I’ve only been pulled over once in my driving career.
That’s not to say, I haven’t been carefully prepared on how to react when being pulled over or that I have a symbiotic relationship with the local police. Neither is true. I just am not blessed with the ability to have normal things happen to me. It must be genetic, because neither my brother nor sister can get in trouble for normal things either.
I had taken my sister to the hospital for complications with her pregnancy. She was going into labor way too soon – like months too soon – and was in a ton of pain. So my dad watched my nephew and I took Shaun’s car to escort Sister to the hospital.
This was soon after we had gotten my two youngest who were 2 and 3 at the time (they were born in the same year) and traded in my Grand Am for my gas-guzzling American SUV, which could hold two car seats. Yeah – you try to put two car seats in a Grand Am.
Now, you have to remember that Shaun and I were not planning on adopting toddlers. The agency had their ages wrong in the file, so we had to trick out some of our old gear to compensate. This includes one of my bookbags that has this print on it: Gun, c.1982 Print by Andy Warhol This bag is the perfect diaper bag – plenty of pockets, easy to carry, has a very sturdy quick release clasp on it, is lined with waterproof material, and the entire front velcroes down so the crap doesn’t fall out if you drop it. It just has pictures of .38 pistols all over it.
My sister calls, I head out and pick up my bag, which I kept my ID and keys in because there’s no reason to carry two bags especially when you have TWO toddlers. I didn’t even think about it. I tossed it in the back of Shaun’s car – a black Honda Accord that looks like every single black Honda Accord in the world – and went to get Sister.
We did the hospital thing, where they did what they could and got her out of pain, and then we walked (she waddled) out to the car. Toss the bag in the back, while listening to her bitch about needing nicotine and food, and get the car on the road.
As we leave the hospital parking lot, we picked up a tail. It was an all black city cruiser. It’s ok, I tell myself, they’re everywhere. This is kind of a rough part of town. I’ll just drive extra safe. A mile down the road, we pulled in to the Taco Bell and the cruiser pulled into a hotel parking lot across the street.
This is when Sister says “something’s going on. I’ll bet you a dollar they’re calling in the plates right now while we’re getting drive through.” My sister is much more experienced in police matters than I am, but I took the bet anyways. We got our food and took a left out of the Taco Bell and pulled into the left turning lane to get on the road that takes us back to the interstate. I even used my turn signals.
Sure as hell, the cruiser pulled into the lane behind us and as soon as we made the left turn, the blue lights came on. Sister says “you didn’t do anything wrong, they’re looking for something or someone. I hope my Taco Bell doesn’t get cold.”
I roll down the window, place my hands on the steering wheel, and look straight ahead until the officer arrives. (See, I’ve been trained for this.) Sister sits calmly, hands in plain sight on top of her tummy.
There are several rules when you get pulled over. Always keep your hands in sight. Always call the officer sir or ma’am. Don’t talk his ear off or offer excuses. Don’t say that you know or are related to so-and-so who works at so-and-so city office. Don’t get out of the car unless he tells you to. Don’t move for the console, the dashboard, under the seat or for a bag without asking for permission. Tell the truth (lies are too easy to uncover and by this point the cop already knows.) Got it? Got it.
The officer walked up like you see in the movies, one hand on his holster with his gun side facing away from the car so that he’s standing kinda sideways, the other holding a flash light, and stops right next to the B column of the car. Tall, skinny dude about my age. He looked a little stressed out, from what I could tell with the light in my face and only being able to see him from my driver’s side mirror. He shone the light around in the car and asked me for my license and the registration on the car.
I said “my license is in the bag in the seat behind me, and I’m not sure where the registration is – this isn’t my car. Do you mind if we look?”
“Do you have any weapons in the vehicle, ma’am?”
“No, sir.” At this point my sister reaches into the back seat, picks up my bag, and sets it in my lap. There is a point in high stress situations where shit just gets ridiculous, and here it was. I have a so-called diaper bag covered with an Andy Warhol print of .38 pistols (which is the only gun I have registered in my name) in my lap, a nervous cop, a pregnant lady in the car, no idea where the registration this damn clone of a car is, and cooling tacos in the center console.
I ripped open the velcro on the bag, pulled out my wallet, and handed the license to the cop. Then I sent a silent “thank you” to God that I had on a hoodie and my freshly-inked arson tattoo was covered. He shone his light on my license and said “is this your valid address?”
“Ms. Dollins, have you ever been in trouble before?”
“No sir, this is actually the first time I’ve EVER been pulled over.”
This is when my sister pipes up. “Sir, what’s going on? As you can see, I’m pregnant and I went into labor too soon so my sister took my to the hospital.” My sister looks a lot more innocent than she is. I look a lot less innocent than I am.
He shone the light in on her, who is sitting with the paperwork for the car – service records, owner’s manual, receipts for the brake job my dad did a few weeks before – and said “we’ve received a report that a black Honda Accord was stolen from the hospital parking lot. Did you locate the registration?”
I look at her for confirmation and tell him, that no – we have no idea where the registration is. Sister held up the receipt for the brake job and said “we have this. It shows that her husband paid for service on this car not too long ago.”
He asked who the car belonged to and I told him that it belonged to my husband and confirmed that he has the same last name and lives at the same address that I do. “I’ll be back in a few minutes, ladies. Please stay in the car.”
As soon as we see he’s gotten back in the cruiser we both bust out laughing and Sister demanded her dollar. I told her that I wasn’t taking her pregnant ass anywhere else, if this was the kind of shit she gets into. In just a few hours, I’ve transformed from a cute yet non-traditional foster parent of two into a gun-toting, tattoo wielding, car thief!
He came back and handed me back my license and said “you two stay out of trouble tonight, you hear me?” We laughed and said yessir, we were going straight home. He laughed and told us we were free to go. I cranked the car and we left, Sister digging into the Taco Bell bag.
Half-way through that taco, we pulled up to a road-block manned by 8 cruisers and a couple of the fancy-schmancy police SUVs with the light bars in the grills. There are cops all over the road, and since I’ve already got my wallet in my lap, I have my ID ready. Sister has tossed the gun-diaper-bag in the back seat.
It’s our turn to get searched and the cop – a shorter, bearded man – shines the flashlight through the car and spots my sister chowing down on her taco (seriously, cops don’t phase my sister) and cracks up laughing. I said…
No, seriously, I didn’t even think before I said it. I am just THIS geeky.
“This is not the black Honda Accord you are looking for.”
My sister choked on her taco and the cop looked at me kinda funny. I explained that we’d already been pulled over about the stolen car and asked if he’d like to see my ID. He told me it was ok, then shined the light on my damn diaper bag in the back seat. “With a bag like that, it’s no wonder you don’t get pulled over more often.” By this time a couple of other cops had come up to join in the laughter and they all agreed and waved us through. My sister was already on the phone telling everyone we knew that her sister was an armed car theif who used Jedi mind-tricks on the police.
Thankfully, we made it home without being stopped again, where my sister gleefully told my dad that for once SHE was the good child. Now, with her help, this story has become a regular in the list of “shit Cyndi did” that gets told to every new person who encounters the family right along the time in school that I unintentionally beat up a fat kid. Thanks, Sister.