Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Saga of Officer Pony Tail

Sometimes life gets a little complex. First, the background. The Hairy Mrs. and I drive older autos. We live in Washington State, where cars have to have emissions inspections every two years. For the past several years the business that I manage has had rough times, largely due to increased Federal regulation. It has taken all of my energy to keep that going, and sometimes my personal life has had to slide a bit. One of my jobs, as the man in the family, has been to take care of the autos. A couple of years ago, the Hairy Mrs.’ auto flunked its emission test.

That means that we, and by we I mean I, had to take it in to the shop, figure out what was wrong, pay to have it fixed, take the vehicle back to be inspected again, and then take the new test results to the license plate station, to get new tabs. There were other, more pressing issues. I told The Hairy Mrs. to avoid cops until I could get around to it.

About a year later, it was my car’s turn to be emissions tested. I didn’t think that I should take care of my car before I took care of The Hairy Mrs.’ car. So I started avoiding cops too. I didn’t do as good of a job as she did. I got pulled over by Officer Chrome Dome, and was given a ticket for expired plates. I didn’t bother to tell The Hairy Mrs., figuring I would just take care of all of it at once. Plus if you get new plates, you don’t have to pay a big fine for the expired plates ticket.

Things got busy.

I didn’t get the emissions test. I didn’t get the new tabs. I didn’t pay the ticket. I didn’t make it to the court date. I figured my license had been suspended and a warrant had been issued for my arrest. So I REALLY started avoiding cops. And I didn’t tell The Hairy Mrs. For a year. Once you get past a week or two you get kind of a false sense of security.

One day The Hairy Mrs. was on the way to pick up The Hairy Urchins. She called the oldest Urchin and cryptically said that The Hairy Urchin should call The Hairy Buddah, and say that a substitute pickup was needed. No explanation of why, no call to The Hairy Buddah.

So The Hairy Urchins were deposited at The Hairy Home, and The Hairy Buddah went in search of The Hairy Mrs. (I know, that’s a lot of hair).

Turns out The Hairy Mrs. had been pulled over by the dreaded Office Pony Tail. Officer Pony Tail was fresh out of the police academy. She stood about 5 feet nothing, had a sweet, heart shaped face, and looked a little lost in the uniform, bullet proof vest, and Utility Belt with gun, tazer, mace, handcuffs, ticket writing book, and other sundry implements of law enforcement. And she had caught her first major criminal, The Hairy Mrs. As it happens, having tabs that expired more than 2 years previously is a misdemeanor in Washington State. So Officer Pony Tail had to call her supervisor, none other than Officer Chrome Dome. It took over 30 minutes for Office Chrome Dome to arrive. During that time The Hairy Mrs. was experiencing a wide range of emotions – anxiety, fear, confusion, irritation, impatience, and anger. A lot of anger. At least I had made sure that she had her mandatory insurance card with her.

Now I had a HARD deadline. Everything had to be FIXED before The Hairy Mrs. was due in court. It seemed likely that the prosecutor would be somewhat assuaged if The Hairy Mrs. Mobile passed its emissions test, and had current plates.

I decide to take care of my car first, so that I could (more) safely drive around taking care of her car. On my way to the Vehicle Emissions Testing Station, I passed two cars that had been pulled over for some infraction or other. I figured this was my lucky day, as others were clearing the way for me, sacrificing themselves and distracting the long arm of the law. To my amazement, my 20 year old Detroit POS had clean and minty fresh breath. I could now get fresh tabs for my plates, and be less likely to avoid the attention of John Law. At the Emissions Testing Station I learned that the two year old test on The Hairy Mrs.’ vehicle had also expired, and it had to be tested again.

Then I got creative. I took my car to where The Hairy Mrs. car was parked. I was going to pick up the new tabs for my car while driving hers. I wanted her engine to warm up so that it might have a better chance of passing the Emissions test. Now this was just stupid. There was no way her car was going to pass the test. The Check Engine light had been on for the last 2 years. That is an automatic fail. The less time I spent in that car, the better. But I was in her car, on my way to the License Plate station.

It turned out this was not my lucky day after all. Who would I encounter at a stop sign, but OFFICER PONY TAIL! She IMMEDIATELY recognized The Hairy Mrs.Mobile. It has a very distinctive shape (it’s an old cop car), and amusing personalized plates. I could SEE the License Plate station in front of me. I could SEE Officer Pony Tail turning around behind me. I ZOOMED into the License Plate station, popped out of the car (if you can consider “popping” something that can be accomplished with wheezing, grunting, and groaning), and headed for the door.

Officer Pony Tail popped out of her car (no considerations needed), and accosted me in the parking lot. She looked at me, looked at The Hairy Mrs.’ long expired plates, looked at the door of the License Plate Station, and decided not to decide. She needed to call fo back up. To stall for time she told me that I couldn’t be driving that thing. I agreed, and said that I was there to FIX it.

