When I came to work on Friday, I found this lovely gift from Sheila on my desk. I had to laugh, because I really did come dangerously close to needing it. Oh yes, I almost got arrested this week. Apparently, I’ve been a criminal for almost a year and had no idea.

Thursday morning was not the best of mornings. Wednesday was long and tiring, writing and reading and editing stuff for class into the morning hours, and passing out on the bed, determined I would not write a darn thing for the rest of the week.

The next morning, I woke up to my sister saying “Are you gonna get up and go to work?” approximately at the time I needed to be leaving. Quick hair wash in the sink and a mug of cereal and I’m off.

Somewhere on 441, between Zellwood and Apopka, a sheriff pulled onto the road behind me. Okay, cool. I’m not speeding. I kept my speed and minded my own business.

Red and blue lights filled the rear-view mirror. Hmm, okay. Guess he’s going to whip around me and speed off to an accident or something. But no, he’s riding kind of close… and hey, is that backup that just magically appeared behind him? Oh snap. I think I’m being pulled over. I eased off the road, wondering why I didn’t just stay home in bed. He approached my car, and I strained to remember every pull-over story I’d heard, praying I could strike that balance between fear, respect, sweetness, and confusion. I rolled down my window.

“May I see your license, ma’am?”
“Um, sure!” I handed him my license, genuinely confused.
He looked it over. I hoped I could find my registration and insurance card in my messy glove compartment. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to hand over next?
“Your license is expired.”
“What?!” Now I was really baffled. “I thought I renewed it!”
“You’ve been driving on an expired license since July. It’s going on a year now. I have to issue you a citation.” And with that, he walked off.

If there’s anything worse than the red and blue lights in the rear-view mirror, it has to be the sitting and the thinking and the oh-my-gosh waiting while a police officer is at his car, checking out your life story and deciding your fate. I peeked in my mirror and saw him talking with his backup, a blonde woman in uniform. A part of me secretly hoped that I did indeed renew it, but simply and honestly forgot to put the sticker on the back, and maybe, just maybe, I’d get a little bit of grace for forgetfulness.

Nope.

He explained to me that I had a court date, that I needed to take care of it ASAP… and oh yeah, I could go to jail for this, but he wasn’t going to take me, and I needed to park it and have someone come get me because if I get caught again they could issue a warrant for my arrest.

Freak. Out.

My new friends drove away, and I sat there on the side of the road, awestruck at how close I had come to my very own mugshot.

I called the office, probably making no sense as I tried to hold composure and ask for someone to come pick me up at a gas station in Apopka. Office Manager Judy was delighted, I think. She picked up the phone, laughing, and said, “Wow, Jen, I’m impressed!” She assured me that she and Cathy would come pick me and my car up. I called my mom and cried until they came for me, and we all went on a field trip to the tag office/DMV together.

Apopka has the coolest tag office I’ve ever seen. (And I’ve only seen two, so I’m something of an expert.) I walked in, got my number from a man at a little desk (“Expired license,” he said, looking up over my glasses and smiling. “Happens all the time. Have a seat.”), and in no time, a sweet lady named Linda was checking my information, taking my picture, and getting me legal again.

“Under penalty of perjury, do you swear all this information is correct?”
“Yes. I don’t want to add perjury to my list of criminal offenses today.”

So, that’s my story. I wish I had a quarter for every time I had to tell it the past couple days. Apparently, I was just caught in a random tag check, and my sin of illegal driving finally found me out. Crime doesn’t pay, people.

When I finally made it to work, I was greeted with this. By the time this video was shot, the whole debacle had moved from terrifying to hilarious. I have the best (weirdest? :)) co-worker friends ever.

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