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I guess my best bet will be to start out by confessing: I’m a big fat liar. I never imagined I’d disclose this fact, especially in such a public forum. But before you think I’m proud of it, or even making my mea culpa to obtain some sort of absolution, I want to assure you I’m only coming clean (that’s my very best criminal jargon) because I’m still shaking my head wondering how in heaven’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 I’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 don’t go there often, but when I do, it’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 I’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 driver’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 wouldn’t make me look fat, because it’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 wasn’t I the driver, but it wasn’t even my car. I wish I could say that was the end of it, but unfortunately, I not only knew the driver (he’s my son), but the car is leased in my name (don’t ask, just remember I am a wonderful mother and amazing role model!).
So, I’m thinking since the picture is clearly that of a man with a mustache all I have to do is say “Hey, it’s not me, even on a bad day!” And to further this way of thinking, my son assured me that these are known as snitch tickets and they can’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 don’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 they’d listed as my contact.
The conversation started with me being sort of business casual and calling the officer by his first name. “Hi Tom (no, he wasn’t my brother), this is Dianne Armitage and I’m calling about blah, blah, blah.” 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 I’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, “Well, if it isn’t you, who is it?” Now there was another long silence because I hadn’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 – a lie. I faintly recall saying something along the lines of “I have no idea who it is.” Long pause. Officer Tom (not sounding quite so friendly – but definitely business not casual) responded “You allow complete strangers to drive your car?” Well, even I know that would just be asking for trouble. Again, there is a long silence. Aha, I think I’ve found a perfectly logical solution and respond, “Maybe it happened when I took it to a car wash.” Tick tock, tick tock … Officer Tom “What car wash?” OMG are you kidding me? I don’t want to finger some poor guy who doesn’t even make minimum wage. Now what do I do? Think, Dianne, think…
That didn’t work, because the next thing out of my mouth was “I can’t remember.” Without skipping a beat, Officer Tom (now sounding much more like an actual police officer) says, “You can’t remember where you got your car washed?” Thank goodness I’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, “It was one of those car washes at a gas station, I can’t remember which one.” Even I knew that was about as lame as it gets.
I remember being really glad he couldn’t see my face, because my beady little eyes would have most certainly given me away. (Alright, maybe they weren’t beady, but they were definitely wincing, and I was sweating bullets since not only am I not a fan of fabrication, I’m absolutely lousy at it!)
The silence was broken once again when Officer Tom said, “I’ve shown the image around here to everyone and they seem to think insert my son’s name here is the person in the picture.” Okay, so now I’m thrown off balance because I’m busy trying to figure out how in heaven’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 it’s definitely originating on my side of the conversation.
The next question presented to me is “And who is insert my son’s name here to you?” Oh boy, this is embarrassing. In no time flat we’ve moved from this dirty rotten liar trying to get out of a traffic ticket, to the worst mother ever. I’m being forced to either identify my son or deny I recognize a picture of him. Really? Even I’m not buying that. So I murmur in response, “That’s my son.”
Officer Tom has quickened the pace and questions, “So it’s your son driving the car?” I know I’m grasping at straws, but I’m still trying to figure out how things have gone so wrong. Even I’m incredulous when I hear myself saying, “I can’t be sure. It might be, but I just can’t be sure.”
The incredibly patient Officer Tom now gives me an out for which I will forever be thankful, when he says, “I’ll tell you what, we’re going to hang up now, and I’m going to let you take a good, long look at the picture. Then you can call me back.” Needless to say, I didn’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 he’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 I’m pretty sure Officer Tom would not have bought our story.