Yesterday on my way home from a senior session, I was driving south down US-31 between Grand Haven and West Olive. I noticed so many beautiful, unique, all-American things, that I decided that the next time I thought to myself, “That’s cool”, I would get there and take a photo. I had my camera with me anyway, it was a gorgeous, sunny, spring afternoon, and the sun was starting to get lower in the sky. In fact, just that day two of my friends had talked about making a point to take photos every day, just for yourself, not for a client… and to see the beauty in everyday life. I figured what better time? So, I spotted my target… on the other side of the highway, of course. It wasn’t the best thing I had seen on my trip, but I wanted to stick to my plan. I looped back around and headed north, only to pass it (oops), and looped back down south one more time. I pulled all the way over onto the wide shoulder, parked the car and turned off the engine. Then I started taking pictures from my car window.
It wasn’t until a semi truck blew past my car, shaking it slightly, that I glanced up in my rearview mirror… only to see a police car parked behind me with its lights flashing. The officer was already on his way to my window, and I of course was freaking out inside, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. I rolled the window down, and he started making small-talk, which only made me more nervous. I assumed he was just toying with me. He asked if everything was okay, and I said, “yes..?” and I told him I was just taking pictures of that sign over there, then said something even more ridiculous about how I liked the colors (please stop talking!). He then said something to the effect of, “Oh yeah, it’s a nice spring day… all is right with the world…” At that point I was really confused. I guess I assumed there was another shoe that had to drop, and wanted him to get to the point already.
I have to flash back to my trip up to Grand Haven a couple hours earlier. I was cruising at 55 mph – the speed limit – when a cop car passed me. They weren’t in pursuit, as far as I could tell, they just felt like driving faster. I don’t know how fair that is. Maybe they should have the right to do whatever they want, but at that moment I kind of felt like – of course you want to drive 70! But it’s FIFTY-FIVE! And all the rest of us have to drive 55 because that’s the safe speed (and the law) on this road right? You see where I’m going with this? Anyway, I think it’s easy to have that two-fold opinion of police. On one hand, I’m afraid that I’m going to get busted for some minor infraction, like speeding even slightly (which I wasn’t doing), although I see so many people committing such worse offenses on the road, and if were ever to politely defend myself that I’d be hauled out of my car, slammed onto the hood, and arrested! Yikes! Then again, I catch myself all the time thinking, “I wish there were more cops around here” or feeling safer when there is a noticeable police presence. I know some cops, and they are excellent people. I could never do their job, and furthermore there is overwhelming support in the news that proves they aren’t heartless robots, but instead incredibly caring, selfless, brave people. I guess I was being paranoid that I was a criminal and not even realizing it, because I saw a colorful farm sign and got too engrossed in the scene through my viewfinder.
So, back to the conversation at the car window. I was nervous and probably weird, and knew deep down I wasn’t doing anything wrong, but I couldn’t get past that conditioned reaction to having red and blue lights flashing behind me (something I’ve experienced only a couple times in my life). The officer told me that they had seen the car pulled over, and saw a head in the vehicle (hello, cop-speak), and wanted to make sure everything was alright.
If I could go back and do it again, I would have been more appreciative, and less annoyed and confused. Cops are primarily here to protect people, and their enforcement of the law is just another means to protect society. Cops put their lives on the line for complete strangers, no questions asked. I could have been a crazy person, doing drugs, wielding a gun, whatever, and he walked up to my window, and I missed my chance to say a simple, “thank you for your concern.” So, yeah, I felt like an idiot, but I hope I’m not the only one who might act out of sorts in that scenario. As I drove away, I didn’t feel mad at them, I just felt dumb for not realizing they were there right away… and for how tongue-tied I was when he talked to me!
So, as it turns out – this sign I had seen while going 55 mph wasn’t quite as amazing as it was when I was stopped, looking at it, but believe me, I was committed at that point (after my looping up and down US-31). I laughed to myself (and even called a friend to tell her the story), thinking, “so this photo project we were talking about turned into quite the ordeal here!” but in a roundabout way, I did learn to see something in a new and different way, and it wasn’t this sign:
Thanks for reading. Happy Friday!