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Marni Breaks the Law

It was a two Prozac day.  If Prozac worked that way I would have gone home and popped a few.  That is, if I could have gotten home.  But when the police leave you on the side of the road and take your car, it’s very difficult to get to your Prozac. 

Here’s how it went down:  It was a Wednesday.  That week I had already read and critiqued two plays, one memoir, two novels and a book of poems, helped my son complete the 3rd Grade Book Report Poster,  researched the habitat of the Bonobos Monkey (an endangered Chimp that really looks like an old man doing yoga), shopped for the week, washed the car, paid the bills, visited my father in the hospital (doing nicely but grumpy), taught two classes, created a new course and the corresponding coursework and ordered new and improved flea medicine for the cats.  

But that was not enough for Officer Y. Quintos.  I was driving home after meeting with several of my pretty damn inspiring clients.  I was thinking about the conversation with one of them.  She was on her first draft of her book and was supremely depressed that it wasn’t coming out perfectly.  A self-proclaimed perfectionist she said she wasn’t sure she could get her work where she wanted – and was peeved that nothing was coming out fast enough.  I told her my big old fat rule of writing consistently:  Perfection not required.  I thought about all we discussed – relaxing into patience, trusting your voice, releasing perfection, not being so hard on yourself- when I saw the flashing lights.

“Do you know why I pulled you over?” Officer Quintos spat out.  She already hated me.

“Um, no.”  I really didn’t.

“Your registration is expired.”

“Oh is that all?”  I sighed.  I mean, expired registration, how bad could that be?

She collected my proof of insurance and driver’s licences and went back to her car to look me up.

Anyone that knows me well will tell you that although I am not the best driver – I stay clear of the law.

I do this because I know I’d be terrible in jail.

So I felt pretty good that my chances were that Y. Quintos would come back to the car, tell me she found nothing on my record and give me a fix-it ticket.  That would leave me enough time to get home, read 100 more pages of the memoir I was editing, pick up my son, make reservations at LegoLand for his 9th birthday, call my dad and check in with his doctor and get to UCSD for the class I was teaching that night.

Officer Y. Quintos walked up to the car.  Satisfied.  Like a hyena who knew that the bird had no way out.

“Ma’am, you’re going to have to step out of the car.”

“Why?” I asked.  Well this question really pissed off officer Quintos.  Incensed, she happily shared the bad news.

“Because you are more than six months late on your registration.  And I am going to impound this car right now.  So out you go.  We are taking it.  Now.”

I sat still in shock.  Could she just do that?

“Now lady!”

Was I really that late?  How could I have let it slip my over-cluttered mind (rhetorical question I know).

“But, um, can’t you just give me a fix it ticket?  I mean, I promise I will go take care of it right now.”

Officer Y. Quintos sighed a heavy sigh.  She had found her criminal for the day.  I was dead meat.  Why couldn’t I just accept it.  She clearly needed back up.

“Get the spike strip!” She called out.  Then (from out of nowhere I was sure) two other officers, one small female and one really large male began walking toward the car.

“What’s a spike strip?” I asked as tears began to pour out.  I really didn’t know what it was – but it didn’t sound good – or like it had anything to do with me getting my car back so I decided to get out of the car.  Then officer Quintos really kicked into high gear.  While I sat stunned on the side of the road, she aggressively searched my car – tossing things around – and occasionally eye balled me.  I wasn’t sure why they were searching – was it for the old cheerios under the car seat?  Or the bag of oranges that I should have taken out of the car the day before?

They  tossed everything around in the car and  left it a total mess.  Then she declared it to be “Clean”.  (So not clean.)

After the search I tried pleading.  “Please I will go fix it right now – it will be done in two hours.”

“Look lady.  YOU did this!  YOU created this situation and now YOU get to live with the consequences!”  She was right of course – though mean and slightly sadistic.  She went back to her partner where they chatted and laughed.  I swear – just laughed like it was a sunny Sunday morning on a boat.  I longed to say something – anything that would even the score.  “Oh yeah, I said, well I’m going to blog about you.”

The tow truck guy arrived and loaded it up.

As I called my mom through tears – she and her crew wrapped it up and left.  Just left me on the side of the road – no offer to take me anywhere, make sure I was safe, make sure that I had a ride coming, nothing.  They had done their job. L Law and order was clearly  restored because they got me and my  Nissan Rogue off the mean streets of La Mesa.

Thanks to my mother, my best friend who took care of my son, my wonderful friend Shiloh and a way too much money to type out loud, I corrected my mistake at the dmv (I paid for two years of registration folks), and four hours later got my car out of hock at the impound.

As I picked up my son that night he handed me a tree ornament he and my best friend had purchased for me.  It was of a little angel with a cat (looked like our cat, Dorothy Witten).  I held the ornament, touched.


“I knew you had your car towed and you were sad today and I wanted an angel to be with you.”

“Aww, babe.  This means a lot.  Icky day.”

“Why did the car get towed away?” He asked

“Because mommy made a big stupid mistake.”

“You said stupid!”

“I did.”

We drove in silence.

“So, what did you learn from today?  I mean, you always tell me that even when you have the worst  icky day, you can like, you know, learn somethin’.”

“Okay that’s usually true but today its not.  Today was just stinky.”

“I don’t believe it.  I bet you learned something.”

As I drove  I turned it over and over in my mind.  I mean, of course there was the obvious – pay attention to the stuff you are supposed to pay attention to.  (ie: car registration)

But other than that I decided there were three things:

1) I gotta slow down.  Every time I try to juggle this much, things drop.  I may remember the new and improved flea medicine but I forget the car registration.

2) Officer Quintos was just doing her job.  Yes, she has no heart, but she was following the law.

3) I’m going to screw up from time to time.  Maybe I just need to trust my voice.  Which would mean – relaxing into patience, not being so hard on myself, and finally learning my own lesson.  Perfection not required.



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