Monday, September 10, 2012

Don't Dance and Drive

Last night was date night.
It was great.
No kids. Holding hands. Lots of laughing.

We don't get out much, and when we do, it usually involves Pixar and kids' meals and several times of threatening to stop the car THIS MINUTE.

When Justin and I are unleashed on our own, there is no telling what will happen. Will we cower?
Will we bolt?
It's like releasing captive animals into the wild.

Last night was no exception.

We had just seen a movie and were heading home - well - to the gas station, actually, as Justin has a crazy habit of running his car until it is almost completely out of gas before he'll get more.
He thinks the gas light is there to warn that sometime, possibly by the end of the month, you MAY need to get gas.
And to him even that might be a theory worth testing.

The movie had been good and we discussed it as we drove.
We were cheery.

Ooh! That's a good song!
Justin turned up the disco music that he loves to listen to as we pulled off the off-ramp close to home.
"We are Family" rang out into the night air.
"Yes! We ARE! We ARE family!" we thought,
so we bopped in our seats.

Justin's hands left the wheel for a brief moment as he did his best Saturday Night Fever dance.
He clapped.
We drifted.
Our wheels hit the dots.
We vibrated.
We laughed.
He corrected, and on we went.

We had just rounded the corner, when the all too familiar blue and red lights flickered in the rear-view.

Were we being
pulled over?
Was that for US?

I mean, I yell at Justin all the time for his driving.
Every single time I get in the car with him I fear for my life and the lives of our children.
I brace myself so often that I get out of the car completely stiff and in need of a massage.
He loves to tailgate.
He has never met a slam of the brakes he didn't love.
He likes to be close enough to the driver in front of him that onlookers can't tell if he's following them or riding piggy-back.
I apply my imaginary brake multiple times a day.
I remind him that I am on blood thinners.
But strangely enough, this was one time when I had been completely OK with everything he was doing.

We hissed back and forth as we pulled into the Redwing Shoe parking lot.

Me: "Did you ever put your tags on?"
- The tags that we'd been a full month late in getting because we decided going camping was just more fun than paying registration.
Justin: "Yes. I did that the other night while you and your mom were arguing over where to go for dinner. Remember? I said I was going to the garage because I didn't want to listen to it anymore."
Me: "Were you speeding? I don't think you were speeding."
Justin: "No. I had just started going from a stop. I was maybe going 10 MPH. TOPS."

Me: "What about the brake light? Are you sure you fixed it right?"

*This was a valid question.*
I knew he'd FIXED IT, but fixing it and fixing it RIGHT are two different things where Justin is concerned.

He once "fixed" our headboard and now the headboard and frame don't hook together at all.
There are holes in places where there shouldn't be holes and the metal is bent in a way I can't even understand. How can metal DO that?.....

It frustrated me that every time I got in bed, the headboard banged against the wall and chipped my lovely Elephant Skin paint, so he "fixed it again" and it is now fastened not to the bed frame, but to the actual wall with giant hooks meant for hanging art work.
Art work it is not.

We may have to leave it when we move.

Justin: "Yeah. It's working fine."

We went back and forth over every possible thing we could imagine as to why we were getting pulled over and MY best guess landed on mistaken identity.
It really was the only possible option, right?

Surely, they were on the lookout for ANOTHER mixed-race couple in an ever so suspicious silver Volvo station wagon with car-seats in the back.

But then, as if that wasn't bad enough, suddenly the spot light was on us from behind.
I think I maybe even heard a helicopter circling above.
Even I started to think we were criminals.

I started worrying that Justin was a drug dealer and this is how I would find out. But maybe that's just too much Breaking Bad clouding my mind.
Maybe he had some secret double life and another wife and other kids and was being hunted in multiple states.
After all, I HAVE seen 20/20.
What if some of his other kids were BOYS?........That would be weird.
What if one day the kids found their long lost half-siblings on Facebook and hated Justin for never telling them they had each other?
Did they ever find Jon Benet Ramsay?......
I've never been in Red Wing Shoes.....

These are the things I think.

The spotlight was so bright I'm pretty sure half of Santa Rosa slowed to look at what on earth was going on.
Major sting operation that it was.

