I looked at the clock as I backed out of the garage, and true panic set in. It was already ten minutes later than I’d planned to leave. But if I timed all my stops right, and lucked out with a good parking place, I could still make it to my final in time. I whipped around the corner and was racing down the hill when I saw the lights. Not red and green. Red and blue. I slammed on my brakes (while pretending to be inadvertently fiddling with the radio) and went nonchalantly by. Until the lights spun around and followed me.
I couldn’t believe it. Just a couple of blocks from my house I was being pulled over. Officer Henderson stepped up to the window and introduced himself, requesting my insurance and I.D. While he was back in the squad car doing whatever they do back in the squad car, I texted my husband: “I just got pulled over. If I wasn’t already late for my final, I definitely am now!” And then I sat there and squirmed while I waited impatiently for the officer to come back with my ticket. Hubby texted back: “You got pulled over?! (sad face) Did you get a ticket?”
I imagined all my stressed-out students sitting there wondering where their teacher was, and then imagined the cops getting some kind of perverse pleasure out of taking their sweet time, making sure I was extra EXTRA late in order to teach me a lesson. After what felt like several centuries, Officer Henderson stepped back up to the window. Visions of having to return our kids’ Christmas presents to pay for a speeding ticket danced in my head. Clumsily.
“Here’s your Driver’s License.” I thanked him. Possibly not very sincerely. “Now...going 16 miles over in a residential zone is not safe traveling. I’m giving you this...”
(If you’re not sitting down, I suggest you do so now.)
“I’m giving you this candy cane from the city police department as a reminder to slow down.” My jaw dropped. And then I laughed. “Really?”
“Yep. That’s it. Have a Merry Christmas.” Yeah. You too. Go figure.
I texted Jeff back: “They gave me a candy cane.” His response was "What?"
So it turned out I was about 15 minutes late for my final. But I had an AWESOME story to tell when I got there! --And no ticket.
I loved that gesture of mercy, during the season we most celebrate the true Giver of Mercy. A candy cane that let me off the hook. And the funny thing is, it made me want to extend that same kind of mercy to those around me. To give them the benefit of the doubt and a second chance. (I might even throw in a candy cane.)