Wednesday, May 13, 2015

On the road for the brown and the bearded

"I rarely ever take the interstate when I drive to campus" I told the three students who were hanging around chatting with me in my office.

"I take the I-5 and then set the cruise control to 80" one student jumped in.  "Once, a guy passed me and I swear he must have been doing like a 100" he added.

"I can't afford to drive over the speed limit" I said. "I have a brown skin."

We all laughed.

As I was driving back home, I recalled the only two occasions when I was ticketed for speeding in all these years of driving.

The first one, more than twenty years ago, was during my early California years, but when traveling in Arizona.  

I was merely one of the many drivers on I-10 who were driving a little over the speed limit.  I wasn't even in the lead, but somewhere in the middle of the pack.  I saw the flashing lights in the rear, behind a few cars. I moved over the slow lane.  

The lights passed the cars in between.  
My heart started racing.  
The cop car shifted to the slow lane. 
Behind me. 
I slowed down and pulled over on the shoulder.

It took me quite a few hours to get over the fact that I had been ticketed for speeding.  When all other cars got away.

My personality is such that I don't even race.  Every once in a while, I might keep up with the freeway traffic speeds, but am mostly content to be the slowpoke.  

The second, which was also my last, ticket happened a few months into my Oregon life.  On the surface streets in a small town on the way to campus.

Later when I recounted the incident to a colleague, she said, "brown skin and no wedding band."  Apparently the "logic" is that married men are more responsible than the single guys and, hence, a cop is more sympathetic when there is a wedding ring.  The irony was that I was married then--it just so happened that I never cared for symbols like a ring!

Could a brown skin make that much of a difference?

A couple of years ago, I had invited two graduating students for dinner at my place.  As they got out of the car, "S" was all giggles and asked "T" to describe what happened during the drive.

Turns out that the two of them were so engrossed in the chat and listening to music that neither "T" nor "S" realized that they were well over the speed limit, until the cop's car was behind them.   But, the cop let him off with a verbal warning.  Could the pale skin of the young make that much of a difference?

I will never know if my skin color mattered to the cops.  On top of the brown skin, I sport a beard, have a funny name, and speak with a strange accent.  I just cannot afford to drive at 100, even if my personality liked speed.

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