lot and waited for the cop, a young guy on the shorter side. If he was 25, I’d be shocked.
He asked if I knew why he’d pulled me over and I told him no. I hadn’t been speeding, I hadn’t been weaving in and out of traffic, and I hadn’t been tossing bags of drugs and weapons from my window on that particular day, so I was clueless. Apparently, at the last red light when I’d turned right, I hadn’t come to a complete stop before turning when I saw the road was clear. The cop then proceeded to tell me that when I’d gone through the light like that, two other cars behind me had done the exact same thing. As a result, he’d decided to bypass the other two cars and pull me over for setting a bad example for the other drivers. As a woman, this didn’t particularly surprise me because women are frequently told that we are responsible for the behavior of others.
“Did you smile politely at him? Well, then of course he thought you were interested!”
“Did you wear a short skirt?” Well, then of course he thought you were asking for it!”
The cop then asked me what I was up to that day. In the hopes of avoiding a ticket and getting off with a warning, I remained friendly and told him I was out running errands. My backseat was full of plastic bins because one of my side jobs is working for my friend who is a realtor, staging houses.
“Yeah, I can see you’ve been shopping,” the cop said, rolling his eyes a little. Because, obviously, I have ovaries so all I do is shop.
“Oh, it’s all for a house I’m staging for a local realtor,” I explained with a friendly smile on my face. I really wanted to tell him where he could shove his misogynistic assumptions, but he hadn’t actually written the ticket yet and I was still holding out hope.
“Oh! Well, how about that,” the cop said, apparently surprised that I had a job that involved something other than cooking and breeding. Then he returned to his cop car and, after a while, he came back with a $175 traffic ticket for me.
“Now remember,” he said. “When you come up to a red light and want to make a right turn, come to a complete stop and count to three, something like ‘one Mississippi’ or ‘one potato.’” I’m not quite sure why he thought “potato” was going to be easier for me to remember than “Mississippi”, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d told me to count by saying, “One shopping bag, two shopping bags, three shopping bags.”
Also, that’s not a thing to have to stop for three seconds before turning right on red. But maybe I am now expected to do so in order to set a better example for the two cars behind me (who, by the way, did not get pulled over. Just me, for being a “bad example”).
Because I haven’t had a ticket since I was 17, I can do traffic school and luckily I can do it online. I could fight the ticket in court, but my tiny female brain honestly doesn’t remember if I came to a complete stop or not before I turned. That, and I just want to move on from the whole thing and put it behind me. After all, I’ve got some shopping to do.