It all started innocently enough.
We were returning from a relaxing and refreshing weekend with my in-laws.
Yes, my in-laws. Seriously.
I know the common tropes associated with in-laws, but, in my case, they simply don’t apply. I had heard enough harrowing tales from friends about their spouse’s parents to feel comfortable proclaiming myself “winner of the in-law lottery” early on.
As we headed from their home north of Houston back to our home in the DFW metroplex, our brains were already shifting for our return to the “real world” of the next day. At the time, my wife and I were teachers, so we were both mentally preparing ourselves for the thousand things that faced us in the upcoming week of school.
Unfortunately, as we headed northward on Interstate 45, we came upon a fairly lengthy section of road work. Suddenly our pleasant Sunday afternoon drive was plunged into over an hour of Monday morning-like gridlock.
When traffic finally started moving again, I was anxious to make up for lost time. And then, in the first little town we encountered after the road had opened back up, one of their local constabulary reckoned I was about 17 miles per hour too anxious.
To her great credit (and with even greater restraint), my wife limited her response to a slow head shake and a nearly imperceptible rolling of eyes.
Yep. She’s a keeper.
The rest of the trip home passed without incident. We dumped the contents of our suitcases into the washing machine and fell into bed, ready to get up and at it the next morning.
Back in the whirlwind of attendance taking and test giving and homework grading that is the life of a teacher, I nearly forgot about my citation. Once I remembered, I had a thought.
What would happen if I did nothing about it?
Did the city of Tiny Wide Spot in the Road have the resources to travel 75 miles to my home and demand their pound of flesh?
If I was sure to be on my best behavior the next time I drove through their little burg, would all be okay?
And, with that, I put the whole matter out of my mind.
Life Goes On
Things continued at their usual frenzied pace for the rest of the school year and through the following summer. It wasn’t until classes resumed in the fall that I was once again reminded of my ticket.
I was headed to school early one Saturday morning when…
Hold it. I can hear you from here. “Saturday morning?!?”
For those of you who persist in thinking that teachers have it easy because they only work 8:00 to 3:00 and get summers off, two words. You’re. Wrong.
Sorry for the interruption. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.
I was headed to school on that particular Saturday morning because the following Monday kicked off Homecoming Week. As senior class sponsor, I was expected to coordinate and supervise my seniors while they decorated a designated hallway for the festivities. The idea was for all the grades to compete to determine which class had the most school spirit.
I know. It sounds ridiculous to me too. It’s just one of those things that the grown-ups in a school think that the kids in a school will think is cool, like offering inedible pizza and hamburgers and tater tots in the cafeteria instead of the usual inedible green beans and mystery casseroles.
As you might imagine, things had been busy from the start of the school year right up through this event. Things had been so hectic, in fact, that I hadn’t noticed that the inspection sticker on my car had expired. Unfortunately, the occupant of the squad car I had just passed did.
The encounter was affable, with both of us agreeing that the sticker statute he was sworn to uphold was kind of silly. He asked where I was headed, and we shared a laugh when our conversation revealed that his child was a student at my school. He took my license and returned to his car, promising to be back in a moment with only a written warning.
Relief flooding my brain, my thoughts returned to the business at hand. Glancing in my mirror at the sound of the squad car door closing, I was much surprised at the officer’s change in demeanor as he approached in my rearview.
“Did you know you had an outstanding ticket on your record?” he asked.
I didn’t answer out loud, but I did silently respond in my head.
“Oh yeah. Crap.”
I asked the officer politely what my next step should be. Should I contact the city of Tiny Wide Spot in the Road and make good on my debt? He assured me that wouldn’t be necessary as he would be the one making the arrangements after he got me to the city jail.
Thankfully, he did allow me my one phone call before packing me into the back of his car. I used it to awaken my still sleeping wife with the news that her husband had just been arrested.
A Split-Screen View of What Happened Next
As for me
The ride in the squad car wasn’t too bad. It was a little tricky to not slide around on the molded plastic backseat wearing a pair of “I’m-really-sorry-but-it’s-policy” handcuffs.
Everyone at the jail seemed nice, far more accommodating than any of the people I’d seen running jails in movies. They were very polite and expressed genuine concern as they encouraged me to take great care not to get any fingerprint ink on my clothes.
They offered me a drink and then escorted me to a cell, promising that all of this should be resolved in short order.
As for my wife
Unbeknownst to me, my phone call had immediately placed my wife into a full-blown panic. Unsure of what to do, she roused our then 17-year-old son to ask if he might.
To this day, I am not sure if my son’s knowledge in this arena sprang from involvement in shenanigans that his mother and I were not privy to or if he had wasted much of his young life watching too many TV police procedurals. No matter how this knowledge had been attained, he quickly became my advocate on the outside while simultaneously calming his mother. My release was secured quickly enough that I was able to return to the school, almost before the clanging of the cell door faded away.
Upon my arrival, the students delighted in the role reversal. For once, it was them questioning me as to the reason for my tardiness.
I boldly decided to go with the truth. “I got arrested.”
To my great relief, from student to colleague to parent, the response was essentially the same:
“Shut up, liar. You overslept. Now grab a paintbrush and help us finish this thing.”
So, How Expensive Did it Get?
I won’t bore you with the price tag of this little adventure, but I will tell you it was substantially more than the handful of dollars the city of Tiny Wide Spot in the Road wanted before I chose to blow them off.
Besides, I came out of the whole thing with a win.
Have you ever played the icebreaker game, “Two Truths and a Lie?” It’s the one where you tell new acquaintances three things about yourself, two of them factual, one of them not. Then the players have to decide which one is the fabrication.
Believe me. Whenever I throw out “Once, as a teacher, I was arrested on the way to a school function,” I win.
Every. Single. Time.