Now I am sweating bullets (oddly appropriate given the circumstances). I had an expired drivers license and likely a warrant out for my arrest, for failure to appear. For expired tabs on The Hairy Buddahmobile. She let me go in to the License Plate station, and called for backup. Officer Chrome Dome.

There is quite a line of people waiting for their plates. They all look out the door. Two cop cars blocking in their vehicles. “What is going on?” they ask. “Oh, that’s just me” I sheepishly admitted. My plates are expired, and they are probably deciding what to do with me. I get the “you poor man, glad it’s not me” look.

At this point I realize that I don’t have the paperwork I need for plates for her car. I was just planning to get the plates for my car, and then go get her car emissions tested. Her paperwork was on the front seat of my car. I was just a few blocks from my office, so I called a co-worker, and asked him to quickly bring the papers. It was entirely possible that Officer Pony Tail and Officer Chrome Dome might come to the conclusion that I had ducked into the License Plate station to simply avoid Officer Pony Tail, and that I BETTER have the needed paperwork pretty quickly.

I told my co-worker where I kept my emergency car keys in my desk, but forgot to tell him to drive his own car over. (You wouldn’t think that someone sufficiently organized to keep emergency keys in his desk would get into this kind of fix in the first place, but there you go.) My car still had expired tabs. Fortunately he came in his car and gave me the papers before anything else happened.

Then Officer Pony Tail, after consulting with Officer Chrome Dome, heads for the door. Now I am expecting to have to give my (expired) drivers license, have it run, have the warrant discovered, and be drug away in cuffs, in front of everybody in the building. No, she just wants to inform me that she is NOT going to give me a ticket, but IS taking the plates off of the car. FINE with me!

Wouldn’t you know it, but neither Officer Pony Tail, nor Officer Chrome Dome, had a screwdriver. It took them about 20 minutes to get the plates off with a pocket knife. I didn’t think it wise to offer them the screwdriver from the emergency kit that I placed in The Hairy Mrs.’ car some years ago. (Again with that organizational conundrum.)

Now some of the other citizens trapped in the License Plate station are getting a little anxious. Officer Chrome Dome has been spending a lot of time on his radio while Officer Pony Tail has been working on The Hairy Mrs.’ car. A black gentleman in a 3 piece suit said “Are they running plates, out there? They better not be running plates out there. This is the License Plate station.” Perhaps I was not the only person in the building who was avoiding the Constabulary.

Finally Officer Pony Tail completed her task, re-entered the building, handed me the screws that had been holding in the plates, and left with her trophies in hand. It was my turn in line.

Then came one of the most amazing twists of fate. Because the plates had been expired for more than 2 years, it was as though the vehicle were being registered for the first time. It was not the year that vehicle was required to get emissions inspected. I was given new plates without having to pay for back plates, or have an emissions inspection. I KNEW that car could not pass, that it was and is pumping toxic fumes into the atmosphere (my apologies to the Goracle and Mother Gaia), but I had new plates. For both vehicles.

So I took the screwdriver out of the emergency kit, put the new plates on The Hairy Mrs.’ car, drove to my car, put the new sticker tabs on my car, and was finally safe from the attentions of Officer Pony Tail and Officer Chrome Dome.

Now to deal with the courts.

Have I mentioned that The Hairy Mrs. experienced some anger? Only a tiny portion of it was directed toward Officer Pony Tail and Officer Chrome Dome (they didn’t actually deserve any anger, but that is the nature of The Hairy Mrs.). I was clearly expected to visit the court, deal with the prosecutor, show the paperwork, make the explanations, and to take care of The Hairy Mrs. misdemeanor ticket before dealing with my problems, and (hopefully for her) dragged off in chains to experience my just desserts. (mmmmmm dessert).

But first we had to attend a previously scheduled party of our friends. One of whom is a retired County Mountie. A former officer of law enforcement. As the entire saga of Officer Pony Tail was told, the room filled with howls of laughter. At my expense. Deservedly so. None laughed harder than our own County Mountie. As a group they decided that they were going to take off work, and appear in court to act as character witnesses at our hearing. The Hairy Mrs. Was Not Amused. It would have been unlikely that their statements would have been of significant assistance. The phrase “life in prison without possibility of parole” came to mind, after their offer of “assistance”.

The day of court was a stunning anti-climax. They had dismissed both of our cases. Just too minor to deal with. Apparently Officer Pony Tail and Officer Chrome Dome are only called in to court for serious moving violations, or for people who don’t have insurance.

If you simply ignore an expired tabs ticket, it just magically goes away.

No warrant had ever been issued for my arrest. A quick check online showed that my drivers license had automatically been taken off suspension.

Leaving us secure in the knowledge that we would never, ever, ever, ever let this happen again. And by we The Hairy Mrs. meant I.

Two weeks later our friend the County Mountie was pulled over by Officer Pony Tail for expired tabs.


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