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National Editorials & Columns

Traffic Tickets

I never have gotten out of a ticket.

Apparently, that makes me a bit of a loser. One of my dearest friends, Lena, is a savant at getting out of tickets. Her superpower is the gift of gab — a bubbling, bumbling babbling of words that, once strung together, cops find altogether confusing and charismatic.

When we were in high school, Lena drove a white ‘88 Buick Skylark with cow seat covers that cops loved to pull over. But for as many times as Lena heard the sirens ring behind her, she rarely had to pay out. It didn’t hurt that Lena was beautiful. And it absolutely helped that Lena had the spastic charm of a puppy trying to climb stairs. There was something inherently adorable in the way she’d struggle to explain why she was speeding. The coppers couldn’t help smiling.

One time in high school, I was sitting shotgun when Lena was pulled over for speeding outside of Baltimore. At the time, we were rabid fans of a then unknown band called Good Charlotte (an embarrassing story in its own right). It was before the group had a hit single, before the lead singer married Nicole Richie, before they were covered in tattoos — back when they had their original drummer and their angsty tunes played to the hearts of a couple of 16-year-old girls.

Back then, the guys knew who we were, occasionally inviting us backstage. We were hoping to hang out with the band that night and were all too aware that this amazing opportunity wouldn’t happen if we showed up late for their set. Lena spared no time explaining our situation to the cop.

“I had to speed, officer. We are going to a bar in Baltimore to watch Good Charlotte play, and we’re late. We can’t miss it. We’re like their groupies.”

And Lena flashed her Lena smile.

There are a lot of things the cop should’ve gleaned from this. One: Yes, we were aware we were speeding. Two: A couple of 16-year-old girls were headed to a bar. And three: These young girls described themselves as groupies, a term we didn’t understand at the time had sexual implications.

But instead of asking us about all of those issues, the cop just laughed at the Lena-isms that were thrown at him and let us go with a warning. We made it in time for the concert — and in time to hang out backstage.

Over the years, I have tried to hone my inner Lena whenever I’ve been pulled over. I would try to mimic her unintentional flirtatiousness, but I never have been good at flirting.

“Hey, officer. The roundedness of your hat really brings out the angles in your nose.”

I’d try to mimic her exasperated explanation as to why she was speeding, but I always came off more entitled than endearing.

“I was speeding because I’m wearing high heels, which causes my foot to press down on the gas pedal.”

I’d try to mimic how she approached the cops with complete honesty, but it was never appreciated.

“Do you know why I pulled you over?”

“I guess, but it seems a little premature. I saw my speedometer, and I wasn’t really speeding yet. If you held off for another minute or so, you could’ve really gotten me good.”

I’d try to mimic her infectious smile and flailing arms, but I only came off deranged.

“Ma’am, keep your hands on the steering wheel, where I can see them.”

No matter what I tried, the cops would just look at me, unamused. Then they’d hand me a ticket.

Yesterday, as a cop stood beside me writing up a ticket, I sat in silence, simply accepting my fate. And something amazing happened.

“OK, don’t tell anyone,” the officer said. “You seem like a nice girl. I’m gonna write you up for a lesser offense. Save you about $100. OK?”

I’m no Lena. But that is progress!

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