So if last last Monday was light and fun, Tuesday was not. It started out well enough: we threw a 30th birthday party for one of our coworkers and I drove home happy and full of cake (please excuse the redundancy). I was a mere block from home, sitting at a red light, minding my own business, when I noticed a police car sitting behind me. The stoplight turned green and I eased into the intersection only to see red and blues lights come to life against the night sky in my rear view mirror. Resigned, I pulled into the parking lot catty-corner from my apartment complex. So close to home! I sighed, but I felt calm. I hadn’t done anything illegal, so it couldn’t be that big of a deal.

As the policeman approached my car, he asked me, “Are you aware that your tags are expired?” Doh! I glanced down my passenger seat, where an information packet I’d printed out the week before, “Out of State License Transfer,” rested. I did, in fact, have an inkling that my tags were expired (it is November, after all). In fact, I had checked my plate just a day or two before and was completely puzzled by them: the stickers read “11” and “12”. I assumed I’d either placed the stickers incorrectly or they expired in November 2012. Who knew, really? I shrugged it off at the time, since I was intending to transfer everything to GA and get everything updated anyway. I’d even told my boss the day before to expect me to take a day off soon to do just that.

Instead of saying all that (I figured he wouldn’t want excuses), I simply said, “Yes, sir. I’m aware.” I held up the packet. “I was planning to get all of that updated later this week.” The cop was only about halfway to my car, but he stopped, turned and went back into his car. I waited, puzzled over whether the truth had helped me or made things worse. Still, I felt pretty calm. Okay, so my tags were expired–totally my fault–but I still had a perfect driving record after 10 years on the road, and wasn’t actually pulled over for a moving traffic violation, like speeding or reckless driving. I was hoping for a warning.

But when he finally approached my window, he delivered this charmer: “I have bad news, and I have worse news: The bad news is I’m giving you a ticket. The worse news is, I’m towing your car.”

I can’t be sure, but I’m almost positive he practices one-liners like that in the mirror and had been sitting on that one all day.

Now some girls like to flirt or whip up a tear or two to avoid getting a ticket, but it turns out I don’t have that kind of composure when I’m in trouble. The second I heard the word “tow” I skipped “tear-sliding-gracefully-down-cheek” and went straight to “ugly cry.” If there was one thing I wasn’t expecting, it was my car being towed out from under me. I tried to pull myself together so that I could look up to ask him a question (“Wait, what?!”), but it seems the second he saw my face crumple he preferred to run to the safety of his car. So instead I sat in my car and asked myself, “Wait… what?!” and ugly cried to my heart’s content. I googled “towed car for expired tags” and learned that yes, that was a thing. My policeman didn’t arrive at my window again until the tow truck arrived, at which he approached to tell me to hand over my keys and call a friend to pick me up.

“I-I l-l-ive right th-there,” I gulped, as I pointed to the gate across the street. For a moment I felt a wisp of hope that he’d take pity and tell me to go park my car and not drive it until my tags were renewed. Instead he went back and sat in his car again. I handed over my keys to the tow truck driver, who’d clearly overheard everything and looked like the last thing he wanted to do was tow my car. (That made two of us.) With that, I had nothing left to do but walk home, clutching my purse, my tow receipt, and my ticket, sniffling and feeling sorry for myself the entire way.

Thankfully by the next morning, despite a lingering sobfest headache, I’d gained a little perspective and was ready to just get my car back and be done with it. My good friend Fancy drove me all over town from 9am to 5pm; by the end of it all I’d gone from being an Alabama resident with expired tags to an up-to-date, entirely legal Georgia driver. And while the ordeal was very expensive, it wasn’t as leveling as I was anticipating, which hey, is something.

All that is left is the mandatory court appearance, which feels entirely strange for my goody-two-shoes self to write. I’m such a lawbreaker! I’m such a rogue!

I see the resemblance, too.

But I’ve also learned my lesson and if you still haven’t picked up on it, too, here it is: If your tags are ever expired, change them immediately. Don’t wait for a less busy day at work. Don’t put it on your “to get to when it’s more convenient” list. Because if you find yourself facing a cop who doesn’t care, you’re walking home. And it’s a walk of shame, my friends. It is a walk of shame.

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