It is Sunday afternoon. I am pulling out of the Saint James-Beth Ahabah parking lot onto an alley between Franklin and Grace Streets. At the intersection with Ryland Street, I look left to check for traffic and I see what appears to be a police car coming down the street. I am wondering whether it is one of the old white Richmond police cars or the new black ones. I soon discover that it is a Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) police car. I wait for it to pass and then turn right on Ryland. I find myself wondering about the jurisdiction of the VCU police. The police car turns left on Franklin Street and I do the same, making sure that I don’t do anything that resembles a traffic violation. Just before Harrison Street, the police car pulls over and seems to park. I pass him and make a picture-perfect right onto Harrison.
As I drive south on Harrison I sense that the police car is again behind me. And, its lights are flashing. Since I have been driving perfectly, I know it is not me it is after; so I slow down to let it pass. It slows down too, and it is getting clear that it is me it is flashing. I pull over and park. It parks about two car lengths behind me. Then, nothing. About two minutes pass and I am thinking maybe I am wrong. It’s not me it is after. I get out of my car and walk toward the police car to find out what is going on. And then I hear what I have heard hundreds of times before on TV and in the movies—“Sir, get back in your car.”
Soon, a young police officer appears at my window (at my age, almost everybody looks young). I roll down my window. “Do you know why I pulled you over?” This is getting to be more and more a police melodrama. He tells me—“Your registration is expired and you are overdue on your inspection.” He’s gotta be kidding. Nobody is stupid enough to let both those things happen. He asks for my driver’s license and goes back to his car.
I start searching my glove box. I find many pink inspection receipts. 2005, 2008, 2010, several with dates I cannot read. I look up at the inspection sticker on the windshield. It reads 10/2013. And it dawns on me that this 2014. The registration I find ends June 30, 2013. Guess what? It is me that is stupid enough to let both these things happen. But, I don’t remember getting a renewal notice from the DMV. If I had I would have renewed on line. The officer is back.
He asks me to sign two (2) citations. He explains to me that my signature is not an admission of guilt. He explains that if I want to pay these without challenge there is a phone number to call. He also explains that I can go to court to challenge the tickets. He speculates that the registration is six months late so a judge probably won’t let me off. But, he says, the inspection is only two months late and maybe a judge will be lenient. He is talking a lot. Maybe he wants to be my friend. When he finally leaves the side of my car, I am feeling guilty for having ruined his Sunday afternoon by forcing him to write me two tickets.
On Monday I go to the DMV. Seventy something bucks for a two year registration. (Maybe this will encourage my 2004 Camry to last that long). Then off to Allen Tire for the inspection. They call me back. “Your battery is marginal. You also need your cooling system flushed. It is going to be sub-freezing tomorrow so you better get these done.” I reluctantly agree. Later I pick up my car--$336.65. As I am driving home, I notice that my check-engine light has gone on. I am seeing more and more money flowing out of the bank. Don’t they know that me and the maveness are on fixed incomes?
And, I am daydreaming. I bet my great grandfather never had these problems. Of course, I never knew my great grandfather. All I know about him is that he died in the Russian Empire before 1912 (That’s when my grandfather came to this country). I don’t know what he did for a living. I don’t know if he ever saw a car. So, as happens in reverie, I invent an imaginary great grandfather who just happened to live in Richmond, Virginia. He happened to own a horse, which he used to get him around town. He never had to register his horse every year to keep it on the roads. He never had to get it inspected for safety. He had to feed it and take care of it. And when it got old and its arthritic knees kept it from even walking, he could take it out to Henrico and shoot it in the head to put it out of its misery. As for me, I have no horse. I have that 2004 Camry that is eating away at my limited resources. But I have some Facebook friends, probably living in Henrico, who are gun toters. Just one bullet in the head and 2004 Camry would be out of its misery. And me? I would have new-car payments.