First comes loves, then comes marriage, then comes a holding cell.
The cop waited four blocks to light me up.
This surprised me. Driving my wife’s 15-year-old sludge-colored Toyota Camry in slow city traffic, I was an extremely uninteresting driver. I hadn’t had the opportunity to speed. Or the means. The car had the acceleration of a riding mower and a top speed of Park.
“Is there a problem, sir?” I asked the mirrored sunglasses stereotype leaning in my window.
“Your tags are expired. Can I see your license, registration and proof of insurance?”
I fished my license and insurance card out of my wallet. I then opened my wife’s glove compartment and a waterfall of crap spilled out. Among the hairbrushes, empty sunscreen bottles, tubes of makeup, and receipts for every oil change and maintenance appointment she’d had for a decade, I found no registration.
“It’s my wife’s car,” I explained to Officer Mirrors. “Mine’s getting new tires put on and she could work from home today, so I’m taking her car to work.”
“That happens,” Mirrors shrugged, implying so does shit, death, taxes, and Kardashian news. “I’m going back to my car to run your license and insurance, then I’ll be back for that registration.”
“Thank you, officer.”
“First I’ll need your car keys,” Mirrors said. “Just to be safe.”
“Safe for who?”
“Ah,” I joked. “You’re worried I’ll tear out of here when you turn your back. You’re taking my keys to make things safe for you.”
“More for you,” Mirrors smiled thinly. “If that were to happen, after I caught you, it wouldn’t be pretty.”
I handed over Allie’s car keys with no further attempt at humor. The key chain had a little pink boxing glove with the words Hit Like A Girl. Mirrors looked at the key chain for a few seconds and again at me before strolling back to his car.
I tore through the rest of the Camry. The center console contained the car’s unread instruction manual and a year’s supply of Altoids. Nothing under the visors. Nothing under the seats. The back seat was pristine. Even the trunk was empty and spotless.
I dialed Allie’s phone and left a message. I called three more times; nothing. I texted her five 911 ASAP texts, with no reply.
Allie loses her phone more often than she answers it. She also never checks her voicemail or texts. In our three weeks of marriage, Allie’s friends and family had already started calling and texting me with “please tell Allie this …” requests. I embraced this. I helpfully replied to dinner offers from my in-laws’ with “Allie says she needs some more newlywed alone time.”
Mirrors knocked on the roof of my car. He looked down at me through the open window, and it was not a happy look.
“Did you find your wife’s registration?” Mirrors asked, putting a doubtful spin on wife.
“No … she isn’t answering her phone.”
“That happens,” Mirrors sighed. “Here’s the problem. Your last name is Brickeen and you live in Mountain View. This car is registered to somebody with the last name of Hall, who lives in Los Altos. Your insurance indicates you only own an Outback, not this car. The person who owns this car is not insured for your Outback.”
I nodded. Mirrors nodded. We nodded together, silently, awkwardly, both not liking where this was headed.
“You see what this looks like, Mr. Brickeen.”
“Like my wife is getting a well-deserved citation?” I suggested.
“Or like you stole her car.”
“Oh ... Look, we were married three weeks ago and just got back from the honeymoon last Saturday. See?” I extended my hand, showing my wedding ring.
Mirrors nodded thoughtfully.
“Allie hasn’t changed her name or address yet.”
Mirrors kept nodding.
“And we both haven’t changed our insurance yet.”
Mirrors nodded more slowly.
“And if I was going to steal a car, it sure wouldn’t be a crappy depression-colored Toyota Camry with two hundred thousand miles on it.”
“My wife drives a Camry.”
“Which makes her a very practical woman.”
“You don’t know my wife,” Mirrors growled.
This ended his wife as a topic of conversation. Awkward silence seemed safer.
“Please get out of the car, sir.” Mirrors finally ordered.
“Am I getting arrested?”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
I got out of the car. Mirrors and I looked at each other again, with the now familiar awkward silence that’s usually accompanied by peeing next to a stranger at a public urinal.
“You’re probably telling the truth,” Mirrors said. “But there’s a small chance you stole your ex-girlfriend’s or some stranger’s car, and I can’t rule that out.”
I nodded in agreement. I also texted Allie for the twenty-sixth time.
“I’ve also got other things to do than sit here and wait for your wife to call back,” Mirrors continued. “So I’ll have you leave the car here for now. I’ll have it towed somewhere safe. Then you can wait in a comfortable air conditioned station while I continue with my day.”
Mirrors opened the back door of his police car. I didn’t mind the perp ride to the station. I did mind getting shivved and raped in the holding cell. My mind helpfully replayed every violent prison show I’d ever seen.
“I’d prefer not,” I said reflexively.
“You mean you’d prefer not to be in handcuffs?” Mirrors raised an eyebrow. “You’re getting in the car, sir. Your only choice is the easy way or the hard way.”
I hopped in the back of the police car and Mirrors shut the door hard.
Mirrors sat in the front seat and looked at me through the grill.
“Just to make this official,” Mirrors said, “you have the right to remain silent.”
My cell phone rang.
“This isn’t really the time for silent,” I apologized and put the phone on speaker.
“Hi Marshall!” Allie said happily, as if nobody was getting arrested. “I just — ”
“Allie! Where is your registration!”
“The registration to your car!”
“What’s going on?” Allie asked. “Are you in trouble?”
“Trouble?” I wailed. “I’m getting arrested! In a few minutes my mugshot will be online for all my company and clients to see! And after that I’ll be in jail becoming some hairy biker’s prison bitch! Unless I find your registration right now!”
“What’s going on?” Allie repeated. Like her Camry, my wife’s brain did not accelerate in an emergency.
“Ma’am,” Mirrors said. “This is Officer Todd Fannin of the San Jose police department. I found somebody driving your car, and I need to verify that your car has not been stolen. Can I get your name, address, and date of birth?”
Allie verified her identity. And mine. And disclosed that her registration was under the trunk panel, on top of the spare tire … “so it won’t get lost.” Mirrors checked everything with Allie on speaker phone before letting me out of his car.
“Thank you for clarifying this, Mrs. Brickeen,” Mirrors said. “I’m going to let your husband go with a warning.”
“Do you have to let him go?” Allie laughed. “I wouldn’t mind the peace and quiet if you kept him in jail for a few days.”
Mirrors looked at me, considering the request. Allie is a humor novice and picks the worst times to experiment with powers she doesn’t understand.
“Your husband does seem a little tightly wound,” Mirrors agreed. “A night in a crowded cell would do him some good. If there’s anything you’d like to report, I could hold him for a while.”
“His cooking is a felony,” Allie replied. “And his dancing is so spastic it qualifies as indecent exposure. Or justification for a psychiatric hold.”
“This isn’t funny,” I muttered.
“I think it’s hilarious,” Allie laughed.
“Your wife has an excellent sense of humor,” Mirrors said gruffly. “Unlike you.”
“He’s a work in progress,” Allie continued. “But you’d better send him back to me. Marshall will make more progress under my supervision than under a hairy biker in lockup.”
“Maybe …” Mirrors said doubtfully. “Good luck with that, Mrs. Brickeen.”
Mirrors ended the call and gave me back my phone.
“Hiding her registration in the spare tire is a little weird,” Mirrors said as he walked away. “But other than that, she’s a keeper. I wish my wife had more in common with yours than owning a Camry.”
If you like my Amateur Husband/Bad Dad humor, I have a lot more like this on Medium and a new one comes out every week. Here’s last week’s story: Have you hugged a giraffe today?
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