Last week I was driving through Ithaca and I have to confess that I was talking on my cell phone. As I pulled onto Estey I saw the police officer, and I saw him see me. I hung up immediately, but as I sat at the red light, I watched the patrol car make a leisurely u-turn as he pulled up behind me with his lights flashing. There were times in my life where I would have been furious about that traffic ticket, but now it has a different effect on me. First, I was really glad that I was going the speed limit and had made a full stop at the light. Second I though “I am getting this ticket because I broke the law. And it is a law because it has to do with my safety and the safety of my community.”
And why was I assiduously going the speed limit? Because last year I was pulled over for not slowing down to 30 as I passed through the town of Van Etten. But you know what? Even if I drive exactly the speed limit, stop completely at every stop sign and never talk while driving again, I will still feel that little guilty jolt in my stomach every time I see a patrol car behind me. Why? Because I know I'm not perfect, and when I see those lights in my rear view mirror, some inner part of me does a quick moral inventory. It's like my own conscience is driving that patrol car,combined with some basic distrust of authority. And when the officer walks up alongside my driver side door, I wait for the verdict. "Do you know why I stopped you?" I run through possible traffic mistakes from the last half hour, gaps in vehicle maintenance (is that tail light out again?!) political party affiliations, failings as a mom. None of us will ever be perfect, that’s just part of being human. But I sure do pull over now when the phone rings.