Thursday, April 25, 2013

Mom, Wife, Friend... and Felon?

So I'll make this short and sweet. (Like me!)

If you get a ticket for not wearing a seat belt, pay it. It's likely in the neighborhood of only $25, and it is NOT. WORTH. THE. TROUBLE. of not paying it.

Shall I tell you a story? Ok, let's all sit indian-style on our carpet squares like we did in 2nd grade. Hands in your lap, don't touch others. No interrupting until I'm through.

Once upon a time, many years ago (literally!) I was driving to Tulsa to pick up some friends from the airport. Upon stopping at the toll booth halfway to my destination, I took off back onto the highway without noticing the state trooped who was idling in the median next to the turnpike. He quickly caught up to me. I look in my rear view mirror to see this lovely sight:

He SAYS he stopped me because I was going 79 in a 75 (really?! FOUR MPH OVER?!) but he says "I'm going to go easy on you and just give you a ticket for not putting your seat belt on after you left the toll booth." I'm thinking, "Gee thanks, how generous of you."

He goes on to tell me in gruesome detail about how many "purty young girls" JUUUUST like me have been scraped up off of the highway after being in accidents while not wearing their seat belts. I smiled and nodded. A lot. He eventually took his beer belly and crooked aviator sunglasses back to his patrol car, and we both went on our way.

Long story short: I forgot about this ticket. I think I stuck it in my glove box, and then later threw it away. But its JUST a seat belt ticket. The great state of Oklahoma must have much bigger fish to fry than to deal with a measly $25 seat belt ticket, right?

........... Wrong.

Apparently the great state of Oklahoma views all fry-worthy fish on an equal basis. So my unpaid seat belt ticket ranked right on up there on an equal level with sex offenders and wanted cold-blooded murderers.

I'm just kidding. Its still just a seat belt ticket, after all.

Fast forward to a year and a half later, when I need to get my AR DL renewed because it was nearing its expiration date. I take my happy self into the DMV and am told that there is an outstanding "issue" in Oklahoma that needs to be settled before I can get a new license. I said "Ok... So what do I do in the mean time since my license is going to expire?" The lady behind the counter simply said "Don't do anything to get pulled over, and no one will be any the wiser."

Well, that sounded easy.

So... I kind of forgot about that, too. I didn't REALLY forget, but it just wasn't a priority. I mean, the lady at the DMV didn't act like it was a big deal, or even very time-sensitive at all, so I could just take care of it whenever I got around to it. Right?

At some point, I lost my license card. Probably in that point of my life where I changed wallets/purses daily because I didn't have anything better to do? I needed a valid state ID to be able to go take a drug test as part of my application/interview process with Walmart, so I went to the DMV. Still haven't cleared up that OK issue, so I'm trying to talk my way around it and explained to the lady behind the counter why I needed an ID. She didn't even ask if I had a driver's license or what the status of it was; she just printed up a nice shiny state-issued photo ID and handed it over. Only cost $5.00! "Woohoo, I'll take 10, one for each of my purses!!" is what I wanted to say.

Got the job at Walmart.
Moved to the rental house.
Got married.
Had two more kids.
Bought a house.
Changed utilities multiple times.
Went to the bank at least once a week for three years.
Managed to avoid midnight sobriety checkpoints on "drinking" holidays.
Changed car insurance.

Amazing what all you can do and no one asks for a driver's license, huh?

Three months into our new auto policy with Allstate, my sweet little insurance agent's assistant calls to tell me that a "blip" came up on my MVR and it "may cause some premium issues"... She says she's going to put the information to me in the mail. A few days later, I receive a generic letter stating that policies are subject to change if changes are made to your driving record due to an accident or moving violation.

That's it. A generic letter. Nothing stating what's wrong with MY driving record or what (if anything) is going to change with our auto policy.

Fast forward to two weeks ago today.
Driving through the pokey little town of Centerton, AR, on my way to drop off the eldest J-baby at the babysitter's house, and what do I see in my rear view mirror?


(Except it was daylight. 7:34am, to be precise.)

Apparently, I was "speeding"... 37 in what I thought was a 35, but was really a 30. The officer asks for my license.......................

Whoops. All I have is my pretty little state-issued NON-drivers ID. I smile sheepishly as I hand it over and said "I only have this with me. I'm sorry. You can run my information off of it though."

