Monday, March 14, 2011

Appearances Matter

No, today I am not talking about my physical appearance, but that of my car. For the fourth time in 6 weeks I was stopped Saturday for what I term "driving while poor."

My car is a 1993 Escort station wagon. Currently, it needs a good wash. I live in one of the most upscale areas of the Big D, a township with its own police force. Not like last week when I was stopped by the Anderson Cooper-clone policeman (when I actually did something to get stopped, completely cop to it, and he was totally polite), the other three times I have been stopped because my car sticks out like a sore thumb among a sea of Lexus, Benz, and Range Rover glossiness (think Twilight's vampire glowy-ness compared with regular human appearance and you've got it).

How do I know?

1. The policeman's attitude changes when he realizes he's pulled over a middle-aged white woman (no, I mean seriously shifts to embarrassed over-politeness or bordering-on-rudeness warning!).
2. When he finds out I work at My U, his attitude shifts again--even more positively--to the point where one policeman today stepped back two steps and apologized.
3. I get only a warning or minor ticket... accompanied by self-conscious awareness of "mistake." (Was it?)

I have been stopped for a non-working brake light, inspection stickers just over the limit (or not--more about that!), registration stickers, and nothing.

First cop followed me into the drive to the parking lot in the rear of my building. I parked, got out, and saw him. He was backing up, then stopped and got out, walked over and looked at my registration sticker and said, "I thought it was out of date." Since he picked me up at the corner and was behind me the entire time, how did he see my sticker in the front corner? Got in his car and left immedately.

Second cop gave me a warning for rear brake light--which has a short--and ended the encounter quickly once he walked up to my window.No ticket or warning.

Third cop (today) called two other cops, took my license and insurance, told me about rear light, outdated license plates, and inspection sticker. I told him yes, on spring break and Monday was day I planned to get short looked at, new plates on, and new inspection. Explained about everything. Second cop--in this encounter, there were three cars flashing at me--picked at my registration, told me there were two there, and that was the sign of a stolen car. I said, call it in. He did... oops. Then he said, "Well, you did a bad job of removing the old one!" I showed him my new plates, explained (again) about the short, spring break, etc... and he took two steps back. Then, the second and third cars drive off, no lights... and I got a warning about the late inspection which won't even be a fine if I bring evidence of current inspection as well as an explanation of why he had to pull me over.

Which is not only insulting but ridiculous: he saw me in the driveway of my building and pulled over, waited until I passed him, and pulled out behind me, lights flashing. So no inspection sticker--he wasn't close enough--no brake light--until he pulled me over--just "driving while poor."

Sigh.

Sadly, given the policemen's attitude, I guess this might end differently for people who are neither white nor work at a white collar job (like professor). While I admire policemen and believe most of them do a great job and keep us safe, are worthy of our respect for doing a tough job that makes our lives simple... wow!

Appearances seem to matter in so many ways.

1 comment:

  1. Sigh--I live in a little town and drive an older sports car. I've received similar treatment...at all hours of the day and the night. I have often insisted to my husband that we are over policed. Your story is evidence of profiling in MY mind.

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