Earlier today, I was pulled over and given a ticket for not wearing my seatbelt. I sometimes don’t wear my seatbelt, I’m not a fan. The notion that it is mandatory mainly because of insurance premiums makes me feel like a petulant child, rebelling against a society that deems personal freedoms superceeded by corporate interest. Wearing a seatbelt can save your life in the right scenario. It can also end it in another. You won’t be able to convince me that your decision to wear one every single time should affect my decision to wear one or not, as I feel. So when this cop pulled me over today, it could be argued that he was completely justified in doling out a financial reprimand to the tune of $167 for my arrogance.

Here’s the irony. I was actually wearing my seatbelt today. I was driving down a section of highway where a woman died last year when her 4runner skidded and drove headfirst into a truck. Call it a silly superstition but in the winter time, on that section of highway I’ll put on my seatbelt. But I put it under my arm because otherwise it makes me clausterphobic. Which apparently is wrong, but whatever, it was on.

So when I stopped, I thought he was pulling me over because of my broken taillight (someone backed into me while I was parked in salmo one day and then took off. Nearly took off my bumper too. It’s now hanging on with a bungy cord. I love those things.) So I didn’t even think about it when I popped off my seatbelt to reach over and grab my insurance out of the glove compartment. And surprise, he didn’t even mention the taillight. For someone who considered himself so incredibly observant to notice no seat belt as I drove past him (he did a u-turn on a snowy highway to come back and give me a ticket) it seems strange he wouldn’t bring up the taillight.

But now he’s got me because now, I’m obviously not wearing my seat belt, having already taken it off. When he told me I hadn’t been wearing a belt, I looked at him in disbelief and asked, “are you messing with me?” He insisted that I wasn’t wearing it and the more I told him I had, the stronger his conviction that I was lying became. Just as I was about to lose it completely I stopped. His belief that he was right was righteous, unwavering, almost desperate. When I told him I took my belt off to get at my insurance, he said, but I was sitting behind you, I didn’t see you do that. Except that my glove compartment was open, the insurance was already in my hand when he walked up. The seat belt was slack beside me. At one point he even said that honesty goes a long way with him, as in, if I would just admit I hadn’t been wearing my seat belt he might take it easy on me. If I admitted that he was right and I was wrong, he’d let me go with a warning. But since I had lied, he was going to give me a ticket.

Perhaps I should have sucked it up and agreed with him. Perhaps I should have lied and said I hadn’t been wearing my seat belt. Perhaps I should have tried to argue that it was under my arm, he didn’t see and apologize for not wearing it properly in the hope of some leniency.

He brought the ticket up and told me where I could pay it, how to dispute it, etc. I asked, is there a point in trying to dispute it? Because really, I have no idea how long something like this gets tied up in the system. I’ve never been ticketed for any driving infraction in my entire life. I wanted to ask, does this show up on my insurance, does it count for driving points, there were many things I wondered, but when I asked this first question and looked up at his stone faced countenance, I thought, I don’t actually want to ask any more questions of you. He had decided that I was guilty, he even insisted that he had a camera that had taken a picture of me not wearing a seat belt, which may or may not be true. That really doesn’t matter to me.

Of course I’m thinking to dispute it in court. It could be I have a chance of winning, especially if he doesn’t show up, as I think sometimes happens. It could be that even if I can prove I was wearing it, the fact that I had it tucked under my arm would still make it fall under the category of “in the wrong” on some level and I’ll still have to pay the fine. But I’m not so desperate to prove that I’m right. I’ve slipped under the radar countless times, avoiding tickets, vehicle impounding (ford van with gmc bus plates from 2 different provinces and only a learners’ license among the 4 people in the van? that’s some crazy jedi ju-ju) and likely other possible moments of potential sunday afternoon gone terribly awry moments.
Perhaps all those times finally rolled up in a black van filled with righteous indignation and demanded some payback. Perhaps 2013 will be the year of humility, the year of capitulating to the small inconveniences so that the energy is saved for the grander fights, the ones that are worth my time.
It could be argued that every injustice is worth fighting for, but that said, I don’t know that this scenario necessarily counts as an injustice to be completely honest. I could have said, “you’re correct in your assertion that I wasn’t using my seat belt in the most efficient way possible, though I was wearing it” and have compassion for his need to be the champion of justice. Even if justice takes the form of ensuring that people are bullied into wearing straps across their bodies which can potentially trap them in a car that’s just driven into a river. On fire. Filled with angry monkeys. It could happen.

Although, it could be that I’ll have to dispute it, since I can’t afford to pay it. But maybe this is the kick in the ass I need to step it up and find that perfect balance of work I like and work that pays well enough that I can buy my house and pay my traffic ticket, while eating food.  Who knows what this new experience will spur on. Maybe the next time I see him, I’ll be in such a good place that I’ll give him a big kiss!

That is extremely unlikely.

It’s more likely that I’ll sort out the financial issues, come up with $400,000, buy my house, pay the fine, hang some lights and throw a party. That doesn’t seem so difficult. The theme of the first party at my new house will involve hats. Because people are not wearing enough hats. And that other thing.