I got a speeding ticket a few weeks ago.
I was driving near our home on a Wednesday morning, heading to the grocery store with the babies. We never, ever run errands in the morning because it messes with their first nap, but I had plans later in the day so I decided to be ultra-efficient. I was also doing something we never do: I was headed to the Grocery Outlet Bargain Market. I thought: I’m a stay-at-home-mom on a single income. This is a smart-savvy-savings ninja move that moms everywhere have discovered before me. Look at me go!
And then a cop stepped into the road and waved me over.
I was completely bewildered. I was not speeding. What the?
“Ma’am, do you know why I pulled you over?”
“No, officer, I genuinely don’t.”
He showed me the read on his radar gun: 35 miles per hour.
“Yes, but…this is a 35 zone,” I replied, still baffled.
“Yes it is,” he answered. “But it’s 9:15 on a school day.”
A tiny brain bomb exploded.
“I…I had no idea. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know…” I stammered pathetically. I glanced in my rearview mirror looking for the twins to back me up, or cry at least. Isn’t this what babies are for in a pinch?
He walked away and promptly wrote me a ticket. My giant Precious Moments eyes did nothing to garner a sympathetic let-off. I should’ve worn more makeup. Well, I should’ve worn makeup.
He handed me the ticket, I rolled up my window and promptly burst into tears. I felt royally ripped off, also like a fool, and worse, I glanced down at the ticket to see a colossal $271 staring back at me and cried even harder. The brutal irony was not lost on me of getting hit with a nearly $300 fine on my way to save nickels and dimes.
Naturally, I decided to check the little box for “mitigation hearing” so I could hopefully lower the fine.
Three weeks later I packed the kids in the car and drove across town for my hearing. More than a few people said I was insane to bring them; I said I’d be insane not to. They failed me in front of the cop but I was confident they’d do much better in front of a judge. This was nothing if not parenting at its finest.
We rolled through the door in our locomotive of a stroller, causing the security guards to react with such glee I knew their jobs involved slower policing than Mayberry. We made it through the metal detector and I got a full body wanding, just for good measure. The security guards made all kinds of exclamations about how I got around with that thing, and how full my hands must be, and how it’s a wonder I’m out of the house at all. I smiled and faked laughed as they tried to escort me down the hall to my courtroom. I told them I was fine, and they just shook their heads and chided each other about this wild twin mom in their midst.
I sat in the back row of the courtroom and quietly talked to the babies and gave them the toys I had packed. There were only five or six other people (defendants?) in the room, and it was so, so quiet. Every squeak the twins made sounded like a holler through a bullhorn.
Suddenly the security guard walked in the door at the back of the room and started talking to the judicial assistant. I paid no attention until I realized they were talking about me.
“Can you imagine? Two at once? Boy oh boy you’d never sleep!”
“I have two five years apart and it was so exhausting.”
“She said it’s a boy and a girl!”
“Well I’d be done. I wish that had been me I would’ve only had to be pregnant one time.”
They were speaking so loudly it became awkward for me not to respond. Again I fake-laughed good-naturedly, and they started to openly include me in the conversation. In front of the defendants.
“How old are they? Is it hard? Oh my gosh!”
I answered and then occupied myself with Henry who was starting to fuss. Too soon, Hank! I need you to cry when Her Honor is here!
Finally, ten minutes late (which is about thirty in twin time), the judge entered the room. She made a quick announcement about our options for dealing with our tickets, stating that we could get them reduced if there were appropriate circumstances. I felt so hopeful and then she added, “unless it’s a ticket that cannot be reduced by law, like speeding in a school zone, for instance.”
My crime would be too obvious if I left immediately. I was crossing my fingers that she’d call me last and I could plead in the privacy of my own patheticness.
Before she began the proceedings, she asked if anyone wanted to defer — to pay $150 to keep the ticket off record, and if you’re ticket-free for a year it never shows up on your record at all. I got my hopes up again, but then started mentally calculating when my last ticket was…since you can only have a deferral every seven years, it would be close.
Henry was fussing, louder and louder. I picked him up knowing that he would never go back in without crying. Of course that’s when it was also time to decide to defer.
After several others took her up on her offer, I raised my hand. She looked up my name to see if I qualified — bingo.
“Please step forward,” she told me.
I balanced Henry on my hip and pushed the stroller forward with one hand, careening around slightly and smiling sheepishly, because, remember, that’s why I brought them: sympathy points.
“Do you understand the terms of the deferral?” she asked me.
“Yes, your honor,” I replied, bouncing Henry.
“Alright, as long as you don’t get a ticket for the next year, this will be wiped from your record. So don’t speed in any more school zones,” she added.
I was offended by this, mostly because she said it like I did it as a hobby. Here I was toting two babies and she thought I was a reckless driver out to mow down the schoolchildren of America.
That comment aside, I considered this a victory. A one hundred and twenty-one dollar victory, to be exact. Provided I don’t break the law for the next twelve months. In which case, it would be not a victory at all, but rather a $321 defeat, plus the cost of the new ticket.
Ergo, the next time you see a sloth-like vehicle with two carseats in the right lane of the freeway, just give me a wave and try not to judge. At least I’m not snowplowing elementary school children.