I've been struggling with this post in more ways than one. First, blogger has given me a fit about uploading any pictures and second, well, I really wasn't sure if I wanted to violate one of the rules I made for myself when I started the blog in August. What's the rule? To avoid talking politics and race - two totally unavoidable pain in the ass realities that confront me everyday. My blog would be a place where I could perhaps talk about the aesthetics of life and all of its beauty. Yeah right. Sometimes though, things happen that make the point that in order to fully appreciate beauty, sometimes, it's important to understand its antecedent, that is, what is going on the in life of the artist that makes their art more triumphant. Please, I'm no artist, I knit, I cook a little but I do see art in just about everything except crap like this -
I got to collect these one evening on the infamous Garden State Parkway.
I was returning home with my oldest son from music rehearsal in Princeton. Remember he was selected to sing with the NJ Jazz Choir. Each Tuesday, I drove him down (a 1 1/2 hour drive each way) after school and hung out in Princeton for 4 hours. I got to do some crazy knitting, browse through great book stores and eat lots of ice cream.
Returning home from the last rehearsal, at around Clifton, NJ, I get pulled over by a NJ State Trooper. As I await my sentence, I notice that there is not one cruiser but 3 lined up behind me. In all of the years that I have been traveling in New Jersey, I have never had this experience before. I read about it too many times - about the legions of black people who have met their demise by the hands of these troopers - thrown in jail, property seized, sometimes death....
My mind was fighting reality, intellect and emotion. There was that time I was caught in a freak snow storm nearly 10 years ago on the Garden State Parkway and I was praying to see troopers. There were so many accidents and it was freezing outside. I got to my destination in 5 hours in what was a 2 hour drive and I felt guilty that I couldn't help the dozens of accidents I passed. I was grateful that we lived in a society that provided assistance just for the asking - EMS and troopers.
Back to reality, the trooper comes to my window and one of the three cruisers drives up to block me in. I have a 17 year old boy with me, in dreadlocks. He is asking me a million questions while seething and I tell him that this was a good experience for him so that he will know how this whole thing goes down and he'll know exactly how to behave if it should happen to him. My child was enraged at the notion that he got to see his mother humiliate herself in order to keep her car, keep her freedom, keep her life. Yeah I know what you all are thinking, it's just a traffic stop. No, it is never just a traffic stop in the reality of the lives of black people.
The trooper comes to my window after maybe 10-15 minutes. He's flashing his flashlight throughout the van while another trooper at my son's window is keeping an eye on him with her (I think it was a 'her') flashlight.
"You cut me off." Trooper 1
"Officer, I was at a dilemma. I was in the passing lane to avoid someone who was driving too close to me and I was merely trying to pass into your lane, grateful to have seen you, just in case the guy on my tail decides to follow me. My dilemma was what to do, do I speed up to 65 in order to pass into your lane at a better distance or do I pass into your lane at 60 MPH, just 5 miles above the speed limit?"
"You could have caused an accident." Trooper 1
"You? I could have caused you to have an accident?" I'm thinking what crap that is, these guys know how to drive like stunt men, this guy is pissed that I cut him off.
I decide not to argue and pray that my son stays quiet too. One half hour later, I get three tickets -
Ticket one: Hazardous driving (interpreted to mean - cutting off cruiser)
Ticket two: Failing to produce registration (I was so nervous about getting pulled over - and knowing that they don't have the best reputation for safety for people who look like me and my son, I can't find the damn registration)
Ticket tree: Not having an updated inspection sticker (yup, he was right on that one. Getting the van inspected slipped my mind after having paid $1500 for new breaks and a heater - I had such sticker shock that day that I totally forgot the inspection)
Before the trooper turns to leave, I ask him -
"Officer, I have a young son here just learning to drive. How would you advise me to tell him what happened here?"
"Speed limit is 55, you don't cut people off."
Wow, that was helpful.
I will be going to court. I ask you, who in their right mind would cut off a NJ State Trooper? The question I have for the judge - "why would a black, 47 year old mother of 3 driving with her dreadlocked 17 year old son pick 9pm at night to do such a thing? Didn't the trooper know I had visions of this dancing in my head all the way home -
My Rhinebeck poncho that I bought at Briar Rose yarns. Alpaca and wool. Delicious.