At 3:30 in the morning, on a dark road five miles long without a single car on it, I committed a heinous, terrible crime.
It was worse than kidnapping Charles Lindbergh’s baby, worse than O.J. killing his wife, worse than Kanye interrupting an award show.
I, the devious and cold-hearted criminal, saw a red light that was about to turn green, and instead of stopping, I — like the madman I am — drove right through it.
A police siren sounded.
The cops were behind me, the lights from their car brightening the night’s sky. I pulled over to the side of the road.
An officer — short, boyishly pudgy in the face, Italian or Irish and probably no older than 24 — got out and walked up to the driver side window. I lowered it.
“I’m pulling you over because you ran that red light back there,” he said.
“Okay, cool, ” I said. I was being nonchalant.
It was late and I was tired, and well, I did go through the light, so I handed over my license, registration and insurance. The officer shuffled back to his cruiser and I shut my car off. Then I sat there in the cold nibbling on some grapes I’d just bought from a 24-hour grocery store, waiting for him to return like D’Angelo.
After fifteen long, cold, torturous minutes, he and his partner hopped out of their cute little car. Immediately, I got nervous. Cops make everyone nervous, but two cops hopping out of a car on the side of a lonely road in Staten Island at 3:30 in the morning will make anyone extra nervous.
The officer walked up to the driver’s side window. His partner, an affable chap, waddled to the rear. He stuck his flashlight up against the back window, looking for something suspicious. Sure was glad I moved the guns and drugs into the trunk!
Then officer number 1 handed me a ticket.
“Everything you need to know is on the back,” he said. “Do you have any questions?”
I paused. Wow, what a great question. I took a second to think. Generally, I’d avoid talking to a police officer — they’re rarely friendly, and I don’t want any larger problems — but here I thought, maybe, just maybe, there was a small chance I could get out of this. I had to take it.
“Well, look man, I appreciate the effort it took you to go back into your car and write all this out,” I said. “But come on, are you seriously giving me a ticket for going through a red light at 3:30 in the morning? Like, is this for real?”
“A red light is a red light,” he said. He had a devilish grin and a toothy smile. He knew what he was doing. “These are the rules, man. You have to stop at red lights. Red lights are there to protect you.”
“Protect me?” I mused, a bunch of lolz going off inside my brain. “There is one car every thirty minutes on this road. You can’t be serious.”
“I get it,” he said. And then he did that thing people do when they don’t know how to really verbalize what they want to say: “But you know, it is what it is.”
“It is what it is?” I replied. “That’s not an explanation, man.”
He shrugged. I continued.
“I’m coming back from Manhattan and I’ve been driving an hour. I’m just trying to get home, man. And you’re giving me a ticket for going through a red light on a road that you and I both know doesn’t even need red lights.”
“Yeah and that’s the thing,” he said. “The light was turning. You should have just waited.”
“Maybe that’s the reason I went through it,” I said. I was friendly, but determined. I could beat this thing! “I saw it changing. Did you ever think of that?”
He laughed. This was all very humorous. Silly motorist thinks he can talk a cop out of something.
“Now I have a ticket and it’s like, not even worth it,” I said. “It’s 3:30. There isn’t a car on the road. Going through a red light at this hour doesn’t even count. If I really wanted to go through a red light, I’d do it at 5 in the afternoon. Then it would feel like I actually did something.”
“And I’d be right there behind you then too,” he said. “To give you a ticket.”
This fucking guy.
“Just stop at the red lights,” he said. “They’re for your own good.”
I tried to think of something to come back at him with, but all my witticisms failed me. I’d been defeated. I fought the law and the law won.
“Alright,” I said, waving the white flag. “Thanks, and have a good night.”
In the dark, I flipped the ticket over and used the light from my phone to see how much it was.
$278, plus an additional $88 surcharge! In Detroit, you can buy a house for that.
I started the car and continued driving down the road. There were no more cars, but many traffic lights. Traffic lights there to protect me.
I stopped at every one.
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