Several months ago I was caught speeding going east on U.S. 211 near my exit to Flint Hill. Yup. I was doing 69 mph. Guilty. I was pulled over by a state trooper. The first thing you need if you are ever pulled over is your driver’s license, and mine was in my purse. My purse was in the back seat. I couldn’t reach it, so I opened my door to get out and retrieve it. Bad move. “M’am, get back in the car.” “But my purse is in the back seat and I can’t reach it.” “M’am, stay in the car, you are making me nervous.”
Holy cow, I thought. I’m making you nervous? I am 61 years old, female, 5-foot-1, hovering around 200 pounds. I am driving my mother-in-law’s 1987 Volvo. Oh, and if it matters, I am white. Well, I do have some Mediterranean coloring left over from when my ancestors were expelled from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition. What I don’t have are long arms.
“Officer, I can’t reach my purse, may I get out and retrieve my purse?” “M’am, no, you are making me nervous, stay in the car.” “Can you get the purse out, officer?”
Nope, he couldn’t. My husband couldn’t either, because, having had a brain tumor removed, he couldn’t use his left hand, I told the officer. He looked at me like this was an absolutely insurmountable problem. No, I could not get out of the car. Embarrassingly, I wrenched my substantial personage around, wedged myself between the steering wheel and the seat, got up on my knees, dug my fingers into the seat back, reached over the head rest, stretched to my max length, grabbed a part of the purse with a finger, and reeled it in. I hoped that didn’t make him nervous, but it sure made me nervous.
I was guilty of speeding. But getting pulled over shouldn’t be a frightening experience in our part of Virginia. A simple, “M’am, do you know how fast you were going?” and “I’m gonna have to write you a ticket” would have taken care of it. I could have taken the purse out safely, in a non-threatening manner.
Now days, if I do use 211 (I try to avoid it), I crawl along, especially in the area of Little Washington, and let all those cars going east fly past me.
In a day and age of tension between the public and police, maybe it is time to stop overreacting. My husband and I always send a note or make a call to a supervisor praising any public servant who has done a professional job — much to their surprise, since most calls are negative.
Let’s cultivate a culture of respect that goes both ways here in Virginia.
Rabbi Rose Jacob