It was a grey morning, raining lightly. I had dropped my daughter off somewhere and was late for work. At a red light, I got out my cell phone and called in at work to tell them I’d be a few minutes late.
I finished the call and put the phone back in the breast pocket of my shirt, where I keep it because it is always set to “silent” and I need to wear it on my body to feel the vibration if someone calls me, plus it’s easier to get to when someone calls me than when it’s in my pants pocket.
I looked over to the right and there sat a police officer in his police car, watching me. I grinned my big boy-am-I-busted-or-what? grin and rolled down my window as he rolled down his.
“Normalerweise,” he said, “that costs twenty-five Euro.”
Several things went through my mind simultaneously. First, the joke, “what’s the last thing to go through a bug’s mind when it hits the windshield of a car? It’s asshole.” Second, “Wow, only twenty-five Euro? Christ, that’s a bargain. You can’t even get a fucking teeshirt for twenty-five Euro anymore, you guys ought to multiply that by ten if you want people’s attention.” And, also, “I definitely deserve the ticket. You caught me red-handed. I hate it when people talk on the phone while driving.” Most importantly, however, was the feeling of relief at hearing the word, “normalerweise”. It means “normally,” or “usually” and in this case, “you’re getting off without paying a fine.”
All I said was, “should I pay you right here?”
He shook his head and mumbled something along the lines of I was getting off with a warning. I apologized because I felt apologetic, and explained I was late for work and thought I could get away with a call at a red light. He sort of waved it off and I got the feeling any further explanation might make him change his mind about letting me off with a warning. I wished him a nice day instead.