Yesterday we brought dinner over to my mother-in-law’s house to find, when we got there, Uncle Marty on the computer renewing her car registration, which had expired last week. Oh, Grandma! we laughed. It’s a good thing she’s got Uncle Marty!
“Aren’t you supposed to get something in the mail?” I asked.
What I did not ask is how she found out it had expired.
Flash forward twenty-two hours. I am driving home from Grandma’s. I decide to take The Long Way Home because four eyelids are drooping in my rearview mirror and there’s nothing like The Long Way Home to induce naps. Suddenly a police car materializes behind me. I check my speed. Three miles over the speed limit, just slower than everyone else in the other lanes. I proceed confidently on.
And then, along with drooping lids, the rearview shows me those old, familiar lights. I of course started to talk to myself the moment I sighted the cop, mumbling under my breath, providing a running commentary of my speed check and the memory process for operational running lights, etc.. Mbot’s still drowsy but not missing a word. Thankfully, Gbot has just closed his eyes. But Mbot’s interest is piqued. “Are we going to get a ticket?” he asks.
“Of course not,” I reply. There is absolutely nothing we could be cited for. The lights were just checked a month ago. I’ve got my license, insurance, and registration with me. Perhaps the fuzz just wants us to get out of the way so he can go do something really helpful, like arrest some drug lords. We pull into a parking lot. He follows us.
By this time, Mbot is fully alert. Thanks a lot, Officer-Who-Is-Not-Fighting-Crime.
After exchanging the usual pleasantries, I admitted I had no idea why I’d been pulled over.
“Your registration expired,” he said. “In December.”
I was appalled, and said so. “Aren’t I supposed to get something in the mail?” I asked.
“The MVD’s not obligated to send you a notice,” he said, setting the onus squarely on my shoulders. “And it’s kind of our responsibility as adults to keep track blah blah blah.” He didn’t actually say “blah blah blah,” but I actually stopped listening, so shocked was I at his implication that I, in my immaturity, had neglected to keep track of something so simple as my vehicle registration–something that, in over two decades of car ownership, I have never, ever not received a notification about. Ever. In fact, I am actually so mature that I helpfully forget everything that others are supposed to remember for me.
I did not explain this to my fellow adult on the other side of the car door.
He retreated with my paperwork and I explained to Mbot that we were not going to get a ticket, that the officer was simply a nice man helping people keep safe, and that he was helping us get a sticker that we could put on our license plate to show people that the car belonged to us. And then we waited. For ten minutes.
And then he came back and gave me a ticket. He had to, he explained, because of the great gaping wad of time between today and my registration expiration date. I was to renew my registration immediately and then call the County Court and ask them for their ruling on what I owe. In the event that I didn’t do this, he had helpfully circled my court time and date down here at the bottom, right above my signature which did not indicate that I agreed I was guilty.
And then he handed two familiar gold oval stickers through the window. Junior Police badge stickers. The same ones we earned just three weeks ago in Idaho when the officer did not give us a ticket for going nine miles over the speed limit.
Now, it makes sense to me to hand out Junior Police badge stickers to people to whom you do not issue citations. But to the ones you slap with a ticket? You think they’re actually going to happily hand the little badge of guilt into the backseat? I did. Adultily, I will take responsibility for the consequences of my actions (or, as the case may be, inactions). And it kept the fuss down.
Mbot, all synapses now firing miles from Snoozeland, was ecstatic. “Oh it’s just like the other one!” he cried as I pulled back onto the road. Ten minutes later, as we neared home, his voice sounded dejected. “Oh mom. It doesn’t stick if ya lick it.”
“It has special glue on it already, Moon Pie. I’m sorry.”
But I was thrilled. Now no one would have to know. And Gbot’s sticker that I’d stuck in my bag? I already had a pair of cement boots for it. Mbot continued moaning. “Oh no. Now what? We’ll have to get pulled over again, because I licked my sticker.”
At the rate we’re going, he won’t have to wait long.
Is your registration still good? Are you sure?