The minor fine

Visiting the grandkids last summer. A drive to Pittsburgh. And just as we pull off the exit I see the red and blue lights blinking in my rearview mirror. Huh? What did I do?

I pull over. First thought in my head – I had better find the registration and insurance card. So I dive into the console, my wife looks in the glove box. The officer saunters over with a smile on his face.

I ask, “What did I do?” as I keep digging. Still smiling he says my inspection sticker is out of date. Are you kidding me? The car was in the shop just the other day for an oil change. No one noticed the sticker?

The officer chuckles as we keep digging for the registration and proof of insurance. He says, “Look for the thick stack. Most folks have a pile of them. Nobody throws them out. They just add to them.”

We find the registration, no proof of insurance. I remember, I paid it while out of town. I forgot to put the card in the car. My bad.. But I get a break. He charges me for the out of date sticker. He overlooks the insurance issue, a fine 5 times higher. Hey, thanks.

But later I start thinking. We spent a long time digging in the console and glove box. Why was the officer chuckling? Would the scene have been any different if my complexion was a bit darker? Would he have been more serious? Would the officer think I was reaching for a gun? Would his gun have been out? Why weren’t my hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel? Why didn’t the officer notice? Do you think I would have gotten the charge with the bigger fine if I wasn’t fair skinned?

I had worked all day. I was tired. I wasn’t in the best mood. Face it, I was cranky. I was pulled over for a registration sticker after driving the I-79 speedway. That is what this officer was worried about on a busy Friday night?

And after we did everything wrong, he laughed. He cajoled. He let us root around for our information.

We saw no gun. We were not threatened. We weren’t shot. I got the minor fine. Because we are crackers?

James Spangler, OD,