Kim Berns’ Post Road: Public Nuisance


Is it profiling?

Minivan?  Check.  Baseball cap hiding this week’s humidity induced cotton candy hair? Check.  Errand girl sport clothes, check.  Maybe the baseball hat is code for suburban-mom gang sign of ‘please stop me before I drive again’- mindlessly ferrying of food, family and the occasional dog.

This time the cruiser was next to my window, the officer on the passenger side smiling at me while he mouthed, “pull over.” What, I couldn’t see the spinning lights atop the squad car?  I was jamming so loud I was deaf to the sirens?

Since moving to a place where everything you do requires not getting on beltless public transportation, or not spending one full day carting someone somewhere, literally being on auto has become routine.

“Do you know why we pulled you over?”

I knew it wasn’t because I was three sheets to the wind and they were then going to help me home like the helpless woman who found herself face down on her bed in a position she did not expect.

I knew that my seat belt had annoyingly beeped three full times before I put it on after leaving the Post Office.  It was on now.

On display, across the street from the CVS, traffic swerved around us.  I tried to look nonchalant, filing my scraggly nails and checking messages, intermittently concerned about how late I would now be to take my 3- year-old Henry to his appointment with a surgeon, and maniacally worried that my front seat wasn’t really strewn with Pull-Ups but instead random paraphenalia and empty whiskey bottles.  This is where your mind goes when you’re left sitting on the Post Road, spinning lights shouting to curious neighbors.

Were the officers laughing at my driver’s license shameful mug shot, that wasn’t so much Mel Gibson as Goldie Hawn without make-up?

I thought of the many times our family used to drive to south Florida from Chicago, four kids sprawled in the back of the family station wagon, beltless.  Now people belt their dogs.  Flashbacks of driving on the lap of my college boyfriend from Austin to Houston in his pick-up passed the time.

Not to say that we all haven’t adapted to the importance of seat belt laws and the ‘click it or ticket’ slogans.

When my husband was no more than six, his mother, not known for her alert driving, took a turn in the family convertible, only to have my husband’s sister shout out, “Mommy, we lost Mitchy.” Evidently Mitch had popped out the back, nearly missing the pavement and instead landing on the grass, only to be scooped up again without being run over by his mother backing up to get him.

I got the importance when my sister was broadsided by a kid who ran a red light and rolled her vehicle, breaking her neck but not killing her.  My 10-year-old still has a booster seat even though his friends make fun of him.

Moving to the suburbs is a tough enough business, but the malaise that creates villages of Gladys Kravitz’s has been extended to the Authority and clearly I for one have become a public nuisance.

But I’m not Brittany Spears, riding around Hollywood with a butt hanging out of my mouth and a kid on my lap making this unlawful behavior almost playful considering her record.

Maybe it was my three seconds of phony looking freedom that caused these officers to be alarmed.

What next, a madcap game of chicken?

I took the ticket to the dilapidated municipal office on Pleasant Avenue in Mamaroneck, where your hard-earned dollars are not being spent on building improvements.

The clerk didn’t know why there was no fine on the ticket, just a form for a plea.

Turns out he didn’t know what the charge would be if I did plead guilty, only that the judge would decide, randomly, what they should charge me.  Do they look up your tax return?  Do they see if you have a record of Tweeting people pictures of yourself naked?

Public menace more like it, Congressman Weiner.

Would the judge then be philosophical about the case, as could be the case with Representative Weiner.  I mean if your name is indeed Weiner, it could very well be a simple acting out after having to say and answer to ‘Weiner, Weiner, Weiner’ all the time.

Instead it looks like my non-guilty plea will get me a court date in the far-off future, two to three months from now.

I ran into the same officers in the parking lot at Toy Box where I purchased a $42.00 boogie board for my son Max, surely an act that should be more punishable by some sort of law.

Should I have given a head nod?  A small wave? I averted my eyes like the subservient deviant I had become.

Trying again today to take Henry to the doctor, we were stopped in our tracks on I-95 around Byram.  After about 15 minutes I knew we were stuck and asked a State Trooper walking by the car how long it might be, “Awhile,” he commented while the firetrucks, EMS vehicles and police cars sped by.  My low fuel light went on, so we sat with the heat and dust coming in the windows.  Henry was still strapped in his third row carseat crying.  Most drivers were out of their cars except for those that in over an hour’s time had still not turned off their engines.

The accident was bad.  It involved two cars and a semi.  No one knew the details.

I didn’t know if I could make it to the next exit with the gas I had.  A couple of guys in a black 4×4 were asking around if people knew what was up.  I told them I was starting to panic about my gas supply and before I knew it, Richie the driver was filling my tank with a 5 gallon jug he happened to have.  He refused money.  He said he understood “with the boy in the car and all.” He told me he had four kids and that his daughter was getting married this weekend and he felt like the luckiest man on Earth.

Cheers to you Richie, the quintessential public hero, and your lucky daughter too.

Kim Berns is a writer and designer living in Rye.  She is taking the summer off to work on her book, “It’s More Fun to Blame You.”

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