Invisible copper

In case I have said so in this space before, let me say so now. Generally, I don't speed. I actually drive 20 mph in school zones when the lights are flashing and I follow posted speed limits on surface roads. I gauge my speed on interstates depending on the flow of traffic and weather conditions, like most people, but I'm not blazing past anyone either. Let me confess that I have received two speeding tickets in my life. One was justified, the other wasn't because I hadn't passed a speed limit sign yet, and I was using the rule of speed on a two-lane divided road (50 mph), the posted speed limit was 35.

So, I found it ironic that I had a cop tell me to slow down and pay attention on Thursday evening when I was on Route 16 heading towards Fresh Pond in Cambridge. I had left Arlington Center at about 5:30 p.m. and was heading was on Route 16 in the left travel lane. There weren't many cars around the car in front and me. In fact, there was one to our right and the ones behind were about 15 to 20 seconds back (that's a big gap).

As we approached the traffic signal at Fresh Pond, the car in front started to brake. I naturally thought he was braking for the red light ahead. This was not so. The driver was breaking harder than normal and I had to jam on my brakes to stop without creaming this guy. That's when I noticed a cop in his navy blue uniform (not very visible at night on a dark road) waving a reflective wand. That was the only thing reflective on him that I recall, and I noted that because cops on detail during the day wear reflective vests, so I don't know why this guy wasn't when he was standing in the middle of a busy state highway.

You know why he stopped us? To let one car make a left out of a side street. That was actually his detail duty; to let cars out of this side street. Fair enough. Once the car got out into our lane of travel, the cop signaled for the car in front of me to go, and for me to pull up so he can scold me. He tells me to slow down and pay attention. I told him I didn't usually travel this road, which is true, and I couldn't see him because he's wearing dark clothes and it's dark out before rolling up my window and carrying on with my journey.

Now, I don't usually mouth off to cops. In fact, I never do. It's a losing argument from the get go. Plus, my job has put me in touch with a lot of cops in a lot of Massachusetts towns over the years. I have developed some great relationships with them. I also have three cops living on my street. But I also know that some really get a hard on by putting on that uniform, and even the cops I know admit it. I doubt this guy was like that, but I couldn't help but get that impression from his behavior.

There was no reason to scold me. I wasn't speeding, and I was using the cues around me to determine the reason for slowing down. We were all approaching a red light. None of us was speeding. Both the car in front of me and the car next to me were braking, but suddenly not at the same rate. Then come to find out the cop stopped traffic to allow one car, not a line of cars, that hadn't been waiting very long to get out. But the car next to me didn't stop. It continued on to the light.

What I really wanted to say to the cop was that I was paying attention, and if he were paying attention he would have noticed the large gap behind us and waited for it to properly stop that traffic instead. In fact, it's possible that other car probably could have gotten out on its own, without the aid of a cop, given the space behind us. But, like I said, mouthing off to cops isn't a good idea. It's like arguing with a baseball umpire. The umpire ends up with dirty shoes and I end up watching the game from the clubhouse. Who wins in the end? The ump.


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