Snooki, the pint-size hellion from the fabled reality show Jersey Shore has been in the news more than usual the last couple of weeks. (By the way, having owned a house at the Jersey Shore for many years before my trek west, it is hardly anything like it is depicted in the show. It is quite beautiful, very family-oriented and there are only a few places that are as raunchy and ridiculous as this strange crew depicts.)
Well, the group is filming in one of my most favorite places, Florence, Italy, and Snooki somehow managed to rear-end her police escort which landed her in hot water as well as a neck collar. Yesterday I read she had her international license yanked because of the incident. Had I known Snooki, I would have warned her. I have been to Italy many times and to the Italians, a red light is merely a suggestion. I have been in taxis that went up on sidewalks to beat traffic, the wrong way down one-way streets (on purpose) and frequently would literally land me at my destination with screeching and smoking brakes announcing my arrival. I have also seen them driving well over the speed-limit (I am kilometer-challenged so I don’t always know how fast they are actually going) holding a cell phone up to their ear with one hand and gesturing with the other. (Yes, Italians really do almost always speak with their hands as well as their mouths.) I can only guess that they are steering with their knees. I’ve tried that, but being short, it doesn’t work.
Which brings me to this week’s traffic tale.
Saturday I was on my way to MOTNSO’s (“More Often Than Not Significant Other”) son’s graduation. MOTNSO lives 40 miles from me and his son’s school was even further. Because 1,000 kids were graduating and there was no reserved seating, we had to get to the campus well before the 9:00 playing of Pomp and Circumstance in order to secure a seat.
I was due at his place no later than 7 a.m. Since this was the first time I would be meeting MOTNSO’s ex-wife as well as other family members, it was important I look my best. That was the beginning of the latest Fashion Crisis. I had carefully selected one outfit because the prediction was for our usual sunny and warm weather. I awoke Saturday at 5:00 a.m. to June gloom and even (gulp!) a little spritz of rain and it was definitely quite cool. I once again became a cartoon character in my closet going at high speed, tossing stuff aside, rapidly ripping off various outfits until I found something that seemed to work.
I jumped into Black Beauty (my little convertible) and went flying out of the garage, then had to back up all the way down the street again because I was sure I’d forgotten to close the front door (I had closed it.) Now I was really running late. I got onto the 5 freeway, which fortunately at 6:15 a.m. on a grey Saturday was not too crowded. I quickly made my way over to the fast lane and let Black Beauty take the lead and just zoned out.
I was so zoned out that I never saw the California Highway Patrol car until he was right on my tail with lights and sirens. I am usually quite careful and despite the movie, Gumball Rally’s mantra that “…what’s behind you is not important…” when I am flying as I was then, I repeatedly check the rearview to see if there are any suspicious looking sedans in sight.
Now, I have been driving for almost 45 years. I have had one ticket, about 35 years ago, from a cop I knew in the town where I lived while I was on my way to pick up my two oldest at nursery school, who were coincidentally in class with this very nice officer/friend’s kids. That was adding insult to injury. I have been pulled over, but always given a pass or just a warning because I have no tickets. But that was New Jersey, land of the highest car insurance rates in the country. I am in the Golden State, not the Garden State.
I was actually shaking when I pulled off the 5 and did my best to find a safe spot for the officer to get out. I put down my driver side window and was looking in its side-view mirror to see where the CHP was when a tap on the passenger side window caused me to jump about three feet. There he was, all 5’6″ of him, operating under standard procedure which meant he had his hand on his holster while he peered in the car at me from behind reflective sunglasses. (It was cloudy…why was he wearing sunglasses? to intimidate me further?) It was not Eric Estrada and I was not being filmed for some kind of new reality show as I had hoped . In a brief minute of pure insanity I thought that I could “take him” because I’ve been going to Boot Camp and he was small, but he had the gun, so I gave up on that idea. Besides, I was already in big trouble.
“I’ve pulled you over because you were exceeding the maximum speed limit of 65 mph, Ma’m. May I see your license, registration and insurance?” (He was very polite and nice. No yelling, just a steady, even voice.)
I fumbled around in my purse, opened the glove compartment to find the registration and everything I had shoved in there over the last 15 months went tumbling onto the floor of the car: hand lotion, Purell, business cards, dental floss (don’t ask) my Fasttrak responder, pads, pens, sox and two boxes of moldy Tic Tacs. You wouldn’t think you could fit all that in there, but I did. I was smart enough to tell him the registration was in the glove compartment since he still had his hand on his gun. I was shaking so much that everything kept falling out of my hands. I kept muttering that I was speeding because I was late for a graduation and this was my first violation in 35 years and I thought I may have seen a flash of sympathy cross his face but it was hard to tell behind the sunglasses.
He went back to his car which still had the lights flashing. I was really grateful that it was a Saturday morning and there weren’t many people around. Speaking of being “around”…I also had absolutely no idea where I was because once I get off the 5 anywhere but the three or four exits I usually use, I am in NoMan’s Land. I thought I may have been in Santa Ana, but that wasn’t a given.
The whole time he was gone I kept praying “Please just a warning, please just a warning, please just a warning.”
No such luck. He came back with this pile of carbonless papers and told me to sign in the box but it was no admission of guilt. (Yeah, right?) I did so, even though I could barely make out where the box was because I didn’t have my glasses on. The whole time he was giving me the speeding ticket spiel: “You do not have to appear in court…you will receive information in the mail…blah blah blah.” He ended with “Do you know how to get back on the 5?” I did not. He kindly directed me to cross over the four lanes, make a U-turn and the entrance would be right there.
Now, Black Beauty presents a problem with blind spots when her top is up. On my way to cross the four lanes, I did not see the pick up truck who was in the next lane. What alerted me to the fact that he was there were the squealing brakes followed by an ear-piercing blast of his horn. Officer Shortguy turned on his speakers and said “Careful, Ma’m, careful!” I was sure I was going to get another ticket.
So I got on to the 5, proceeding at 45 mph, in the right lane with my flashers on and continued on my way to MOTNSO’s. We did make it to the graduation on time (MOTNSO drove from his house and since he taught drivers’ ed for 13 years, he obeys every law, even some I didn’t know existed) so we got there safe and sound and took the seats that his lovely ex had saved for us since she got there first.
On my way home from the wonderful event, I was trying my best to keep it under 75 when in my rear-view mirror I saw flashing lights coming up quickly behind me and I thought I was going to throw up. Fortunately, the CHP passed me by and a couple of miles down the road, there was Officer Shortguy with some other poor sap on the side of the road. I thought about honking and waving but then I remembered that he probably would not be glad to see me.
When I put my glasses on and actually looked at the ticket, Officer Shortguy had actually cut me a break. I knew I was probably doing 85 or more but he wrote the ticket for 79, which kept me in a lower fine range. I may not have to hock jewelry to pay it after all. Well, maybe just some small pieces.