Apr. 12, 2019

WARNING: Pity Party Ahead

If you know me well, you know that I drive with both hands on the wheel. Always. You know that I never intentionally speed. Yes, I’ve received two speeding tickets in 45 years of driving. Both times, I thought the speed limit was something it wasn’t. I never knew that the speed limit was 30MPH on Highway 146’s feeder lanes in La Porte. I was going 40. I didn’t notice that East Boulevard dropped from 50 to 40 in a matter of seconds when it first opened.

School zones are sacred to me. I do not speed in school zones. I am the fool that stops for school buses loading or unloading even when there is a grassy median in the middle of the road. I typically stop before the red lights come on as the bus begins slowing down. I begin to stop when I see the yellow flashing lights. Last time I checked, my vision was strong enough that I noticed big, huge, yellow school buses.

I got a ticket yesterday. I turned right off Kirby onto NASA Parkway in what is technically Pasadena for about a 1-mile strip. I had passed the elementary school that is very visible from Kirby and I was almost certain that I was driving later than the school zone’s hours. I don’t simply trust the yellow blinking lights on a school zone sign. I literally read the times in every district at every school. I’m also the goofy person that drives 20MPH through school zones during the Christmas holidays. I know every district has their own holidays. So, again, I don’t rely on blinking yellow lights.

As I made the turn onto NASA Parkway after stopping for the red light, I looked up and this police vehicle was speeding up behind me with sirens glaring and lights flashing. Being the wife and mother of firefighters, I’ve also learned to watch for flashing lights. I know police are typically red and blue in most cities while the fire departments typically use only red and white lights. I’m not one who plays the radio so loud that I don’t hear or notice emergency vehicles. I always move to the right lane and stop to allow the responding vehicle to go by me. I’ve been told I don’t have to completely stop. I just need to move to the right and slow down. Like I said, I’m the goofy person who tries to make sure I honor any deviations from city to city. I go to the right lane and stop.

The police officer pulled up next to me and started waving his hands at me. I could tell he was yelling to himself, but he had his windows up and I had my windows up, so I couldn’t hear him. He sped ahead and it appeared he was going for the truck immediately in front of me. This truck was also at the red light at Kirby and NASA Parkway. He pulled her over onto a side street but blocked me in so that I could not move. He jumped out of his car and yelled, “Get to a side road!” I was in shock. I can honestly tell you I had no clue what I’d done and certainly didn’t think he was after me.

I pulled directly behind the other lady in her truck. The police officer went to her and spoke to her and then came back to me. I put my window down. Speechless. And, if you know me well, you know I am never speechless. The officer said, “You broke the law by bypassing a bus.” Again, I was stunned. I had to stop and think, “What does that mean?” since I hadn’t seen any school buses anywhere. He moved from truck to car ticketing both of us for the same offense. I could hear him talking to the lady in front of me, so I knew she also “bypassed a bus.”

When the officer came back to my car, I said, “Sir, what does that mean?” He said, “You sped past a stopped school bus that was unloading children.”

People, I never saw a school bus. How could two adult women miss a big, huge, yellow school bus with flashing red lights and its little stop sign off to the side? Where was the school bus? Mr. Officer assures me he “has it on video.”

I didn’t ask the officer any additional questions because, quite frankly, I was in shock. If you know me well, you know I would never, ever intentionally speed past a bus that is loading or unloading children. Even after 24 hours, I continue to replay the situation in my mind. I never saw a school bus.

Here’s the pity party part – the ticket is $750.00. Yes, you are reading correctly - $750.00. I burst out crying when I read it. The cop really didn’t care that I burst out crying, and he shouldn’t have cared. I broke the law and he was doing his job. But, here’s the deal: My dad has been ill and close to death since the beginning of February. My mother also got the flu, but we caught hers early enough, so medication worked. My brother had an emergency MRI and CT scan on the same day my dad was hospitalized (the first time) and my mother was diagnosed with the flu. There was discussion about the possibility that he could have colon cancer. If you know me well and read my Facebook page, you know my brother’s tests were all clear (Thank You, Lord!). I’ve lost both sisters to cancer at young ages.

My husband fought the ITC fire for several days, had to have blood work done to check for benzene levels, and had two unrelated heart evaluations. The day I received my $750.00 ticket, I was on the way to UTMB in League City to have a CT scan to evaluate a growth on my kidney. I quit my job, a job I loved, due to family needs on March 15th. To sum it all up (and to stop whining because, believe it or not, there is more!), I have been quite distracted. So, anything is possible.

I still find it hard to believe I missed a big, huge, yellow school bus with flashing red lights and its little stop sign off to the side. I guess the saying is true: There is a first time for everything.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3 (portions)