“Hang on, Ashley,” I said when the red and blue lights flashed in my rear view mirror. “There’s a cop behind me.” I moved towards the shoulder of Highway 13 to let him pass. He declined my offer.
“I have to hang up, Ash. This police officer wants to have a chat.”
“Good luck, Mom. Talk your way out it.”
I laughed. “I’ll let you know what happens after I find out what ‘it’ is.”
I rolled down my window and gathered my license and proof of insurance. I watched the Nixa police officer’s slow approach to my car in my side view mirror. He spoke into his shoulder microphone and attempted to peer through the rear windshield. (The previous owner of my Acura installed after market, nearly-black tinted windows. I talked myself out of a ticket for the windows five years ago— “Officer, I didn’t do it.” The Branson West PO who stopped me at the time was sixteen, maybe twenty, and drove a new Dodge Charger. He advised me to remove the tint. I could tell he was disappointed he didn’t get to chase me down Talking Rocks Road.)
The officer from the Nixa PD gave up trying to see through the back windshield and advanced to the driver side passenger window. I stuck my head out my window, cranking my neck so far down and to the left to see him I un-pinched a nerve. I placed 3 to 1 odds on the windows being “it.”
“Good afternoon, Ma’am. Do you know why I stopped you?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Do you have any idea how fast you were going?”
“No, I don’t. I wasn’t looking at my speedometer. I was talking to my daughter on my cell phone.” It was unsettling not to know how fast I was driving. I’ve only had three tickets in 37 years. It’s important for a semi-pro speeder to know when and where she can drive 5 mph over the speed limit and when and where she can drive 10 to 15 mph over the speed limit.
“You were going 72 in a 60 mph zone.”
Having determined I was safe, Officer Nixa took a step forward and bent down to get a good look at me. “Did you even see me back there?”
“Noooo,” I said. “I did not see you. I was looking forward, and as I said, talking to my daughter on my cell.”
“I didn’t think you saw me,” he said triumphantly. “Because you didn’t even slow down when you passed me.”
My left eyebrow shot up. This indicated a major dysfunction in my cop-spotting ability. I hoped my hawk-spotting ability wasn’t affected as well. I have an uncanny ability to spot hawks when I’m not trying to spot them. The other, other name my husband calls me is Woman Who Sees Hawks.
“Ms. Jacob,” Officer Nixa said. “I appreciate your honesty. Most people I stop argue with me or tell me I’m stupid.”
“Most people are idiots.”
Officer Nixa checked out the goats across the highway. When his face was rearranged to his satisfaction—minus the grin—he asked where I was going.
“I’m going to Springfield to the uh, to the uh. I can’t remember the name of it—the radiology center. It’s, it’s… I’m going to get an MRI.”
“When’s the last time you had a ticket, Ms. Jacob?”
“It was years ago. 2006? And on this road actually. I drive to Springfield all the time. I’m a child advocate for CASA of Southwest Missouri.” I was providing more information than was required and trying to score brownie points. Disappointing, amateurish behavior.
“I’m going to run your license and registration. I’ll be right back.”
While I waited, I chastised myself for not seeing a police car parked on the side of the road. I chastised myself for not seeing a kid who might have been riding his bicycle and might have swerved into the road as I was driving by. And for the old man who might have been dragged into the middle of the highway by his Irish wolfhound as well as the construction worker who might have forgotten his flag and his orange vest. I chastised myself for not seeing twin fawns, a four wheeler and Amish grandparents in a rickety buggy with a skittish horse.
When Officer Nixa returned to my window I said, “The Meyer Center!”
“The Meyer Center. That’s the name of the place where I’m going to get my MRI. My appointment is at 10:45. I knew I’d remember. If you tell yourself not to worry about it and let your brain sort it out, what you’re trying to remember will pop into your head when you don’t expect it. Strange how our brains work, isn’t it?”
Officer Nixa threw his best blank expression at me. I thought it wise I hadn’t told him the MRI was of my brain.
“Ms. Jacob. I’m not giving you a ticket today because of your honesty. I’m giving you a warning and ask that you please slow down.”
“Thank you officer. I appreciate it. I’ll slow down. This experience is proof I should stay off my cell while I’m driving.”
I called Ashley and spoke quickly at the first red light. “I was speeding. Going 72 in a 60 mph zone but I got out of it.”
“What did you do?”
“Told the truth. Said I wasn’t paying attention and had no idea how fast I was going because I was talking to you on my phone.”
“The truth can work,” Ashley said.
“It can. I have to go, the lights green.”
I called The Meyer Center at the next red light to let them know I’d be ten to fifteen minutes late. When I checked in I thought about presenting my excuse—“Sorry I’m late. I was pulled over by a Nixa police officer.” I didn’t say anything because they wouldn’t believe me and I was running late anyway.