The glare in the rear-view mirror was so bad it was like we were being pulled over by the sun itself.

Then we could hear the officer's shoes clop clop clopping towards us.
We held our breath.
He pulled out his flashlight and did a quick visual sweep of the back of Justin's car like he was looking for something.

I wanted to tell him,
"Search, if you will, Officer.
This car is so clean you probably can't find our DNA on it.
This is the car of a driver who pulls out his Swiffer duster at every stop light and dusts off the console.
There's nothing here.
N'ery a crumb."

But this is when the good part started.

Officer: "Hello Sir. Do you know why I pulled you over tonight?"
Justin: "No. I actually have NO earthly idea."
Officer: "Well, Sir, you caught my attention back there because you were doing an awful lot of swerving as you came off the off-ramp."

Our eyes bugged out and we tried not to laugh and we looked at each other for a bit.
Oh man.

He thought we were drunk.

Officer: "Sir, Have you had anything to drink tonight?"
Justin: "Um....I had a ROOT beer at the theater, but that was all."
Officer: "Sir, Have you had anything to drink within the last 24 hours?"
Justin: "No. Nothing."
Officer: "Nothing?"
Justin: "Nothing."
"You are sure that you haven't had ANYTHING to drink?"
Justin: "I promise you. I had a soda and a small popcorn."
Officer: "Are you really really really really REALLY sure?!"

(OK. I added that part, myself, but SERIOUSLY?)

Officer: "So if I were to have you breathe into a Breathalizer, it would say you were 100% sober, Sir?"
Justin: "Yes. 100%"
Officer: "Then do you have an explanation for me as to why you were swerving so much back there?"

Justin: "Uh....I was........ dancing."

Officer: ..............*blink* *blink* ............

"There was a really good song on the radio and I was having a good time with my wife."

Officer: ................*blink* *blink*............

I could tell he was mentally cataloging through all his training to see if there was anything he could use for DANCING while you drive.

Officer: "Can I please have your license and registration, Sir?"

Justin fiddled around for the cards and handed them to him.
He told us to wait just a minute, and he walked to his cruiser.

This is when Justin made a whole bunch of comments as I tried to convince him to not say them in front of the cop and get himself arrested for real.
He's been known to dig deeper holes with his commentary when he gets upset.
I've thought about getting him checked for Tourette.

There was something about a scrawny mall cop.
Some business about snapping like a twig.
Something about a peach fuzz mustache and an eighth grader.

"Babe. Deep breaths. He can't give you a ticket for swerving a little bit."

It was funny.


Because this is the moment we remembered that a couple of years ago, one of Justin's brothers, who is known by police officers in several counties,
actually stole Justin's identity and left Justin as a wanted man.

You can't make this stuff up, folks.

We didn't know anything about it until one day we'd gone to the DMV to register one of the cars and they refused to register it because they said there was a
WARRANT OUT FOR JUSTIN and they weren't allowed to go any further with it because it was showing he'd evaded his court appearance.

HOLY WHAT?!?!?!?!

Not until we'd gone to the court house and spoken with someone who showed us the copy of the original police ticket were we able to put two and two together that Justin's brother had been pulled over, while on parole, and had panicked about going back in and given the police Justin's name as his own.
Ah, Brotherly love....
I figured it was his brother by the type of car that was described in the ticket and the signature that looked like a monkey had done it.
In crayon.
While on a bronco.

Justin had to sign a piece of paper several times as a signature comparison and send it in to the State Commissioner in order to try to clear his name.
We'd never heard back from anyone on whether or not that had actually been cleared.

Justin: "Oh NO. What if it still shows a warrant out for me?!"
Me: "No.....Oh Justin. What if you go to jail tonight because of dancing to disco and a stolen identity? Wouldn't that just be SO typical?"

I mean....I would have gotten at least one night of snore-free sleeping, but still....

We were discussing the things we should say to explain when the officer started back to our car.
Justin had his arm casually resting on his window.
His head was turned toward me.

