Are We There Yet?

For my writing workshop, we were given the prompt to write about a time that we encountered authority. I closed my eyes and reached back into my memory to pull out this gem. Enjoy! 

speed limit

Sitting in the backseat of the minivan with my little sister beside me screaming along incorrectly to song lyrics from the radio, my aunt’s on again-off again (currently on) boyfriend chain smoking in the passenger’s seat in front of me, and my aunt driving way over the speed limit, we made our way through the heat and humidity of late August towards the Dutchess County Fair in upstate New York. With no air condition and windows that only opened an inch in the backseat, I was already miserable and cranky. My aunt and boyfriend argued back and forth about where we were, if we should have made a left turn five minutes ago and I really think you should slow down… Suddenly, breaking through the chaos, red and blue lights flashed in the rear view mirror.

“Oh…fuck,” my aunt said, slamming her palm against the furry steering wheel cover.

My little sister started panicking, her eyes welling up with tears thinking that we’d all be headed to jail due to her irrational fear of authority instilled in her by grandparents that threatened that the policeman is on the corner if she didn’t go to bed on time. I shushed her into silence as we slowed to a stop on what appeared to be a main street in a little quaint town where I imagined little quaint people lived. All cross ventilation we had from the open front windows stopped, and the heat settled around me like a blanket I was trapped under. Please let this be quick.

A cop with gray hair peeking out the sides of his hat and rotund belly pouring over his belt slowly approached the drivers’ side window and upon looking inside, smirked. I guess I would too if I pulled someone over and discovered such a motley crew inside. The driver being a woman with slicked back hair tied in ribbons, only wearing a bikini top and short shorts that revealed almost all of her unnaturally orange skin. Her presumed lover sitting beside her with hair spiked high like a porcupine, dark sunglasses covering half his face, and gold chains around his neck. And in the back seat, two strangely ordinary looking children wearing jean shorts and button up shirts.

The officer asked my aunt if she knew what she did wrong. She lied and said she didn’t, and he informed her that she had been speeding. 55 in a 30. I was almost tempted to explain to the officer, that no, he had got it all wrong. You see sir, where you see a minivan my aunt sees a sports car and due to this delusion she feels it perfectly acceptable to speed. I held my tongue.

She apologized overdramatically again and again and explained that she never saw a sign stating the speed limit, and we were lost anyway, and oh, did I mention that my speedometer is broken?

He nodded knowingly and subtly tried to reprimand her for her wrongdoing but it was obvious that he was getting a kick out this encounter and wanted to see how long he could make it continue. Despite the fluttering of my aunt’s eyelashes, the officer asked for her license and registration. She leaned over to the passenger’s side to open the glove compartment and I could have sworn I saw him check out the tattoos on her back. To avoid throwing up, I focused my concentration out my window, looking into the shop along the sidewalk and watching people walk by. I wonder what it’s like to come from a normal family?

My aunt sat back up and handed the officer her registration and then sifted through her wallet for her license. Nodding to herself, she handed it to him. The officer brought it close to his face and squinted. My aunt peered up at him expectantly.

Breaking into a fit of laughter, she said My girl friend brought that back for me from Vegas! It’s Betty Boop! You see? She leaned out her window to point at the picture on the fake ID she had handed him.  

Looking up at my aunt and back down at the fake Betty Boop ID, the officer laughed. A big, jolly Santa Claus laugh. I can’t wait to tell the other guys about this, I could practically hear his mind screaming. Yes, we were certainly the weirdest family he had met. At least for today.

My aunt handed him her real ID and he gave her back Betty’s.

Again, the officer took my aunt’s ID and brought it close to his face. He must have forgotten his reading glasses at home. This time, he was the first one to break out laughing.

Is this you?! he choked out, pointing to my aunt’s picture on her ID.

Yea!! my aunt said encouragingly, egging on whatever joke was going to ensue about her photograph. It became clear to me that she was willing to do just about anything to get out of receiving a ticket, including being the butt end of a joke. I got that picture taken when I was 23 and I just REFUSE to change it!  

Your hair takes up the whole frame!

I know!



Laughing. Oh, I know it’s hilarious. But please, can we just get moving again?

After the laughter died down, he handed her back her license and said For that picture, I won’t give you a ticket. But don’t let me catch you speeding again. His tone feigned seriousness and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had winked at her afterwards. My aunt thanked him most graciously over and over and he slowly returned to his car and pulled around us.

My aunt whipped around to face my sister and me in the back seat.

“Don’t tell your grandfather about this.”