The other night, after putting my little girl to bed and doing the dishes, I headed out to hit the surf with my good friend Dave. About halfway there I had that dreadful feeling that I had forgotten something and I was pretty sure it was my wallet. I didn’t turn around.
The fishing was nothing short of… unspectacular… and when we were sufficiently exhausted, we headed for the lot. As I drove away, I remembered about my wallet and tried to drive with an extra dose of Miss Daisy, slow and inside the lines.
As I rolled through a town square, I spied a cruiser behind a stone wall and immediately checked my speed, nothing to worry about. But I still kept an eye in the rearview. Maybe 45 seconds later I saw headlights flickering through the trees and then they were right behind me… then blue lights. Uh-oh…
I’m never nervous when I get pulled over because I have nothing to hide, I don’t even drink! But on this night I was nervous. Was he going to make me call my wife? Tow my truck? The spotlight burned through the cab of my Tacoma like a wind-aided brush fire and then the shadow emerged and stood like an ancient oak at my window.
“Hey there,” The masked man said in a surprisingly pleasant voice, “you been fishing?”
Stunned, I stuttered back, “Uh—y-yeah, just headed home.”
“Do you know why I pulled you over?” He asked.
In my head I was thinking, ‘yeah because I don’t have my license with me!’ but in my outside voice I said, “No”.
“I ran your plates and it says your registration is expired.” Said the officer, still in a very pleasant tone.
“Really?!” I said, “I just put the new stickers on last month.” After some sleuthing we figured out that I had pulled a total moron move and used the stickers from my other vehicle. Next he asked for my registration and showed me that it was, in fact, expired. Then he asked, “Do you have your license on you?”
I closed my eyes and sighed, “I don’t think I do. When I put my wetsuit on I didn’t grab my shorts and I think my wallet is in those shorts.”
He seemed unfazed and said, “Yeah, no pockets in that thing huh? Alright, what’s your name and address, I’ll look you up.”
I watched him walk back into the flashing brightness and I was thinking, “I’m screwed… expired registration, no license.” I looked into the backseat and saw a pair of shorts, my wallet was in the pocket! I fished my license out of that impossible little window sleeve and held it up, “I actually do have my license,” I said with a laugh that begged for forgiveness. He nodded and started making small-talk about not having to wear masks soon, so I finally cut him off and said, “The suspense is killing me, are you going to let me go or am I in trouble?”
“Oh.” he said, “Nah, you’re good. You live right around the corner. To be honest with you, after midnight, we really only pull people over to make sure they haven’t been drinking. Just trying to keep the town safe. Tomorrow when you wake up, go online and renew your registration then you’ll be all set.”
I tried not to thank him too profusely, but boy was I relieved. As I drove the last mile before bed, I recounted the events of the last 15 minutes and I couldn’t believe they went the way they did. The whole experience left me with two main thoughts; one, that more police departments should adopt that mindset of keeping the town safe and using common sense when someone has made an honest mistake. And two, that I really am a bonehead, a lucky bonehead maybe, but I must make it a point to double check those simple little things that matter.