Flashing lights from an unmarked black sedan; sudden short blare of a siren out of nowhere. I pull over, but the police car doesn't move on. Those lights, for me? For me?
I'd been tooling along John Nolen Drive, lost in Ligeti's propulsive first Étude. Is that what it was about the throbbing blue Beetle, swimming along in a sea of cars going just as fast, that asked for special attention?
I was still befuddled as I waited for the patrolman to walk over. The soundtrack moved to the questioning, ethereal strains of the second Étude. It had been so long since my last (and first) speeding ticket at age nineteen (for those keeping count, this would have been during the Carter administration), that I did not know that the Socratic method is now employed to enforce moving violations: P: Do you know why I pulled you over? C: [Racks brain. Brake light out? I just put the new license sticker on last month. Jumped the gun on the green light? What? What? What?] I'm sorry, officer. I don't know. P: Do you know what the speed limit is? C: [Heart sinks. Uh, oh. This is not a friendly stop. And I have no clue what the speed limit is.] I'm sorry, officer. I don't know. P: Do you know how fast you were going? C: [Well, I was keeping up with traffic. What that translates into as a number...I have no clue.] I'm sorry, officer. I don't know.
Busted! For the failure to keep under 35 miles per hour on an 8 lane boulevard that feeds into the freeway. The portentous, ominous finger-drumming of the third Étude wound tighter and tighter as I waited for the patrolman to weigh my fate and render his verdict. It seemed like forever, but he finally returned from his vehicle with, sigh, a ticket. I accepted it, meekly embarrassed, while the fourth Étude played on in a right hand-left hand colloquy of all the things that I imagined I could have said:
- "You can't possibly hear the last movement of Beethoven's Seventh and go slow!" (But then, I didn't have Beethoven's Seventh in the CD changer, and I'm no Oscar Levant.)
- "I was in a rush to get to my daughter's middle school to pick her up from the nurse's office!" (This was true, but inaccurate as to the connection between my state of mind and my foot of lead.)
- Last ditch musical plea:
"I've been having a bad, bad day /
Oh won't you put that pad away /
I'm asking you please /
Noooo...it isn't right, it isn't fair..."
And so, our business wrapped up, the music moved to the fifth Étude, the soundtrack to the dejected retreat of the loser, as I waited for an ebb in the mass of cars whizzing past at 65 miles per hour to ease back on the road. When you next see a downcast blue Beetle, stolidly hugging the speed limit while traffic backs up behind it, that'll be me.