the ticket

I got a speeding ticket today; this day of daylight savings time which, because of the springing forward of our clocks and watches and computers and wristwatches, always seems off. Not a normal, complete day, but a shortened, unsatisfying alien sort of day that you’re glad is over quickly. I decided to spend my day in a darkened theater in an attempt to escape its warm strangeness and to hasten its end. The movie I wanted to see was at an “art” house about 25 miles away, over a river, through a large metropolitin city and over a state line into a huge mass of suburban sprawl. I wore my bifocal contacts, making this an even more exciting and daring kind of trip, as the nature of the bifocal contact causes the world to be as skewed-looking as daylight savings time makes it feel. One contact is for distances, while the other contact excels at close-up reading. This makes the world kind of like a trip to a Hall of Mirrors at a cheap carnival with everything skewed and out of balance. Not impossible, but difficult and strange.
The movie was fine and suited my mood. The main character was depressed and isolated and unsure why he felt that way. The other people in his life swirled around him, puzzled and resentful. The movie theater was attached to a large mall which, like most malls these days, sat mostly empty and forlorn; abandoned by the same suburbanites that hailed its completion back in the 60s and lovingly shopped in its many stores over the years. All that was left of this mall were the two large “anchor” stores on each end and a few brave hangers-on sprinkled throughout – Topsy’s, Seasonal Accents, The Snack Shack. The shoppers all seemed to be immigrants of one kind or another – hispanic, aisian, indian – happy to have this place to shop in relative anonimity, away from the suspicious, watchful eyes of post 9/11 Americans.
I left after the 2-hour show and headed back home; back through the suburban sprawl and its largeness, driving carefully because of the bifocal contacts, mindful of my speed limit through countless construction zones, always signalling my lane changes, and feeling smug when I passed the state trooper parked under the bridge, hiding in the shadows. “I am such a careful driver” I thought to myself. Over the state line, in the metropolitin area, I wound my way over roads I had driven hundreds of times, performing my lane changes with precision and perfection, feeling safe and confident now that I was back on more familiar roads, when I saw the flashing lights in my rearview mirror. I immediately knew the lights were for me and understood that they were a cosmic punishment for my previous smugness. I pulled over into the narrow breakdown lane and stopped, trying to quickly remember what to do next. I opened the glove box and pulled out the brand new insurance card I had just gotten the previous week. When it arrived in the mail, I made a mental note to put it in the car, saying don’tforgetdon’tforgetdon’tforgetdon’tforget over and over, then feeling a sense of relief when I deposited it in my glove box, safe and sound. The policeman walked up to my window and I immediately handed him the card, which he handed back without even looking at it, saying “I don’t need to see your insurance card ma’am, just your license please.” I took my sad little insurance card back and retrieved my purse. I had just gotten a new purse the day before, and as I was unzipping it, my mind went blank and I couldn’t remember where to even begin to start looking for my license in this brand new purse-space. As I fumbled around, muttering “sorrysorrysorry, new purse” I wondered if the policeman would think I was fumbling for a gun and if so, boy was this day going to end real shitty. As it was, I found the license, he wrote the ticket (60 in a 45. 45?? on the highway??), and I carefully pulled my shameful little silver Focus back onto the busy highway feeling like a grade-schooler who had been made to stand in the corner while all the “good” kids stared and felt grateful it wasn’t THEM. Obeying all of the traffic laws, I crossed the river, took the exit to my little town, drove to my house, went to my room and cried. I don’t know how much the fine is because the ticket is buried in the bottom of the new purse and I’m not going back in there yet. I will wait until tomorrow which will be a more normal, complete day with all of its 24 hours intact.

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