It all started on my drive to work.
I was minding my own business, driving down the highway, when in my rearview mirror I saw the blue lights flashing. I pulled over, kept my hands on the steering wheel, and tried to remember what I learned about the Fourth Amendment in law school.
The officer approached my car, all business-like, and asked to see my license and registration. In my sweetest voice, I asked him what seemed to be the trouble. He said I didn't seem to have had my car inspected recently - the stickers on my plate were the wrong color.
I handed over my registration.
He compared my home address to the address of the Town Office that had issued my registration. Then he started writing me a ticket.
I sputtered out a series of questions that boiled down to "what in the world am I being ticketed for?"
Driving in an improperly-inspected, improperly-registered car, he told me. Fix it by tomorrow, he told me, or I'd get an even bigger ticket next time. Cars like mine aren't allowed on the roads, he told me.
I was already late for work, but I didn't want to be driving an illegal car for one minute longer than necessary. I headed to the "correct" Town Office. I was operating on borrowed time, so I really wanted to drive fast. The speed limit, however, was 35MPH the whole way. I went a risky 40MPH.
I also wanted to kill two birds with one stone and call a mechanic on my drive to Town Hall so that I could set up an appointment for an inspection. But in Maine, you're not allowed to drive while you're talking on a handheld device.
After sorting out the registration and inspection issues, I headed to work. But then I realized how hungry I was. And how badly I needed comfort food.
What I really wanted was a decadent grilled cheese. I headed to the grocery store. I was looking for my favorite raw-milk French cheese. Not seeing it in the deli case, I asked the man behind the counter where it could be. He said probably the closest shop I could find it was in France. Unpasteurized cheeses aged less than 60 days are illegal to import, he explained. Two people died from the bacteria contained in such cheeses in the past 15 years, so the U.S. banned the cheeses altogether, he elaborated.
Hungry and fuming, I left the grocery store. As I exited, I realized I was right next door to the pharmacy, so I figured I would pick up some Sudafed for my head cold. I grabbed a box and went to pay. The check-out lady with acrylic nails shaped like Christmas trees looked me up and down and asked for some identification. "What do I need to provide identification for?," I asked. She haughtily responded that drug dispensaries (like Rite Aid/CVS/Walgreens) have to ask for id in Maine anytime someone is trying to buy a "drug" that can be used to home-manufacture methamphetamines. I showed her my layer of lingering pregnancy weight and my 401(k), and threw my driver's license at the register.
I was getting more worked up by the minute. I decided to do something productive with my day to make myself feel better.
I called in sick to work and went home to get some trash we'd been meaning to take to the dump forever. I loaded it into my car and drove to our town's "transfer station," which is a fancy way of saying dump. I backed up my car, opened the trunk, and was greeted by a shifty teenager trying to assume an air of authority. "Sorry, ma'am. I can't let you transfer those goods at this station unless you've got a ticket to do so." I NEED A TICKET TO THROW OUT SOME TRASH AT THE TOWN DUMP? "Yes, ma'am, I'm afraid you do. The tickets are issued at the Town Office down the street so we can keep track of who's transferring items and control our costs." I shoved everything back in my car and decided to let my husband deal with it.
I thought about going to visit my friend, Jill, in the hospital. First, I called her girlfriend, Jody, to see if the timing was okay. Jody told me Jill was actually toughing out her kidney stone at home -- they couldn't afford the hospital visit because Jody's health insurance doesn't cover domestic partners who couldn't prove they'd been in a civil union for more than 5 years.
By then, I'd given up and accepted the fact I was going to need some help calming my nerves. I thought about buying some marijuana, but that's not legal in my state because just imagine the havoc that an incredibly chilled-out person with a case of "the munchies" could cause. I decided I'd go to our local tavern for a glass of wine.
I bellied up to the bar and asked for a Merlot. The barkeep looked me up and down and asked me for some identification. I asked him if he was related to the check-out lady at Rite Aid. He said he wasn't joking. I said neither was I. He held out his hand. I gave him a low-five. He said "ma'am, I can't serve you alcohol unless and until I see some id." I said "you just called me ma'am. You've solved your own puzzle." He said "our policy is to card anyone who looks younger than 63. You look to be about 61. Let me see some identification." I showed him my eye wrinkles and unbrushed hair, and threw a maraschino cherry at the register.
As you can imagine, I was coiled tight with frustration. I needed a release. I needed some way to get rid of the aggression boiling inside.
I crossed the street, staying well within the outlines of the cross-walk so as not to be ticketed for jay-walking. I walked a half-mile down the sidewalk, passing the children's clothing store and the children's hair salon. I took a right. I stepped inside.
I walked to the back of the store. I paced aisles and aisles of options as I tried to make my choice. I nodded my head in the direction of the man talking to himself and enacting a beach-storming scenario on the linoleum floor. I pointed to one of the gleaming beauties that looked comfortable to hold and not too heavy, but guaranteed to do more in 10 seconds than Congress does in 10 months. I'll take it, I said. A burly guy in a blue smock smiled, handed it to me, and pointed in the direction of the register.
I slid my credit card across the plastic conveyor belt to the lady wearing a Santa Claus hat with blinking lights and a name tag covered in stickers. She never looked at me, just monotoned that I needed to sign and hit "Enter." I did. She asked if I needed a bag. I said, "you have bags for these?" She said no. I left.
I opened my trunk, pushed aside my son's stroller, and lovingly bestowed my new semiautomatic Bushmaster AR-15 in my trunk. I crumpled up my Walmart receipt and tossed it in the trash -- the last thing I needed was a ticket for littering.
As I drove out of the crowded parking lot, gone were the thoughts of the day's annoyances and limitations. At least I was able to buy a gun in the same amount of time it takes me to log onto my computer in the morning.
And then, the only thought going through my brain was:
Wonder what's the best spot around here for target practice?
Lest you consider me a raging hypocrite, and lest you not catch on to the tone in which this post was written, allow me to assure you that none of the above is true. The important thing is, it all could be.
Image via businessweek.com