Tuesday, September 15, 2009

License and Registration.

I was tailed by a police officer tonight on the way home from school. It brought back memories. I wrote this in 2007. A day after it happened:

The words alone seemed to pull me under the car and beat the shit out of me.

Again…License and Registration…

Slowing time down, millions of different scenarios taking place in my head. Some seemed like scenes out of a bad film, others were darker and more somber. In those millions of thoughts there had to be the right one; the one that would help get me out of this jam in the least harmful way. But they were flashing by too fast.

One more time…License and Registration.

Now the world grew impatient, awaiting an answer. The words resonating in my head, while everything else was dulled by their magnitude. Still under the car, only now it was moving back and forward, slowly running its wheels over me over and over again, screaming, “give him an answer, answer HIM, go, think fast, moooove!”

Slowly the cop appeared on the side of my window; he looked my age, 30 tops. “Hello officer” managed to escape my lips. “License and registration please”, I looked over at Gina; she seemed frozen, eyes wide. Calmly I replied, “Here’s the registration”, hesitation, “I don’t have a license”. There, I said it, I admitted it in front of you, gave you what you fucking wanted out of me; aren’t you a lucky son of a bitch that had to pull me over. Smile, I told myself.

And with that this seemingly normal traffic stop turned into something more. A moment where I was diminished into a criminal, judged on the circumstances and not by anything else. “Well do you have any I.D.?” hands trembling I scoured my wallet to find the appropriate thing, my University I.D. “here you go officer”. Smile. Why are my hands trembling? Look over at Gina again. Still frozen.

The cop muttered something about me going to State, some sort of feigned interest; or maybe the realization that he had possibly fucked up. “Yeah, I’m actually graduating next month.” I wondered if he’d gotten his Justice Studies Degree from state, if I’d possibly passed him by on my way to class years back? “Do you have any other form of I.D.?” Shit. I do, but not the kind that I want you to see. Again I searched through my wallet, while from the corner of my eye looking at the cop as he followed my every move. In desperation I gave him my Bank checking card, it has my picture, it’s identification isn’t it? “Got anything else?” Another cop car drove past us.

Jesus Christ! My panic began to grow. Finally I thought, fine you win, you want to see some precious I.D. well here, I gave the cop my Mexican consular ID, the famous matricula, my yellow star, my apartheid card, my “yeah I have no legal U.S. identification” identification. Take it. “ I have this,” I said as I handed it to him, not bothering to look in his direction. Don’t smile. Don’t fucking smile.

This is good,” the cop said, “I trust this more that your University I.D.” really? I would have though otherwise. “I’ll be right back, I’m going to my patrol car to make up some paper work and then ill bring your I.D. back”. Fine.

The patrol car’s search light blinded me every time I looked in the rearview, trying to see what he was doing, growing more and more frightened. I tried not to look at my sister; I didn’t want her to see me. The officer came back.

“The reason I stopped you was because the light above your license plate is out”. I didn’t believe that for a second. No, bullshit, you pulled me over because I’m driving a dirty ’91 Honda that has a rosary hanging from the rearview mirror and because I’m wearing a hat. No, not because my light’s out, but because you saw a wetback driving a car and thought that this would be a piece of cake traffic stop with no consequences on your conscience. You pulled over a stereotype and that’s all there really is to it.

“Oh” is the only thing that managed to slip past my lips. He continued, “Since it is illegal for you to drive with out a license in the state of California I will have to write you up for this, which will be a misdemeanor…” shit. A misdemeanor. “What about the light” I asked? “Well I won’t include it in the citation so that it will be a little bit less expensive for you”, thanks officer I appreciate it.

“ I’m also going to need your thumb print”, why? “You don’t have a valid federal identification, so…” I stopped listening and gave him my thumb, mumbling something about how long the misdemeanor would be in my record or some nonsense. That’s when I noticed something that seemed out of place, as I looked over to the inkpad the officer was holding I saw that his hands were shaking. Why where his hands shaking?

“Procedure is that I have to tow your car, but I’m going to go with my judgment and let you keep it” thanks officer. “I’m going to go straight to the stop sign and then make a left, what you do from there is up to you. Have nice night.” And with that he got in his car drove off like he said and the whole thing was over. I looked over to Gina, she was looking at me, we both asked each other if we were ok. Neither one answered. A few minutes passed as we sat in the car, still trying to figure out what the next step was; I didn’t want to drive Gina back to her dorm, much less back to my apartment. I looked at my sister, who was now on the phone talking with our parents, calmly trying to explain what happened. The engine of the car was off but the headlights were still on. I got out of the car, the cold wind wrapping itself around me as I walked towards the back of the car.

The red glow from the taillights covered my face as I looked at the car’s license plate; Gina came out beside me, “what’s wrong?” Nothing, nothing was wrong. That was the problem. As I stood there, covered in red, body shaking, although no longer from the cold, I saw that the license plate was fully lighted. “Lets go, we’re walking”.


  1. My goodness... what happened afterwards; to your car, to you? You weren't deported or anything, so every thing seems to have ended well overall.

  2. Gina, eh? ;-)

    Back in June I had one "close" encounter too. A police car followed me for about 2 miles at every turn I made. I'm not as a "responsible" motorist as you are, so I was sure he was going to take my bike if he stopped me. Fortunately, I'm a great driver and didn't give him a reason to do so.

    At the end nothing happened, which is a really happy ending, for me.

  3. Ille, I got a 300 dollar ticket, went to court. paid it. luckily the car wasnt taken away. but it leave a mark on me