Blue hair, bald eyes
Aspen, CO Colorado
The trap was set and I was the prey. Coasting gently down the hill, the speedometer crept past 35. There was the cop. I instinctively hit the brakes, but it was too late. The patrol car pulled out and switched on the light show.
A young female officer got out of the car. I watched her through the rearview mirror as she approached. Another officer got out of the other door, ready to back up the woman in the brand new uniform.
His gun hand was ready. This was my Rodney King moment, and I sat quietly.
The young woman asked for the necessary paperwork. There was a mild stammer in her voice that told me she was new to the force. I’m sure I was one of her first offenders, one of her first victims. This was my guinea pig moment, and I sat quietly.
“Stay in your vehicle, sir,” she admonished, “for your safety and mine.” I said I would, and she returned to the patrol car. She and the other officer climbed back into the patrol car. The lights were still flashing. This was my “patience is a virtue” moment, and I sat conspicuously.
Now I had plenty of time to fume, and fume I did. Me, with a clean driving record for 25 years. … 25 years of (more or less) obeying the law! I had not even been in a hurry. I was literally idling down that hill. It was simply unfair. UNFAIR! This was my “victim hood” moment, and I sat quietly.
The minutes crawled by like hours. I glanced back in the rearview mirror and saw her scribbling on the citation form. Then she would stop and speak to the other officer, who spoke back. I could see their lips moving. Then she scribbled some more. What was she writing, a law enforcement manual?! This was my “silent fury” moment, and I sat quietly.
All along, I assumed she would merely issue a warning. After all, with a clean driving record, a fuel efficient car and all my documents in order, a warning was all I deserved. This was my “state of denial” moment, and I sat quietly.
Finally, after what seemed an eternity, she opened her door and got out. The other officer got out, too.
He stood behind his door, gun hand ready. Cautiously, she approached and stood just behind my car door. I had to crane my neck to make eye contact.
This was my “moment of truth” moment, and I twisted in my seat.
“Officer,” I begged, “please tell me you’re not issuing me a ticket. I wasn’t going very fast … barely faster than a walk. I hope you’ll give me a break here.” This was my “plead like hell” moment, and I twisted inside.
Her expression gave the answer. It was the blank look of the bureaucrat, the civil servant, the executioner. She spoke in a rehearsed, mechanical tone: “I’m giving you a citation, sir, for going 12 miles per hour over the speed limit. There are a lot of bicyclists on this road. Schools let out soon and there can be children here.” This was my “face the music” moment, and I twisted even more.
I looked up at the officer and asked for her name.
She gave it. “Lauren,” I said paternally (I was old enough to be her grandfather!), “How long have you been on the force?” She answered that this was her fourth day in this region. I grumbled audibly. This was my “question authority” moment, and I glared contemptuously.
“If you will just sign here, you can pay your ticket within twenty days… unless you want to fight it, which you can do in court.” I signed my name and she tore out the ticket and handed it to me. “Have a nice day, sir, and please keep your speed down.” This was my “Zen acceptance” moment, and I clenched my jaw.
Later, I read the citation to see if this rookie had made any errors that could be contested in court.
Aha! There were two! In the physical description section, right after the “W” she had scrawled in the box marked “race,” she had mixed up the “hair” and “eyes” boxes. According to the citation, my hair was “blue” and my eyes were “bald.” This was my “bittersweet” moment, and I chuckled mirthlessly.
“Your honor,” I silently worded my protest, “Blue hair and bald eyes? This is the description of a space alien. I appeal to the court to dismiss this citation on the grounds of mistaken identity.” This was my “losing contact with reality” moment, and it passed as soon as I paid the ticket.
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For the past five-plus years I have sat in a big chair in a small office on Hyman Avenue watching life in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley play out in front of me.