California Stoppin’

    I consider myself to be a pretty good driver. Of course, so does my brother whose driving record and consistent speeds say otherwise, but really I am a good driver. The only ticket I have ever had I got about 17 years ago. I am a generally good driver, but I do have one really bad habit… the California stop. At least, that’s what we call it around here (my apologies to those of you who actually live in California) when we mostly stop at a stop sign, though not entirely. It’s more of a pause, really, a deceleration but not exactly a total and complete stop. You may call it something else, but I would bet you’ve been guilty of a little “brake tap, check it out and go” yourself upon occasion.

    This hasn’t gotten me in trouble. At least, not until last February. My son had left his homework at school. Since he hadn’t used up his one free ride a year to go back and get something, I loaded him up in the minivan and we left. We went to the school, got the homework and headed home. All was going well until I came to the four way stop. I must have done my usual California maneuver because I suddenly saw lights in my rear view mirror as I turned the corner. Thinking the lights were just precautionary, I pulled over. “Please keep going,” I thought when I saw the car pull up behind me. “Why are you getting out of the car?” I silently yelled when I saw the officer open his door. Then, as he started walking up to my vehicle, I thought, “I can kiss my clean record goodbye!” He took my license, registration, insurance card, then came back and gave me what turned out to just be a warning. (Thank heavens.)

    He said, “You really need to remember to come to a full and complete stop. It’s important.”

    “Thank you,” I said as I took back my ID’s, “I’ll be sure to remember.”

    Then my ten-year-old son, you know, the one who’d forgotten his homework, the one who had made this entire trip necessary? That’s the one. He piped up from the back with, “Yeah, at least for a little while, anyway!”

    My eyes widened. My mouth gaped open. I had absolutely no response. Certain my son had just earned me an actual ticket instead of a warning, I waited for the fallout. Luckily, the kind officer, who, judging by the upturned corners of his mouth had definitely heard my son’s comment, simply shook his head a little bit and walked back to his cruiser.

    Fast forward three months. How am I doing? I have been much better at stopping fully, proving warnings do work, at least for me. The fear of seeing flashing lights in my window is a big factor. However, even a bigger factor than that is the voice of my conscience coming from the back seat.

    “Mom,” he’ll occasionally say, “did you stop fully at that stop sign?” Since I know the question might be coming, I have been more careful with my stops. I don’t want to let my son down. I find myself wanting to do better, to be better so all my little ones will become the wonderful people they’re meant to be. They are always watching. Parenting has helped me become a better person in so many ways. It’s even helped me cut out the “California” part of my former California stops.


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