What I remember most about that first stop was how he asked me, “Where are you headed?” Not, “License, registration, and proof of insurance, please.” But, “Where are you headed?”
“Western Washington University,” I reply.
“Oh, you must be headed up there to play ball.”
“Why yes,” I reply.

I’m not headed up there to play ball. In fact, I’ve never played ball. I’m just big and black. And when you’re big and black, everybody thinks you play ball. So rather than disappoint them, I just say yes and pray they don’t ask what position.

Speaking of positions, I’m not built for this one either. In fact, having spent the last eighteen years, nine months, and sixteen days riding around in cars with nothing but white people, I can say with some certainty that not once had an officer pulled us over and opened with “Where are you headed?”

Did I miss something in driver’s ed? Like the law that says you have to be headed someplace. Because if that’s the case, somebody might want to tell my out-for-a-leisurely-drive, destination unknown father.

I hate driving. Especially freeway driving. Unfortunately, there are 125 miles and five counties of freeway separating our house from Western Washington University to the north. Only here, unlike in slave times, heading north. Not so good. In fact, here, the deeper north I’d go, the more of these questionable stops I’d seem to encounter.

Only instead of Harriet Tubman guiding my way up the interstate, it’s just me, Amy Grant, Dashboard Jesus, and a Big Gulp. I thought the same thing. In what world doesn’t the holy trinity of Amy Grant, Dashboard Jesus, and a Big Gulp guarantee safe passage? That would be my world — the world where, for the first time in my life, I find myself being pulled over, repeatedly.

Though not for speeding! No, I’m being pulled over for everything but speeding — for driving too close to the shoulder and/or lane divider. For weaving, yet within my own lane. For driving a vehicle resembling someone else’s vehicle. For no explanation at all.

Then, of course, there were my lights: tail lights, brake lights, blinkers, headlights, running lights. It didn’t matter what kind of lights. Once I crossed into the Deep North, you can bet if there was an officer within four lanes of me, I had a light out. At least until I pulled into the nearest service station, where, and with one exception, all the lights in question had healed themselves.

First Stop
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