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I guess my best bet will be to start out by confessing: Iâ€™m a big fat liar. I never imagined Iâ€™d disclose this fact, especially in such a public forum. But before you think Iâ€™m proud of it, or even making my mea culpa to obtain some sort of absolution, I want to assure you Iâ€™m only coming clean (thatâ€™s my very best criminal jargon) because Iâ€™m still shaking my head wondering how in heavenâ€™s name I managed to not only lie, but do so like some dame in a film noir sort of universe.
This sort of revelation by one as previously pristine as yours truly certainly deserves some explanation.
A couple of months ago I got a notice in the mail that Iâ€™d been caught on camera making an illegal left turn on a red arrow, and as a result I had to fork over $480. The citation was issued by the City of Ventura, which is a next door neighbor to my home here in Carpinteria. I donâ€™t go there often, but when I do, itâ€™s usually for something like a movie or to sample what a new restaurant has to offer. It just so happened that the date shown on the ticket corresponded with a date when Iâ€™d been there, so my initial reaction was to wonder how in the heck did I manage to miss a red arrow? I even pondered this on Facebook, because I pride myself in being a very conscientious driver, so I was appalled that I had somehow managed to so blatantly disobey the rules of the road.
I want to mention right here and now that one of my brothers (who shall remain nameless) alluded to my aging years as the possible culprit. If memory serves me (and thank goodness, it still does!) he even alluded to the thought that perhaps it was time for me to hand over my driverâ€™s license and hang up my keys. Tom, (oops, I mentioned his name, how forgetful of me), just remember you are not too old for noogies or wedgies!
The original citation also said I would receive an actual picture of my infraction shortly. I spent a couple of days hoping the pictures wouldnâ€™t make me look fat, because itâ€™s bad enough to get caught disobeying the law, but, if you ask me, the real crime is not looking good in the act.
When the pictures arrived, it was immediately apparent I was not the driver. Not only wasnâ€™t I the driver, but it wasnâ€™t even my car. I wish I could say that was the end of it, but unfortunately, I not only knew the driver (heâ€™s my son), but the car is leased in my name (donâ€™t ask, just remember I am a wonderful mother and amazing role model!).
So, Iâ€™m thinking since the picture is clearly that of a man with a mustache all I have to do is say â€śHey, itâ€™s not me, even on a bad day!â€ť And to further this way of thinking, my son assured me that these are known as snitch tickets and they canâ€™t force me to divulge the name of the culprit. It sounded so simple.
On the traffic ticket was a number I could call to talk to an officer about the error I was still thinking was of their ways. I donâ€™t think I would have felt so determined to dodge this particular bullet for my son, if the ticket had been a bit less excessive cost-wise. I even managed to conjure up a bit of righteous indignation. How dare they accuse me of something I so obviously had not done?
It went downhill from there. In fact, downmountain or downextremelyhighprecipice would be a more accurate description. I dialed the number on the notice and asked for the officer theyâ€™d listed as my contact.
The conversation started with me being sort of business casual and calling the officer by his first name. â€śHi Tom (no, he wasnâ€™t my brother), this is Dianne Armitage and Iâ€™m calling about blah, blah, blah.â€ť Officer Tom was more than happy to make me feel at ease, so we bantered a bit before I cut to the chase (I will always be thankful this was on the phone and not the highway).
I laughingly explained to him that Iâ€™d received the picture of the perpetrator and it clearly was not me. There was a silence on the line that seemed to last a long time. Finally, Officer Tom cleared his throat and said, â€śWell, if it isnâ€™t you, who is it?â€ť Now there was another long silence because I hadnâ€™t anticipated the conversation taking this turn. I was trying to gather my wits. They were nowhere to be found.
I finally ventured into the land of the lost â€“ a lie. I faintly recall saying something along the lines of â€śI have no idea who it is.â€ť Long pause. Officer Tom (not sounding quite so friendly â€“ but definitely business not casual) responded â€śYou allow complete strangers to drive your car?â€ť Well, even I know that would just be asking for trouble. Again, there is a long silence. Aha, I think Iâ€™ve found a perfectly logical solution and respond, â€śMaybe it happened when I took it to a car wash.â€ť Tick tock, tick tock â€¦ Officer Tom â€śWhat car wash?â€ť OMG are you kidding me? I donâ€™t want to finger some poor guy who doesnâ€™t even make minimum wage. Now what do I do? Think, Dianne, think…
That didnâ€™t work, because the next thing out of my mouth was â€śI canâ€™t remember.â€ť Without skipping a beat, Officer Tom (now sounding much more like an actual police officer) says, â€śYou canâ€™t remember where you got your car washed?â€ť Thank goodness Iâ€™ve seen my share of Law and Order episodes so I knew for sure I needed to stall a bit in order to appear calm, collected, and less like a criminal. I eventually sort of quickly whispered, â€śIt was one of those car washes at a gas station, I canâ€™t remember which one.â€ť Even I knew that was about as lame as it gets.
I remember being really glad he couldnâ€™t see my face, because my beady little eyes would have most certainly given me away. (Alright, maybe they werenâ€™t beady, but they were definitely wincing, and I was sweating bullets since not only am I not a fan of fabrication, Iâ€™m absolutely lousy at it!)
The silence was broken once again when Officer Tom said, â€śIâ€™ve shown the image around here to everyone and they seem to think insert my sonâ€™s name here is the person in the picture.â€ť Okay, so now Iâ€™m thrown off balance because Iâ€™m busy trying to figure out how in heavenâ€™s name they know my son. A friend later tells me they can pull up DMV records and insurance information when they are attempting to match one of their camera infractions with a possible driver. At this juncture there is just a stunned silence and itâ€™s definitely originating on my side of the conversation.
The next question presented to me is â€śAnd who is insert my sonâ€™s name here to you?â€ť Oh boy, this is embarrassing. In no time flat weâ€™ve moved from this dirty rotten liar trying to get out of a traffic ticket, to the worst mother ever. Iâ€™m being forced to either identify my son or deny I recognize a picture of him. Really? Even Iâ€™m not buying that. So I murmur in response, â€śThatâ€™s my son.â€ť
Officer Tom has quickened the pace and questions, â€śSo itâ€™s your son driving the car?â€ť I know Iâ€™m grasping at straws, but Iâ€™m still trying to figure out how things have gone so wrong. Even Iâ€™m incredulous when I hear myself saying, â€śI canâ€™t be sure. It might be, but I just canâ€™t be sure.â€ť
The incredibly patient Officer Tom now gives me an out for which I will forever be thankful, when he says, â€śIâ€™ll tell you what, weâ€™re going to hang up now, and Iâ€™m going to let you take a good, long look at the picture. Then you can call me back.â€ť Needless to say, I didnâ€™t make that call very quickly.
During the interim, I had a dream that my grandson, Sean, has agreed to take one for the team. It seemed perfectly normal that we would reassure him heâ€™d be out of the slammer in time for kindergarten, after all, he was helping us save $480! Yes, I was relieved when I woke up and realized it was just a dream, because Iâ€™m pretty sure Officer Tom would not have bought our story.