Q: What costs $124 and comes with a smile?
A: A ticket for blowing a stop sign.
This morning the kids and I sped off to school as usual, darting down Concord St and rolling through the stop sign at Parker. "Rolling" might actually be a generous term. I don't think I even stepped on the brake; I just took my foot off the gas pedal.
I kept on down Concord, chatting away with the kids and listening to NPR when all of a sudden I heard the undeniable woop woop, woop woop of a police siren. I looked in my rearview and saw him, a New Haven motorcycle cop motioning me to pull over. Crap.
"Why are you stopping?" Sean asked.
"Yeah, why are you stopping?" asked Nolan the echo.
"Because the police are pulling me over. I didn't stop at a stop sign. I just kind of .... rolled through it. And that means I broke the law. So......I'm probably going to get a ticket."
"What's a ticket?" Sean asked.
"Yeah, what's a ticket?" Echo. Echo.
"A ticket is when you pay a fine...which means you pay money because you broke the law. If I broke the law really bad, they'd put me in jail. But when you only break the law a little, they make you pay for it."
By this time the cop was by my window. I handed him my license and registration and smiled, regretting that I took off a skimpy tank top this morning and replaced it with a t-shirt.
"I rolled through that stop sign, didn't I?" I asked, smiling.
"Rolled? More like you sped through it."
"Sorry 'bout that."
"No problem. Be back in a minute."
I watched him walk back to his motorcycle and write the ticket.
"You should have stopped, Mom."
"I know, Sean."
"Yeah, Mom. You should have stopped." Echo.
"I know. It's dangerous not to come to a complete stop, right? What if someone was trying to cross the road while I was driving?"
"Great. Now we're going to be reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally late," Sean moaned.
"Exactly. And I didn't stop because we were late and I wanted to get you to school. But what happened? Now we're even more late, right? So what's the lesson?"
"Stop and we'll only be a little late instead of a lot late and having to PAY MONEY."
Sean obviously 'got it'.
"Yeah, PAY MONEY." Echo.
The cop walked back to my car, handed me back my things and gave me the ticket. 124 clams. Sheesh.
"So, I've given you a ticket for running the intersection, and if you want to contest it you'll have until the 15th of June."
"Ha!," I laughed. "I don't think I'll be contesting it. I totally blew that stop sign. Lesson learned."
He cracked up. "I'm supposed to keep my composure, but thank you for the laugh. I appreciate your honesty."
We drove off, just two blocks away from school.
"ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY FOUR DOLLARS???" Sean exclaimed. "IS THAT COMING OUT OF MY WALLET????"
"No, sweetie. It's coming out of mine."
We arrived at school and I kissed the kids goodbye. Sean's friend Hillary arrived when we did, and her mom and I talked. She's divorced, like me. And like me, she is always a few beats behind in getting her kid off to school.
Sean and Hillary walked together into class, and Sean couldn't wait to tell Hillary's mom, "Mom got a ticket for not stopping at a stop sign! Now she has to pay $124!!"
Sheila--Hillary's mom--was aghast. "$124? Why couldn't it be, like $50?"
"It's no big deal, really," I explained. "It's the first ticket I've ever received in my life."
"Are you kidding me?"
"Have you ever been stopped?"
"Oh yeah, lots of times. Guess I'm just not as cute as I used to be. Ha!"
"Oh, you're still cute. You just got a cranky cop."
"Well, at least the kids and I all learned our lesson. And now all of Kindergarten is going to hear about it."
"They'll think you're badass."
"Well I am!"
We parted ways, promising to meet up for lunch after little league soon and hopefully sip some margaritas on the deck once school lets out.
I drove off to work, smiling.
Not a bad start to the day, really. I mean, I'm 35. And this is my first ticket. And I made the cranky cop laugh.
Not bad at all.