I Didn't Click It

By Kathleen Flynn

I have Rheumatoid Arthritis in my hands so putting on my seat belt isn’t easy. I was in the parking lot struggling to get mine on. I couldn’t so I just drove away. I was merging onto the freeway when sure enough I saw a Police Officer pulling up behind me red, white, and blue lights on, and telling me over a speaker to pull over. I knew I was in the wrong and realized I’d just have to suck it up and accept the consequences of my ignorant decision not to click it.

The Officer walked up to my window and immediately began lecturing me on how many fatalities occur everyday due to the lack of wearing a seat belt. He went into great detail about how many people would have survived had they just chosen to click it. This Officer wasn’t speaking to me in a calm way either. He was angry, disgusted, and quite honestly I was pretty irritated with him for his tone. He demanded my license and registration and huffed off to his car.

As I watched him in my rear view mirror, I began to think about what he had just told me. I began to realize he wasn’t angry so much as he was concerned about my safety. He returned to my car he gave me a ticket, and explained that he had just returned from a fatal car crash. He said he didn’t want to see that happen to me. My irritation about getting a ticket, and an attitude from him dissolved into compassion. He was only human and was probably pretty shaken up by what he had just seen.

I sincerely thanked him for caring about my safety. He looked stunned for a moment and walked away. To my surprise, he turned around and came back. He looked at me and in a soft, respectful voice asked me if I knew how to get back on the freeway. I said yes, but he followed me anyway to make sure I got back on safely.

On my drive home I reflected on how little we know about what Officers experience everyday. I began thinking about being on the parking patrol at my condo complex. Residents yelled at me when I asked them to move their car off the red curb, even though I explained the need to keep it clear in case of fire. I began to feel real compassion and gratitude toward that Officer.

So Officer if you are reading this thanks for stopping me that day. Painful hands or not, I have never gotten into the car without a seat belt since. Readers, when stopped by Police try to remember that Officer you want to get an attitude with might have just left a horrific crime, or accident. Give him/her a break because that Officer might be the one who keeps your son, daughter, or mother out of harm’s way.

To all of you Officers, thank you for your service and stay safe!

Kathleen Flynn is a professional mediator and community activist.