Andale, Andale, Speedy Gonzales

I got a speeding ticket this week, my only brush with the law since my last speeding ticket in 1997 - that’s 12 years. And yes, I know I told the cop that it had been “twenty fi-ou-uhhhhh years” since my last citation, but I was allowed to exaggerate because I was really upset. And like he's going to check.

I know it’s not that big of a deal. Other people are finding out their kids got their  bellybuttons pierced or joined the Taliban, and I got a speeding ticket. Big whoop.

Still, all things are relative and my life is pretty sweet, so the ticket was the worst thing that has happened to me in a long time. Thus I was pretty upset. Mostly because two friends mentioned in the last few weeks that they got stopped for speeding and talked their way out of the ticket. “I’ve still got it!” one said. So apparently I don’t still got it. I’m not sure I ever had it. And now that the cops are young enough to be my youngest nephew, there’s no chance that I’ll ever acquire it. So you can just shut up about having it.

If you knew how I drove, you would be laughing right now. I drive a Prius and I’m on a mission to get to an average of 50 mpg and I’m getting pretty close. So I do a lot of coasting, slow starting, and I start to slow down when I see a stop sign up ahead. (I like to mess with those cocky high school kids in the school parking lot and coast up behind them, in complete silence, and when they see me back there, they can’t figure out where I came from.)  Since my windows are tinted, you might think that I’m one of Florida’s old people on my way to get some blueing put in my hair or have the skin around my eyes tightened.

So the fact that I was going 34 in a 25 in a construction zone probably did warrant some type of police action. I was wearing my seat belt, I was not texting anyone at the time, I had not had a drink in more than 12 hours -- for crying out loud, I was on my way to my piano lesson, where I’m playing Fur Elise - so if you really want to penalize me, fine me and tell my car insurance agent on me that I was speeding in the vicinity of orange cones, just do it, man.

This is only the fourth speeding ticket I’ve had, according to my records, which is my spotty memory. My first two speeding tickets were when I lived and worked in Cleveland and I had to pick up my little boy at the babysitter’s house and I would fly through South Euclid and Mayfield Heights at a highly dangerous rate of speed. My reputation as a caring yet working mother was at stake and damn it, I was going to get to the sitter’s house before 7 p.m. if I had to mow down every pedestrian in the east suburbs.

I got the first ticket, paid it, and never told my husband. Then I got the second ticket and because it was within 6 months of the first, I had to pay a huge fine and appear before the judge. I knew it was going to show up on some document somewhere, so I had to ‘fess up.

“You better sit down, I have something to tell you,” I told him when he got home from work that night. He sat. I had worked myself into a tizzy over this. I believe the first secret speeding ticket may have been the first time I ever lied to him (and only, dear, and only time I ever lied to you) so I was pretty worked up over it. May have overestimated its importance just a tad.

“I did something a few months ago that I didn’t tell you about and now something’s happened and I’m going to have to tell you and it’s really bad.”

I think he might have fainted. When I told him it was about two back-to-back speeding tickets, he kissed me on the lips. He was so glad I wasn’t pregnant with the office janitor’s baby, he didn’t care at all about the ticket.

My third ticket was when I was driving three kids from Chicago to Youngstown for Thanksgiving, meeting my husband and his entire family just in time for Thanksgiving dinner. What kind of a state trooper gives a woman a speeding ticket on Thanksgiving afternoon when she’s got three little kids in the back and a cheese dip appetizer on her front passenger seat?

I was late arriving and walked into my mother-in-law’s house just in time to sit down to dinner, not a good time to announce that I had gotten a speeding ticket (or that I had that cheese dip in the car . . .). Dessert wasn’t a good time, nor was after dinner conversation or heated up turkey sandwiches. Later, much later, the entire Fitzpatrick clan was watching a movie when my 5-year-old daughter pointed at the screen and said, “Look, a policeman! It’s just like the one who stopped Mommy!” Miraculously, no one heard her. So she said, louder, “LOOK! A POLICEMAN, JUST LIKE THE ONE WHO STOPPED MOMMY!”

Everyone looked at me.

“I was going to tell you,” I told my husband. “I’m not pregnant with another man’s baby again, either.”

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