Friday, October 15, 2010

Are You Kidding Me?

October 14
7:15pm I close up the tack shop in Truro for the night. It's pretty much dark by now and I'm not looking forward to the 45 minute drive home, especially since I'm starving. To make it through the drive, I picture an evening that ends with a hot meal and a chance to curl up and unwind in front of the TV.

I cruise down the highway and approach my usual exit. It takes me home via a lonely, shoulderless back road which at night is dark and isolated. I start to veer toward the exit ramp, then think better of it and decide I'll take the slightly longer, less-deer-inhabited "mainstream" route.

I'm on the main drag in the area, route 14. Five more minutes and I'll be home spooning hot turkey soup into my starving soul. Ahead of me, I spot the unmistakable red and blue glow of police car lights-- in this case RCMP. They seem to be doing a spot check. I pull up behind several other cars and haul out my insurance card and driver's license while waiting to be waved forward. I'm not worried. I have nothing to hide.

After a few minutes, it's my turn. A young, female RCMP officer shines a flashlight in the car and asks for my license. I smile and hand it over. She looks at the license, then back at me.

"You're license is expired".

"What? It can't be. I just renewed it in June, after we moved here."

She tilts the laminated plastic card in my direction and shines the light so I can see EXPIRY DATE: 09/18/2010.

"I'll call in and double check though", she offers.

As she moves behind the car and speaks into the radio-like device attached to her shirt collar, a vague memory floats into my head:

I'm in a room full of chairs and frustrated people. I've been waiting here for an hour and a half. Finally, my number is called. At the counter, a woman takes my information and my old New Brunswick license. She charges me a horrendous fee, mumbles something about reciprocity with NB, and says I'll still have to renew my license in September. "What?" "That's when it was up for renewal in NB." But I just paid to have it renewed. "It doesn't matter".

The light once again shines in through my open window. I already know what the young officer is going to say.

"I called it in. Your license is expired".

I mumble something akin to ...."Stupid Service Nova Scotia...."

"I can't let you drive away from here. You'd be committing an offense."

My head snaps up.


"You'll have to find another way home."

It takes a moment for the implications of this to sink in. I'm not in downtown Halifax. I'm in the middle of rural Nova Scotia, on a dark, unlit road on a cold night. I can't exactly just hop on a transit bus or call a cab.

"I guess I can ask my husband to pick me up."

"And tell him to bring someone to pick up the car as well".

I stare blankly, and I start thinking.

"I don't have anyone else to call."

"Call your neighbours".

"I don't have any neighbours."

"You must have neighbours".

"Not exactly."

I stare ahead, running through names in my head.

"Call some friends."

"We don't know anyone in the area." (at least no one who would be willing in picking up either me, or my car and driving the 5 minutes to my house).

I stare ahead some more.

"Do you have a phone?"


"Ok, call and make arrangements then. And you'll have to get to Halifax AS SOON AS POSSIBLE to renew your license.

"I can go tomorrow".

"You can't drive there".


She turns and walks away.

I call Dave. He got home about 20 minutes earlier. There was no roadblock when he drove by. He sighs, grabs the dog, gets in the truck, and comes to pick me up off the side of the road.

When I get off the phone, the officer is back at my window.

"This should be a $300 dollar fine, but I'm writing you a warning". (I believe I'm supposed to be grateful-- which I mostly am)

"Ok. Thank you"

"Someone's coming to get you...and the car?"

"My husband's coming to get me."

"You'll have to park somewhere legal until you can send someone to get your car."

"Yeah, where do you want me to park?"

She looks around. It's a very dark area, on a sharp turn on a fairly narrow highway, on the corner of an even darker secondary road.

"You can't park on the curve in the road. And you don't want to park on the Blois rd. It's a shady area and trucks fly down the road there."

I look at her. I look around. The only place for me to park is on the wide shoulder pretty much where I am now.

"So....where should I go?"

"Ok, well, just pull up a bit and make sure you're over as far as you can get. You can't leave your car here indefinitely though. Someone will have to come get it."

"I don't know anyone who can get it."

"Well, I can't drive it for you. Think of it this way, I could have given you a $300 dollar fine and I didn't, so you can afford the 50 dollars to call a tow truck."

Fifty dollars for a tow truck in the middle of nowhere at 8pm? Right. But, I do have CAA, so, being a good, law-abiding citizen, I call them, and have it towed to the house.

By the time we, and the car, finally make it home, it's about 9:30pm. I forgo the hot soup and settle for a piece of Nutella-smeared toast and a fried egg for supper.

I understand that there are rules. I understand that the rules are there for a reason, but can't there be some discretion? I have a clean driving record: no DUI's, no suspensions, no loss of points, no speeding tickets. My license expired less than a month earlier. I live just minutes from where I was stopped.

On top of all that, I'd presented my license to the RCMP earlier that day (the same detachment where this officer is based). I was there to have a criminal background check done as a condition of my coaching certification. As part of the check, the woman behind the glass asked me for two forms of ID, including a valid driver's license. She took my license, left the room with it, presumably copied it or took down the information on it, then gave it back to me a few minutes later. She didn't say anything about it being expired, and I didn't think to look.

If I had been issued a ticket, I would have fought it in court.

It just all seems so silly. But, I encountered a similar lack of flexibility for the rules when I went to renew my license the next morning. (see Are You Kidding Me II-- soon to follow).

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