He asks why I don't have my license. I say I lost it (which is true!)... He asks why I didn't get a new one and why I have a non-drivers ID instead. I said the lady at the DMV said I couldn't have another license until I get a petty little thing in Oklahoma cleared up (which is also true!) and that she told me just to drive carefully until then. (I ONLY speak the truth here, people!!)

He takes my license and insurance card back to his car for an excruciatingly long two minutes. Meanwhile, Jailyn is tugging with all her might at the straps of her car seat, trying to break free so she can see the policeman and his police car.

He comes back to the car and says "Ma'am... do you know your license is suspended?"

Uhh... What?!

I said "No! I thought I just had an unpaid seat belt ticket!"

He says "What do you think happens to your license when you don't pay a ticket?!"

I said "But its a SEAT BELT TICKET! It was 25-freaking-dollars! It was nothing!"

He says "If it was nothing, then why didn't you pay it?"


He looks proud of himself for making his point. I suppress the urge to ask him how many times a week he's goes to Krispy Kreme.

Long story short (again... I keep trying to shorten it but it's still a long story -- funny how that happens) he tells me I cannot drive my car until my license is reinstated. I have to call someone to come pick up my car or he's going to have it towed. I'm allowed to drive it off the main road that I'm sitting in and park it at my babysitter's house.

I then have to call my mother to come pick me up and take me to work. She arrives and I do the walk of shame from the babysitter's front door to the passenger side of her car. I explain everything to her and that unfortunately I can't drive again until my record is cleared in Oklahoma, which could take a week or so. She handles it with a lot more patience than I would have expected and offers to drive myself and the kids to and from work and the babysitters houses every day until its all said and done.

At one point about a year ago, I called the state of Oklahoma's Department of Public Safety and got the skinny on my ticket. The ticket itself was only $25, but when you don't pay it on time, it accrues a lovely little fine. It's now worth a whopping $136. Plus a $50 reinstatement fee to "reinstate my license to good-standing status." Lovely.  I also learn that the state of Oklahoma is rather technologically-inept, and they cannot process payments for the purpose of settling these issues by phone or online. Everything must be done by "snail mail." So I have to mail my fine payment in, wait for a receipt to be mailed back to me, mail the receipt back with the reinstatement fee, and then give it a couple of days for everything to clear in the system. So I put a check in the mail to the County Clerk and waited for my receipt. Four weeks later, I receive my check back with a letter that says personal checks are not accepted, only cashier's checks or money orders. At that point, I said "screw it, I'll deal with this later." Who has time to go to the bank and get a money order? Twice?! Not this girl.

As it turns out... that was a pretty dumb thing to do.

So for the last two weeks I've been "chauffeured" around by my mother, who drove to our house every morning, parked her car in my driveway and loaded up my kids and I in my mom-mobile, and made the "delivery route" to drop us all off at our destinations, then did it all in reverse every afternoon to pick us all up. It also took almost the full two weeks (12 days to be exact!) for all the correspondence back and forth to occur, and to be able to get to the DMV for a new license. (BTW, Arkansas Drivers Licenses look weird now.)

Today is my first day on the road again ("...Just can't wait to get on the road again...") and as I pull into the babysitters' neighborhood this morning, I pass my old friend Krispy Kreme, the trusty Centerton cop who pulled me over two weeks ago. We made undeniable eye contact, and I KNEW that he would pull me over to check my license before I left the neighborhood. Sure enough, I was right.

But I was ready for him. He walks up to my open window and I held out my new shiny license, smiled and said "Good morning, officer. Slow day today?"

He didn't think it was very funny.

But he checked my license, brought it back and wished me a good day. And off we went on our separate ways.

Now I'm back on the road, singing at the top of my lungs with my eyes closed/eating with chopsticks/texting everyone in my phonebook/applying eyeliner and mascara, all at once, all while driving. But at least I'm wearing my seat belt.

I'm totally kidding, I don't do any of that while driving. Except the mascara, and only at stop lights.

The last piece of this drama will occur at 1pm on Tuesday May 21, 2013 when I go to my must-appear court date for my driving-on-a-suspended-license ticket. That should be super fun. I might even wear a cocktail dress and take along a peace-offering gift for the judge. OR I'll just show up early, be incredibly apologetic and remorseful, and cross my fingers for only a fine, and pay it without complaint.

This concludes story time for today, folks.

In case this has changed any of your opinions about me, here's a reminder of why I'm still a good person:

I make cute kids.
This is my positive contribution to society.
Until next time!

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