Not an Elizabethan Tragedy

I was only an exit away.  In other words, I was primed to be stopped by the cops.

It was October 1, 2002.  My last day living in Washington, DC.  My first day living in New Jersey.  A state roundly mocked by one Ralfast only seven years and three weeks later.  😉

I was stuffed into a rental car with my belongings, making the drive to my new home.  I wasn’t, to be honest, very happy about this move.  I had been having bad dreams about it.  But still, I was speeding toward my new home.  Because that’s what I did.  Speed.

It’s less about the destination and more about the journey, after all.

And so it was, one exit away from my new home, that I saw the lights pick up and the car swerve behind me, and I knew the day was getting even better.

He walked up to my window, so I rolled it down.

“I stopped you,” he said slowly, chewing over his words, “because you were flying.” 

He didn’t bother looking into the car; standing authoritatively above me was good enough for him.  For me, too.

I silently passed him my license and registration.  I mean, I’m of the mindset that I’m free, and likewise free to pay the consequences of my actions.  I don’t ask to be released from tickets.

He took my info and walked away.  I rested my eyes on the ramp sign ahead and tried not to think of my life left behind, and the feeling I had that I was heading for trouble.   He came back, cleared his throat.

“Your plate’s from Virginia,” he said, as if this was news to me.

“Yes,” I said.

“What’re you doin’ out here?”

“I’m moving.”  I tried not to think about the fact that I was moving.

“Where to?”

I tried not to think about it.  But I had to answer him anyway.


Now he lowered his head.  Looked in the car.  Right at me. 


My lips trembled and I spoke quickly, to get the words out before my feelings could take me over.   Tears rolled out anyway.

He was silent, watching me.

Then– “Have you SEEN Elizabeth?”

“Yes!”  Now I bawled.  I sensed him walk away.

I was sniffling when he returned.  He snapped a sheet of paper into the car.  I took it from him.  I didn’t look at it.  Was it over?  I looked at him. 

“This,” he said, “is a non-moving ticket.”

I stared at him, confused.  “What?”

“A non-moving ticket,” he explained helpfully.  I didn’t know where to look.  “For not moving,” he said.

I was numb.

“But, isn’t that…the opposite of what I was doing?”

He walked away. 

I should have mulled it longer, but instead I put the ticket away, and sped to my new home.  I’d end up forgetting about the ticket; discovering indeed, the move was a mistake (although it was also the life-changing kind that teaches you a lot about yourself and therefore you cannot regret it); taking on community theater (joys!); living on ramen noodles and coffee in between scant paychecks, and later being subpoenaed to go to court (provoking new rounds of shock and horror) to pay the forgotten bill (which had been sent to my old address).

What a year.  And what a way to start it.  🙂

Construction Worker Takes a Call

Construction Worker Takes a Call


About sputnitsa

Born in the US, I grew up in Africa and the West Indies, and returned stateside in my teens. I've worked in international development, social justice and democracy work, and inclusivity training both domestically and overseas. I have served in Peace Corps, where I experienced my first Russian invasion, after which I volunteered with refugees and mentored youth. I vacation climbing minarets and mountains, as well as exploring theaters, museums and parks. Here in New York, I produce short films, direct short plays, and write.
This entry was posted in Elizabeth, life, moving, New Jersey and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Not an Elizabethan Tragedy

  1. ralfast says:

    “Roundly mock”, I did no such thing! Just pointed out the obvious.


  2. hope101 says:

    Yikes! That’s a pretty sad state of affairs when a new address makes a cop pity you.

    I wonder how often police officers discover their speeders are distressed. The only time I got a speeding ticket was one of my own personal days from hell. At that moment, the possibility of dying from a car accident was the farthest thing from my mind, because my family was falling apart.

    • sputnitsa says:

      Aw man. I hope your family recovered!

      I had a boyfriend once who was stopped by a cop on his way to see me. He’d run a red light. The cop started writing him up a ticket, laughing the whole time because my ex had been standing at the light, and only ran it once the cop pulled up beside him. He’d saw the cop in his peripheral vision, and didn’t think he (the cop) was braking, so he accelerated, thinking the light had changed and he’d not noticed. Anyway, the cop ended up letting him go without a ticket because my ex asked him to hurry because he was late to see me, and I’d be pissed as he’d already stood me up earlier that day.

      He let him go, I say! Yowza. Those poor cops. 🙂

  3. I once got a letter in the mail saying that my wishes to fight my car ticket had been approved and to come in on such-and-such day.

    I didn’t have a car. I didn’t drive. I’d never gotten a ticket. I’d never filed to fight the ticket I’d never gotten.

    I called and was told to come in on the day stated. The judge stared at me. Stared at some paper in his hand. Stared at me. And then said, “Okay. No prior tickets. We’ll let this one go.”

    I thanked him and then started to tell him I’d never actually even received *that* one. He didn’t care. He wished me a good day. I left.

  4. Yarnspnr says:

    My what a naughty li’l girl you were in your younger years! Perhaps Elizabeth NJ was your purgatory for past sins. At least you got out quickly without being drawn into its darker side! I grew up about 100 miles north of Philly. People here considered NJ to be the place where Philadelphia dumped their trash. I sold cameras to dealers all over the state but that was years ago. I got a feeling your new gig is going to bring you around quite nicely. IF you can get over those 12 hour days. I worked 60+ hour weeks managing for McDonalds. That was before they changed the labor laws for fast food places. Anyway, best of luck with that. I could do it when I was young – but not anymore! 🙂

  5. sputnitsa says:

    Ha! Nope, I was quite good, actually. The limit on that highway–HIGHWAY, I tell you–was 60 miles an hour. SIXTY! Unreasonable. Unseasonable. Unsound!

    I do love my new job. It rocks, and I’m happy every day that I go to work. 🙂 And that’s a wonderful thing. 🙂 Don’t get me wrong–I’m also happy on days off, too!!!

    60+ hour weeks–that’s hard… That’s not for me anymore either. I did my time earlier! I believe strongly in work/life balance. 🙂 🙂

  6. Becke Martin says:

    Aww, that was kind of sweet. I think.

    I felt the same way when we moved to New Jersey many years ago. Moving to England didn’t bother me. New Jersey? C’mon — everyone has heard about New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen notwithstanding.

    But it turned out where we lived was really nice. Godawful expensive, but nice. We lived past Morristown, in Succasunna. That’s by Chester, not far from Sparta and the Delaware Water Gap. It was like living on a different planet compared to Chicago, but not bad. Hope you like Elizabeth. Drive to Montclair sometime — there is a killer view of NYC from there.

    • sputnitsa says:

      THANK YOU! It’s so true.

      What I don’t mention in the above anecdote is that when he asked me “Have you SEEN Elizabeth,” my verbatim response was: “Yes, but, B-b-bruce Springsteen…*BAWL*” 🙂 🙂 🙂

      It does depend where you live. There’s a gorgeous area of NJ near Westfield, too, and yeah, down south there are some lovely bits of nature. But for a “Garden State,” it could use more nature in its underbelly-of-New-York side, too.

      Oh, as for Elizabeth, I moved away a year later. 🙂 🙂 🙂 Montclair, huh? Shall have to check it out when visiting NJ friends! 🙂 Thanks for the recommendation and the good wishes! 🙂

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