Okay, I didn’t really have brushes with the law enforcement, the title simply had a nice right to it! These are some occasions when I was stopped by the cops while driving. 

Occasion 1

In the first month after I started driving, I was on my way to pick up my Dad and participate in a bridge tournament. Around 4:00 pm. I started driving and got on Highway 66. Pretty soon, I was stopped by a cop, he asked me to pull over. “This is an HOV-2 highway from 3:30 to 6:00 pm,” he told me. Oh-oh. HOV stands for High-occupancy-vehicles; to avoid traffic congestion at certain times, the concept of HOV is introduced, HOV-2 means the car should have 2 people. I knew about HOV lanes, i.e. if your car did not have 2 people, you could not be in that lane. This was the first time I was hearing of HOV highways. There were other cars as well pulled over. He meticulously and methodically wrote the tickets and delivered them to each of us.  

Having grown up in India, I always thought that having any run-in with the police was not something that happened to decent people. I was filled with ignominy on receiving the ticket. As the officer was leaving, with my hung head, I meekly said “I’m sorry, officer.” The Officer looked back, mildly surprised. “Oh!” he cheerily replied, “As you see, I catch many people!” He had brought a smile to my face; I picked up my Dad and we ended up having a good game of bridge!

Occasion 2

I was stopped by a cop thrice in a week, this being the first one. I was driving down George Washington Parkway when a cop flashed his lights. I duly stopped. He asked me, “Did you stop by that scenic drive?” When I said No, he sent me along my way. I wish the next two were as benign as this. 

Occasion 3 

I went to pick up my brother from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville to spend the weekend with me in Arlington. When driving inside the campus, I was stopped by a cop. I was just driving 30 miles per hour! “The speed limit inside the campus is 15 miles per hour,” she told me. She let me off with a warning but asked me to be careful when driving inside the campus. “You must be a very bad driver,” our friend told me, “You keep getting stopped by cops.” 

Occasion 4

I was going to drop my brother back to Charlottesville. It was Labor Day, a holiday for me, but for some reason the University of Virginia was open. We started around 6:00 am and I drove my brother down. It was one straight road from my place to his. The speed limit was 60 mph, but nobody did 60, people did 65-75 depending on their tendencies, the flow of traffic, and other conditions. I too was going at a higher speed. At the halfway point, past Culpeper, as I was zooming through the drive, I noticed a cop car flashing his lights. Uh oh. I stopped. The Officer, whose name I gathered later was Lt. Fielding, asked me if I knew I was speeding. I acknowledge that I did. He said, “You’re the third person I caught speeding today,” and went back to his car. The previous incident still fresh in my mind, I told my brother, “He is likely to let us off with a warning.”

Not today. He gave me my first speeding ticket. I tried my luck. “Officer, couldn’t you let me off with a warning?” He shook his head. “On Federal Holidays, we want to specially make sure that the roads are safe, so I’m afraid I have to give you this ticket. You guys have a nice day!”

I should take a moment here and note that both the officers who gave me a ticket, on occasion 1 and this occasion, were clear that they were doing their jobs, and didn’t want to belittle me or make me feel bad. 

Contesting the Ticket in Court

For whatever reason, I decided to contest the ticket in court. The court date was a Thursday. I took that day off, wore the nicest suit I had (translate that to the only suit I had) and drove down to Madison County, which was the place I got a ticket. I went inside the courtroom. The judge was smiling, looked avuncular, this might be a good sign. When it was my turn, I mustered the best sad face I could and asked the judge to let me go this time. The judge, still smiling, told me that he couldn’t do that and that I had to pay the fine. Oh well, I tried.

A Bonus Occasion

In 2010, my Dad and I went grocery shopping around 10 pm and were driving back to my apartment. When we were nearing my apartment, I was stopped by a cop. “Did you know your headlights were off,” he asked me. I said that I was not aware of this. This time, he did let me with a warning, but exhorted me to be careful, because, “You could kill someone if your headlights are off.” Right, the price of carelessness could indeed be severe. If you would allow me to digress a bit, I find road rules being broken routinely in India. I’d love to see a version of India where society appreciates the need to follow rules and makes this a cultural norm. 

Another Bonus Occasion

In 2006, I commuted to work via the George Washington Parkway everyday. The speed limit was 40 mph, but nobody followed this – everyone did at least 50 and routinely went up to 55 or 60. I too built this muscle. On one occasion, I was going 60, when the car in front of me was doing 40. I overtook him, and glared at him as if saying “Why are you going so slowly, can’t you speed up?” A couple of seconds later, I could hear police sirens from his car.

Uh oh. Was this a cop car? I slowed down to 40, unsure of the consequences to follow. He came beside me, returned my glare, and went on his way. I stuck to 40 mph the rest of the drive. I then realized that George Washington Parkway was the way to go to the CIA headquarters in Langley, he might have been a CIA official.

I hope you enjoyed reading my brushes with law enforcement, err, the instances where I got stopped on the road.

Image Credit: Jeff Dean at Wikipedia

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Prahalad Rajkumar

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