July 20, 2012
Something really strange happened to me the other day. Well, strange things happen to me all the time, but this one left me almost speechless.
The girls went to winter camp this past Tuesday, and on the way to drop them off, we were stopped by the police for a routine paperwork-check. These guys just stand in the middle of the road and motion cars over, then ask for the vehicle registration and the driver's license. Occasionally, they get frisky and want to see other random things, trying to find a reason to give out a ticket or extract a bribe. Since they pick and choose which cars they'll pull over, and Ken is obviously a foreigner ("rich American"), we've developed a way of avoiding the sure pull-over. All windows are immediately rolled up to take advantage of their tint, and Ken leans as far back in his seat as possible. If we stay close behind the car in front of us, sometimes the officer doesn't get a good look at Ken's face until it's too late to stop us. Some days it works, but this time it didn't.
Just a few yards from the driveway to camp, we were pulled over, our paperwork checked, and sent on our way. Nice guy, just checking to see if we were one of the many, many vehicles operating illegally. We pulled on into the campground, got the girls settled, and then started the trip back home. We had just turned onto the asphalt road, when, lo and behold, same traffic stop but different policeman pulls us to the side. Let me add that Ken's driver-side window doesn't roll down, so he either opens the door (if we're far enough out of passing traffic), or we roll down the backseat window or mine and talk through that. Well, Mr. Policeman was not amused at our ghetto window problem. Sorry, Sir, we don't like it either, but it is what it is.
He commenced to look around, eyeing the inside of the car, frowning a lot, and I see his fellow
extortioner police-buddy motion to our headlights. Now, we know good and well that the law says you must have your headlights on at all times on the paved road. We follow this law because we've paid the fine twice for forgetting. We follow the seatbelt law because it just makes good sense. We follow a myriad of other laws--sane and silly alike--because we want to be safe and we want to avoid these fines. But we had just turned out onto the road and had not yet turned on the lights. Our fault completely.
And so when Mr. Unhappy Policeman tells me he's going to write me a ridiculously overpriced fine for not having turned on our lights yet, I felt the need to converse with him. I've been told and I've witnessed that folks who get ugly and make a stink with the policemen are usually let pass, especially if you are a woman. I just can't make myself get ugly with these guys, no matter what silliness they try to come up with sometimes. I have laughed out loud and argued my case. I have said, "You have GOT to be kidding!" I have threatened to take a picture of the officer asking me for the bribe. But I was raised to respect policemen, even if this is a whole different class of public servant here. I've never gotten ugly. And since we were clearly in the wrong, I wasn't about to start now.
So before Ken had time to advise me to stay put, I climbed out of the car, made my way over to where the guy was writing out the ticket, and commenced to explain to him that we are truly sorry and do try to obey the laws every single time we are on the road. I wanted to say that we are afraid to drive at night because we are guaranteed to see at least one car or motorcycle every mile that is driving with absolutely NO lights on, because "if we turn on the lights, we can't go as fast." For real. And that we cringe daily at the children standing up inside the cars or hanging out of windows, not even considering the use of a seat belt. I wanted to talk about how many times we'd been hit by crazy people who have no clue that the lines in the middle actually denote lanes. But I didn't. I simply reminded him that we'd just been stopped a few minutes before, turning in to the campground. That they'd checked our papers out, and that we were riding with lights on then, and that we'd literally just pulled onto the road now. I told him that I'd spent all the extra money we had for the month to send the girls to this Christian camp. And then I said the phrase that set him off. "I just ask that you show us a little mercy."
You'd have thought that I told him his momma wears combat boots. He made a strange face and replied, "Only God shows mercy." Hmmm, should I take the bait? "Sir, He does point out to us that the two most important commandments are to love him and to love others," to which he quoted me the Bible verse word-for-word.
Then he went off on me, screaming and getting quite red-faced. "Lady, don't come here and play the "poor little thing" to me, when God gave you life already. He doesn't care about what happens to you after that." Uh-oh. Now he'd pushed MY button.
"Sir, I'm sorry I've said something to make you so angry. I'm not asking you for pity, just for mercy. And I must talk to you about what you said about God. Because, you see, he really does care for everything that happens to me, good or bad. And He certainly cares about every little thing that happens to you, too. You are important to Him and He wants to be involved in every part of your life."
Oh, my. He threw down the ticket he'd been writing out, got up in my face, and was spitting his crazy words all over the place. At this, Ken jumps up and runs around to where we were, because, I'm telling you, the guy looked like he was preparing to hit me. I was just in shock that the poor fella thought God didn't care about him. So he's screaming about how God has His own problems and doesn't have time for humanity's problems, and how I don't know anything about God and I'd better not ever use His name again and that God isn't a doctor or an engineer or anything else that has to do with us. ???? Then he throws the registration and license at Ken and begins to yell at me to get in my car and get out of there. Ken promptly picks up the cards and leads me to the car, realizing this meant we weren't going to get a ticket. I guess I should have taken the clue, too, but like I said, I was so surprised.
"Sir, again, I don't want to make you angry, but would you come back over here (he was in the street yelling by now, and attracting quite a bit of attention) so we can talk about this a second. I don't care if you write me a ticket or not, but we're talking about something way more important, and I really want you to know that God loves you and that you are important to Him."
Oops. Bad move. More screaming, more hand-waving and telling me to get out of there, more red-faced spitting and craziness. And Ken putting me in the car and locking the doors to drive away. I tell you, police stops always get my adrenaline a bit jacked up, but this one just left me in shock for a while. I didn't know whether to smile and thank God that He'd helped us avoid a ticket, or cry for the state of this man's soul. So I prayed that despite my poor approach, something I said would stick in his head and God would reach this man with no hope.