Caught in the headlights
When we think of something being caught in the headlights, we usually think of deer. These wonderful but suicide-prone critters tend to freeze in the face of approaching cars.
What I'm talking about, though, is what happens when it is a human being caught in the headlights. I am here to tell you that our reaction is largely the same as a deer's.
I have had only a few interactions with the police in my life, and they have all involved speeding in my car.
Thinking back, I have to believe that there was a direct correlation between the color of the car and the frequency of my headlight experience (note to all and sundry — avoid red!)
The headlights I speak of, of course, are the ones present on the front of a police car. These lights are accompanied by flashing red strobes and even, at times, a siren.
Personally, when noticing these lights in my rearview mirror, I tend to do what the deer do, and freeze. I am so undone that I'll usually find the absolutely wrong place to pull over so that I end up exposing both myself and the man in blue to the threat of oncoming traffic.
I don't want anyone to think that I make a habit of speeding. The problem is that I love red cars. And this isn't a scientific observance, but I am convinced that owning a red car somehow engages the speed pedal in your psyche.
In addition, if the car is hot (fast) then you are in possession of a red-hot car. This is, of course, a recipe for disaster. As a result of being a certain age, I called mine "The Hot Flash", and I was probably never safe in it.
So I was recently driving along a thoroughfare in my home town of Wilsonville, when I glanced in the rearview mirror and found, to my utter dismay, a police car practically on my bumper. I confess that I froze, just like the proverbial deer in the headlights.
My first reaction? My brain saying "Oh my God, there goes my insurance premium!" Second reaction? I'm thinking that even though I should only get a traffic ticket, I could also possibly end up in jail. That wouldn't make sense, but hey, I plead the universal fear of authority raising its ugly head and scaring me witless!
I did manage to pull over to a safe roadside spot and brace myself before "the bust." When the officer approached me, his first words were "Do you know what the speed limit is on this road?" I hemmed and hawed and finally stammered "Yes, it's 35 mph."
Unfortunately, according to the officer, I was doing 50. Oh boy, I thought, am I in for it. Then, to my complete surprise, he looked me in the eye and said "Is anything going on at home?"
How, I wondered, did he know? I had spent the day in the ER waiting while my husband underwent a procedure designed to shock his heart back into rhythm. When we got home, I left him to run a quick errand and was hurrying to return home when I encountered the police.
The fact that my man in blue asked such a caring question really gave me pause. Here was an obviously sensitive person who was belying the negative reputation the police seem to be operating under these days.
When I told him what had transpired, he stood for a moment and seemed to ponder. Then he slowly wrote the ticket. I was wondering about what no-doubt-exorbitant fine I would be paying, when he handed the dreaded ticket through the window.
To my immense relief, instead of a directive to pay a fine or appear in court, the ticket merely gave me a warning. The officer paused and said "I hope your day gets better. Take it easy." Actually, officer, it just did, and I will. Deep in thought, I watched him walk back to his car, give me a wave, and drive away.
I concluded that the lesson here means that freezing in the headlights doesn't always end in disaster. Sometimes you not only survive, but you learn a little bit about kindness and humanity.
Rest assured that Kay has recently given up "The Hot Flash" and is currently, and somewhat reluctantly, ensconced in a sedate, dark blue sedan.