Friday, January 11, 2013

A Brush With The Law: What I Learnt From A Friendly Cop...

Monday mornings. Unpredictable aren't they? Well this last Monday was a doozy for me here in the outskirts of Knoxville, with the murky grey lining being that I learnt a fair amount of random information in a short space of time that I can pass onto others. That'll do then.

Mid-morning, on my way to the infuriating DMV to renew my license (different story for a different time, ugh), my eye is caught by blue flashing lights. Cops. Bugger. To cut a long story short I was zooming merrily along at 15 mph over the speed limit (without realizing that the speed zone had changed I might add!) Signs are few and far between on that particular stretch of road and I stupidly thought I knew the limits by heart since I travel that road most days - lesson learnt.

The policeman was actually lovely and instead of giving me a ticket (phew!) he used our conversation as an opportunity to teach me a little about the American process of getting pulled over and chit chatting with a man of the law... he'd realized as soon as I spoke that I wasn't a local and thank goodness he had some compassion! So I listened intently, apologized profusely (possibly whilst upping my Queen's English just a notch for good measure) and resigned myself to learn to speed limits of my local roads for reals this time.

I'm sure this is all common knowledge for most people, but having never been pulled over before it was handy to have the basics confirmed. Here are the instructions Mr. Policeman shared with me for future reference:

1. When you see that you're being pulled over, try to pull into a driveway or a quiet side road.

He explained this is to keep him safe from traffic whilst he's out of the car, which makes total sense - truth be told though I was afraid to use my common sense and do this before he told me so for sure, lest he think I was doing a runner!

2. Have your license, registration and insurance papers ready.

Still not too sure if I was supposed to be fumbling about in my glove compartment before he told me I was allowed to, since your hands are supposed to be on the steering wheel (weapons can be carried in vehicles in TN with the right permits) but I managed to get my stuff together before he arrived at my window, so I just went with it and apparently so did he.

3. Be polite and give straight forward, brief answers. 

Apparently this is not the most entertaining aspect of their job. Who knew? I was told that a polite, honest, simple interaction is a plus for them and inadvertently a plus for you. I'm glad I didn't let my mouth move 100 miles an hour like I usually do when I'm jittery!

I will say this. Coming from the UK where only the Metropolitan Police carry guns right out in the open (with whom I've had limited exposure despited living in London for 4 years) my first view of this cop through my window, was his hand gently poised on the handgun at his waist. It actually gave me the heebie jeebies. I felt like I was in trouble already or like I was expected to be volatile, and whilst I know this is just a precaution and that it's simply the norm, it's still not a sight I'm accustomed too and definitely fed into my nerves during the conversation.

I must have seemed suitably pathetic as opposed to 'guilty' though, since he let me go with just a quick lesson and actually a rather pleasant conversation truth be told, so supposedly the nervousness worked in my favor after all. Plus, I'm led to believe that the accent didn't hurt either.

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