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.
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. 🙂