"Sir! PLEASE put your arm BACK INSIDE THE VEHICLE!" the officer barked from behind us.
He had sounded scared.
Like, rookie cop about a split second from calling for back-up, scared.

It's that dang Native American expression again!
It ALWAYS gets him in trouble.
People regularly think he's angry, when, in reality, it's just Native bone structure seen repetitively throughout the ages.

He may LOOK like he'll eat your liver right out of your abdomen, but in reality, he's just concentrating or tired or his contacts are dry.

We both jumped.
I half expected the officer to have his weapon drawn he sounded so serious.
Maybe he actually did.
I couldn't see a THING with that bleeping spot light still on us from behind.
As it was, every time I blinked I saw giant white blotches in my vision.

I started worrying that I wouldn't be able to see to get myself home should Justin get arrested for his public drunkenness and his outstanding warrant.

I'd be left hobbling, half blind with my blood-clot leg down West Steele, and that is NO place to be hobbling. There is a reason that the only strip mall on West Steele is made up of a 7-11 that is attached to a police station.

Justin yanked his arm back in quickly.

Officer: "Sir, I'm going to ask you to stick your head out of your window for me. Further. Further.
Not your arms.
Arms inside.
Just your head."


Now Justin is leaning with 1/3 of his body out of the Volvo driver window with his arms stuck to his sides like he's some giant frozen Cod driving a car.

I was beginning to worry about what on earth was going on.
Were we being Punked?
Was this guy even a real cop?

Officer: "Sir, I want you to follow my finger, but JUST WITH YOUR EYES, Sir. Not your head. Just your eyes."

The officer held up a finger.

"That's awfully close to his face..." I thought as the officer positioned his pointer finger about an inch from Justin's nose.
Was he TRYING to make him cross-eyed?

But then he just held it there.
He didn't move it.

Time stood still.

I think three minutes passed.
At least that's what it felt like.

Just as I was beginning to wonder if it was some sort of trick, he started moving it.
And moving it.

And moving it.

This was not just a slight wave side to side.
He was doing such wide movements that Justin said his finger actually completely disappeared from his peripheral view.
The cop was practically doing the grapevine at the side of our car with his finger waggling around.
How on earth was he supposed to follow something just with his eyes that was being swept in six foot wide motions?

Meanwhile, I was busy pinning Justin's legs to the inside of the car so that he wouldn't topple out onto the pavement as he perched with his upper body out the window.

And just like that - the movement stopped.

Officer: "Sir, I'm going to let you go now, but I need you to know that the State of California has given you 12 feet in each lane of ample space to drive.
We try to assure that there is plenty of room for you to make slight movements without going outside of your designated lane.
There really is no reason for such swerving.
Have a good night."

Then he handed back the license and registration, switched off his flashlight and drove off to fight other dangerous criminals, such as ourselves.
Jay-walkers and pillow tag rippers don't hunt themselves, people.

Before we drove off, Justin looked at me and exhaled.

He said,
"I was starting to worry. I thought my eye was going to get me in trouble."

I about died.
This just kept getting better.
Because I had totally forgotten that
a few months back Justin had gone in for a routine eye exam and come home looking disheartened and kind of embarrassed.
The eye doctor had detected that he has a weak left eye that occasionally, when being forced in one direction or another, wants to sort of just wander slightly off.

I had, of course, made fun of him for days, asking him where he was looking and the like.
He said that the second the officer started waving his finger side to side, not only could he not see the officer's hand because he wasn't supposed to move his head, but he started feeling his eye tugging off to the side.
He said, "I was thinking, 'Oh gosh. Not NOW! Why does this have to happen NOW?!"

He was positive that his wandering eye was going to get him in trouble for sure.

Thank goodness it hadn't.
I was tired.
I didn't want to deal with all that "can you come and get me out of jail" nonsense.

Clearly, this officer didn't know how to have fun.
Clearly this officer had never blasted the radio late at night after having two solid kid-free hours.
Clearly he didn't understand how good it felt to have your windows down on a warm September evening as you listened to music with the knowledge that someone else will have put the kids to bed by the time you get home.

"No reason for such swerving."


By my count, we had A LOT reasons for swerving.