Friday, June 5, 2009

Jailbird Mom

It was a lovely Saturday afternoon. I was driving along in my car, two nine-year-olds in the back seat plotting how they were going to destroy my house with their 10-hour playdate, and I was on my way to pick up Bar Mitzvahzilla from his friend's house. Since nothing makes me happier than wanting what I don't have, I thought I'd drive through Paradise Valley, the land of the 10,000 square foot mansion, on my way there - even though the town is filled with 30 mile per hour speed limits and photo radar.

So I passed a photo radar van and I made a note of it, thinking, "Aha! There's the photo radar van. I'll remember it's there on my way back!"

I picked up my son, and we all got back in the car. Now I had a very hungry son in the front seat biting his nails, and two nine-year-olds in the back seat who had decided to videotape imitations of their favorite You Tube comedy routine (Bon Qui Qui at King Burger - and no, I don't let my daughter watch the ending). Of course, I decided to pop back on through Paradise Valley on my way back home. Of course I forgot about the photo radar van I had just seen.

I drove. The photo radar flashed. I said, "Oh, shoot, I just got a ticket!" Now, for some strange reason, this got Bar Mitzvahzilla very excited, like he was imagining me in prison stripes dragging a ball and chain around. Was this pay back for all these years of parenting - the metaphoric jail cell of childhood - or was it just that 13-year-olds seem to thrive on other people's misery? He said, "You are busted, Mom. Hey, do you think they got my picture?"

Obviously, if a real, live police officer had pulled me over, I never would have gotten a ticket. I would have gotten some sympathy, maybe a prescription for tranquilizers, a coupon for a free spa day at a resort, maybe even an escort home with lights flashing. No one seeing a harried mother with three kids in the car driving her nuts could possibly give her a ticket. But a heartless machine? Of course.

I got the ticket in the mail one week later. My daughter was standing near me and burst into tears at the idea that I was going to jail. I explained that I just had to go to defensive driving school. Then she burst into tears at the idea of defensive driving school. I almost promised to take the online class until I realized it actually involved passing a test to get out of the ticket. I knew this wasn't for me. I need the kind of class where you can be physically present but mentally absent, not an online class where you can be physically absent but mentally present. I'm not mentally present for anything.

My daughter understood. On June 25th I'm going to be spending an evening with a bunch of disparate strangers at a hotel. And then I'll drive home - very slowly.