“What can I do for you, officer?”
“Why are you so hostile?”
He asked for my license and registration and proof of insurance, which I gave him. He walked back to his vehicle and did whatever police officers do, I suppose run my driver’s license number to make sure I wasn’t wanted for some crime or something. And to make sure the vehicle wasn’t stolen, I suppose. And to make sure I had insurance, because that was something else he could have given me a ticket for. I do give Ofc. Owens points for being thorough. Just not any points for being correct.
“I’m giving you a ticket for careless driving.”
“How was my driving careless?”
“I heard your tires squeal.”
“But the road is wet, it has been misting for at least the past hour, maybe two.”
“The road is perfectly dry.” The mist swirled around his head as he spoke those words. I thought to myself, doesn’t he notice it?
“Is this the best use of your valuable law enforcement time? Giving a woman driving home alone at one a.m. in a white Toyota minivan a ticket because you heard her tires squeal on the damp pavement?”
“I smell beer on your breath.”
“Well, I did have one with dinner, about four hours ago, I haven’t brushed my teeth yet. I suppose that’s it. Would you like to perform a field sobriety test?”
“Would you like to do a breathalyzer?”
“I’d have to call the van. Do you want me to call the van?”
“Sure, let’s have a party! No, that’s okay, you don’t have to call the van.”
Further discussion, about the ramifications of the ticket, etc., how to contest it, etc.
“Oh, you have a dog? What’s his name?”
“Can I meet him?”
“Can I take your photograph?”
“Yes.” I did so. It wasn’t the greatest, as his eyes were closed, but under the circumstances I did not think it wise to ask to take another. Ofc. Owens was clearly having a bad night.
When I first saw Officer Charles Owens, he was sitting inside his police vehicle, parked in the Lloyd Clarke’s parking lot, apparently conferring with another officer in another police vehicle. They were both inside their vehicles, each with the driver’s window rolled down, the vehicles thus facing in opposite directions. I am not certain, but the other officer may have been a female, as it seems I remember seeing a ponytail.
When Ofc. Owens first noticed me, I was turning left on to 13th Street from 16th Avenue. I had been hauling heavy vanloads of farm equipment earlier in the day, from Gainesville to Micanopy, and now my van was empty, and much lighter. After all the farm transportation, I had taken a friend to dinner and then dropped him off at his home and stood in his carport talking with him for half an hour or so, and the entire time I watched mist coming down.
I was very tired, and traveling by myself, back to an empty house, a situation I had not found myself in, in decades. Due to the mist, when I pressed on the accelerator, the wet road caused a slight squeal from my tires. I did not veer from my carefully steered path, I did not speed, nor was there any other car in the intersection, or even anywhere near the intersection. At that hour on a Wednesday, the roads were practically empty.
Officer Owens’ car was the one pointed with its nose facing south, the direction in which I was traveling, so he immediately pulled out of the parking lot and followed me, his lights flashing. I pulled over as soon as I realized it was me he was following, and turned right, on to 10th Avenue.
I was then two blocks or so from home. I rolled down the window of my car after he approached my vehicle, and asked him, in what I thought was my nicest and most cooperative voice, what I could do for him. I was exhausted and getting divorced in two days, but I did my best to be polite.
The first thing he said to me was why was I so “hostile.” I told him I wasn’t feeling hostile in the slightest, but that I was very, very tired and just wanted to get home, and being a female driving across town, alone at 1 a.m., was not something I enjoyed. I was, however, annoyed, because I thought his stopping me was entirely unnecessary and a waste of valuable taxpayer resources.
I started to tell Ofc. Owens a couple of pertinent facts that might have affected his decision-making processes, such as the fact that I was being divorced in two days, by my husband of ten years, after almost dying from a brain tumor the previous April, a tumor which had been wrapped around my optic nerve and the major aorta in my brain and had been in that site for between 17 to 34 years, and had made me feel horrible for at least the prior 5 years. I was getting divorced, as far as I could tell, because my husband preferred me half-dead and didn’t like the fact that I was not in that state anymore, and actually wanted him to get off the couch once in a while.
“I don’t want to hear any of your personal information,” he said as soon as I said my first word on those topics. I complied, and did not insist to be heard.
I live at the corner of 8th Avenue and 15th Street, and I am well aware of the driving skills usually displayed on 13th Street. Careless driving is not what I do. I am an excellent driver, and the only accident on my record was one in which my then-teenaged daughter’s car was parked in the driveway of my home, and a drunken college student plowed into it, and into the tree next to the driveway, and sped off with such haste that the smell of burning rubber could be smelt for hours afterwards.
The insurance company told me that even though my car was unoccupied and parked, I was being charged with an at fault accident because the vehicle was in my name. I was told there was nothing I could do about it. I live in an extremely loud, noisy and “party” neighborhood, which I nonetheless love and tolerate because I like to be in the middle of town. Needless to say, I know the value of the police force and respect what they do highly. However, Ofc. Owens made a bad call. It happens. Everyone makes mistakes. One was made here. I was not driving carelessly. End of story.
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