680 to the 80 to the 113

February 2001: During my freshman year of college, driving home late one night, I got pulled over on a dark, empty stretch of freeway for going 85 miles per hour. “In a rush to get somewhere?” asked the highway patrolman, face set in implacable lines. I was so rattled and nervous that I blurted out, “I was just in a hurry to get home.” He raised his eyebrows skeptically, and I was moved to clarify, defensively, “It’s been a long day, and I’m just looking forward to getting home as soon as possible.”

He asked me where I was coming from. I gave him the name of my university, and watched his face light up. “They have one of the top medical schools in the country!” he exclaimed. I cautiously nodded in agreement. That was back when the thought of attending medical school still held magical appeal for me, and I wondered whether the influential name of my university could get me out of a speeding ticket, too. But, much too soon, his face closed up, reverted to its uncompromising highway patrolman look, and he gruffly ordered me to sign my name on the dotted line. “Try to slow down,” he warned. “You were going 85 mph in a 65 mph zone.”

September 2001: I was driving through the college town where I go to school when a police car turned onto the street right behind me. I was traveling at 35 mph, the posted speed limit, so I had nothing to worry about. Then the freak of nature started tailgating me, so I nervously sped up, and the tailgating continued. By the time he switched on his flashing lights, I wasn’t nervous anymore; I was just pissed off. I glared as we both pulled over and he sauntered over to my car. “Do you make a habit of tailgating people for eight blocks before you decide to pull them over for speeding?” I snapped. He smirked through my open window and replied innocently, “I wasn’t tailgating you.” He ticketed me for going 45 mph in a 35 mph zone. As we drove away, I remember my friend, D, objecting from the backseat, “It’s because of the way you were dressed, I know it! It was because of your hijab!” “Shut up, D,” I said irritably. But, really, I should have contested that one; I just couldn’t be bothered to do so at the time.

This morning: Forty miles from home, I raced through a curve and sufficiently intimidated the Hummer in front of me into switching lanes. That’s right, sucka! I gloated silently. If you can’t handle the fast lane, get outta my way! I thought that was pretty slick: I made a Hummer move out of my lane! Therefore, I’m so cool. My arrogance was extremely short-lived, however, because five seconds later a highway patrol car came out of nowhere, red and blue lights flashing in my rearview mirror. Damn, here we go again, I thought.

This guy turned out to be the nicest, most sympathetic highway patrolman yet. Not that that really helped me, though. “Can’t you just let me off with a warning?” I pleaded. He smiled benignly, but shook his head quite firmly. “You were following that Hummer pretty aggressively,” he said. “I’m really giving you a break here, by not issuing you a separate citation for that, too.” I decided to just give up at that point. So now I have a yellow citation marking me for going “75+ mph” in a 65 mph zone. Actually, I’d had my cruise control set at 80 mph ever since I hit the freeway, but, really, who’s counting? And, you know, I’m starting to think my debate skills are worthless. Sure, they help me excel academically, but what good are they if I can’t even effectively argue my way out of a speeding ticket? That’s just plain messed up.

So, yeah, I guess I spoke much too soon the other day.

“Yasminay!” cried my father with delight as I walked in through the door tonight. “How was your day?”

“Oh, it was wonderful,” I replied breezily, “except for the part where I got a speeding ticket.”

He took the news so much better than I had expected. He didn’t so much as bat an eyelash, and I didn’t receive the frosty lecture I had been anticipating. Praise the Lord. Two years ago, I got stern warnings and unsympathetic ultimatums about what would happen if I ever got another speeding ticket during my college career. Either my dad has mellowed out since then, or all those du’as I tensely recited on the way home tonight did the trick. I like to think it’s the latter. Then again, I didn’t mention the Hummer. But I love my daddy-o, I really do. I’m still constantly surprised the parents haven’t decided to give me away to the Salvation Army. Really, I would have, long ago.

I find it interesting that I have yet to receive a speeding ticket in the Bay Area. Perhaps it’s because we’re all aggressive drivers here, relentlessly in a hurry and on the go. And I can’t help it if I’m a speeeed freeeeak – I’ve got places to go, things to do, people to see, too. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Traffic school coming up, I guess. I’m semi-excited about that, actually. My last traffic school instructor was so hilarious, my stomach ached from laughing. And that’s really the best kind of laughter in the world, you know. I gotta hunt up her number again, even though I remember her last words to me, two years ago, were, “I better not have to see you in here again!”

Anyway, moral of today’s story: Hummers are evil, evil machines. Yes, they are, and you know it.

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