One Thousand Words That End With “I’m Sorry, Officer”

For a rather organized person, I am a complete dingbat when it comes to my car.

I juggle deadlines for contracts, bills, invoices and grants with ease. I never forget payroll, a performance or a meeting. I have complete control over the performing arts center’s master calendar which tracks rentals, shows, rehearsals, holidays, school vacations. It is efficiently color coded and in perfect order.

Yet I can’t remember to inspect and register my car every year.

In 2011 my car was supposed to be inspected in April.

One day, in the middle of June, I happened to glance up at the sticker. For a long time I just sat there staring at the big number four. I kept thinking, “That just can’t be right.”

I was convinced it was a typo or that I was confused somehow about which month was the fourth month.

I’m not the type to forget to get my car inspected. I’m too organized to let something like that slip my mind.

It turns out I am the type.

In my defense, they put those inspection stickers right behind the review mirror. I can’t see it at all when I’m driving. I have to duck my head forward to see where the sticker is, let alone see the number on the sticker.

The rearview mirror in my very first car, an old Subaru named Chuck, fell off one day and while it was inconvenient for driving, I never forget to get that car inspected.

And yes, I know the rearview mirror is just an excuse.

When I went to the garage to finally get the car inspected, I didn’t mention that it was way past due. I probably should have said something, but I was embarrassed.

When the young mechanic came back into the waiting area to cash me out, he asked very politely if I would like to give them my email address so they could send me a reminder of my next inspection.

I said yes and thanked them for such a great service.

Later I realized that the fact that they send email reminders at all tells me that I’m not the only one who forgets such things.

This Saturday morning, I awoke early in a complete panic because I realized that I had forgotten to renew my car registration for April 1st.

I don’t know why I woke up thinking about this on March 31st. If the information was in the back of my mind somewhere, it would have been helpful if it could have pushed it to the front more than one day before the deadline.

I jumped out of bed, rushed to my computer and renewed my registration. I knew I wouldn’t get the little sticker in time, but I felt better knowing I had done something to remedy the situation.

In retrospect, I probably should have just waited and gone to the DMV on Monday so I would have the sticker right away. But I was so upset about forgetting that I completed the renewal online without thinking it through.

So now I wait for the sticker to arrive in the mail and hold my breath every time I drive that I won’t get noticed by a cop.

It almost feels like a race between the police department and US Postal Service.

In my head, I’ve been contemplating various alternatives to waiting for the mail or a ticket.

My mother got new license plates this winter and, in the process, somehow ended up with two sets of December registration stickers. One when she renewed and another with the new plates.

Maybe I could put that extra sticker on my plate. Not permanently, just for now. Until mine arrives.

Chances are no one would notice, right? The police would have to run my plates through their system for some reason to know it wasn’t my sticker. And in that case I’d already be in some kind of trouble anyway and how much more time would a falsified registration sticker add to my sentence?

The other option I thought of was to use a black sharpie and turn the three into an eight. It would be easy to do and you can’t read those things unless you’re on top of them. Again, the officials wouldn’t notice unless I was stopped for some other infraction. Unless I got into an accident or drove through a red light, I’d probably get away with it.

Trouble is I talk a good game here, being all glib about getting time added to my sentence, but going to jail is one of my biggest fears. I’m scared to death about getting arrested for something I didn’t do.

I know if I got stopped, I’d probably just have to pay a fine, but in my imagination I see that fine leading to the ruination of my life. The link between me and some terrible unsolved crime that the police proceed to pin on me, even though I’m innocent, based on the fact that I tampered with my car registration.

It’s not reasonable, but if you’re convinced that you’re someday going to go to jail for a crime you didn’t commit, you want to stay out of the way of the police so they don’t get you in their sights.

I watch Law and Order. People have been framed by less than a forged registration sticker.

So in my fear, I decided that honesty is the best policy. I emailed the registration receipt to my phone so I’d have it with me and if I do happen to get stopped, I’ll simply explain that it completely slipped my mind and I renewed it the moment I realized it.

I’ll tell them that I’m reaching for my phone and not a gun (I told you I watch Law and Order) and show them the receipt to prove I’m not lying.

I’ll apologize and hope the officer is sympathetic.

And then maybe I’ll ask if they have an email reminder service.


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