I pulled over the minute I saw the pulsating blues and reds reflecting off my rearview mirror. I turned off the engine, rolled down my window, and positioned my hands appropriately at the 10 and 2 position. I'd already taken off my cool shades and turned around my EMS hat to show I had nothing to hide. Damn! Why did I have to have a midlife crisis and buy this blazing red used Porsche from a friend who had a mid-life crisis himself and sold it because he was getting tired of being pulled over in this beacon-candy-for-cops sportster? What the hell was I thinki Ú, ˙Uh, good morning officer Ú sir Ú Your Honor.Ó
˙License and registration, please,Ó he said, obviously unimpressed with my attire, eye contact, crackling now-adolescent voice and body language reminiscent of rigor mortis.Should I hand him my Colorado paramedic license and EMS national registry card or would that be a tad bit obvious?
˙Do you know why I pulled you over?Ó he asked, with a voice plagued by boredom. Playing dumb, I replied in a surprised tone, ˙Why no, officer, I'm not sure.Ó
Giving depositions as a witness in EMS cases had taught me to offer nothing to legal authorities unless specifically asked. Saying, ˙Was I speeding?Ó or ˙Did I go through a red light?Ó suggests I might have done something wrong. Fortunately, the officer returned to his cruiser to do a background check, allowing me to regroup.
The good news was this wasn't a speed ensnarement zoneƒget caught in one of those mouse arenas and you're paying through the nose. The bad news was that I was pulled over in a rural area I didn't run as a medic, and this particular officer's name badge didn't ring a bell Ú not that I'm suggesting there's such a thing as professional courtesy in such situations Ú heaven forbid.
My palms began to sweat. Maybe I should've put on some latex gloves to cover it up. You'd think working with law enforcement on a day-to-day basis would keep me from being intimidated. Wrong! This guy was the gatekeeper to my freedom and lower car-insurance premiums.
Careful not to make any sudden moves, I positioned my uniform jacket on the front seat, ensuring the NREMT-P patch remained fully visible in all its sequined glory. I even pulled out my stethoscope and placed it alongside the coat. How's that for pathetic? But, what if this officer didn't like paramedics? What if he had a bad run-in on scene with one of us? Don't panic. Keep a good attitude. You want this guy to like you. Maybe I should've put a donut between my license and registration when I handed it to him. Maybe I should've spilled my Big Gulp in my lap and told him I was trying to get to a bathroom when he pulled me over.No. Groveling is good, but I need to maintain my dignity.
He returned and said, ˙So, I take it you're in EMS,Ó using his left hand to balance himself on my side-view mirror. The officer had put himself at eye level with me. This is a good sign, I thought.
˙I pulled over an ambulance just the other day for driving Code 3 too fast in a school zone.Ó Bad sign. ˙I used to volunteer as a medic.Ó Good sign. ˙They wouldn't hire me on as a paid medic, so I went into law enforcement.Ó Bad sign. I'm sure I looked like Groucho Marx as my eyebrows alternated up and down between each positive and negative EMS comment he made.
An awkward five seconds of silence passed. I still said nothing, hoping he'd think I really wasn't thereƒa non-memorable roadside entity, like road kill. He slid his shades down his nose to reveal his eyes and began to tap my driver's license on the window sill.
˙Do you know the speed limit here?Ó
˙Yes, sir,Ó I said, as I lowered my head in shame.
˙Do you know how fast you were driving?Ó
˙Yes, sir,Ó I mumbled with my chin now on my chest.
˙My job is to put people like you out of business.Ó
Oh my god, I thought. He's really out for blood. ˙I'm sorry officer.Ó (Which really means, I'm sorry I got caught.) ˙You were certainly correct in pulling me over, but I really need my license to work as a paramedic.Ó
˙Huh?Ó he said surprised. Then he laughed as he suddenly grasped my misinterpretation. ˙I'm letting you go with a warning, Mr. Berry. When I say my job is to put people like you out of business, I'm referring to preventing accidents before they happen so we don't have to summon your services to render care. Now get out of here before I ask you to take my blood pressure.Ó
I can honestly say I haven't been pulled over since that incident occurred 10 years ago. Good thing I sold the Porsche 120 months ago.
Until next time, stay safe (and ticket free).