Last Sunday afternoon, I was riding in the car with my 12-year-old son. Just us 2, riding to our (super casual) church. And talking about his first week of school.
Best part: Seeing his friends.
Worst part: Having to wake up early again.
All of it was super normal.
Him: “I’m not the best at French. But my teacher says I’m fine.”
Me: “Maybe if we go to France, you can interpret.”
Him: “That’d be cool.”
It was really sunny so we were both squinting. But still. Even with the sun, we both saw it at the same time.
Blue lights. Flashing behind us.
Maybe it’s not for me, I thought. I moved over one lane just in case. More blue lights. Then a chirping sound came.
Shoot. It was for me.
I put on my blinker. And tried to ignore the look on my son’s face.
I pulled into a parking lot. Officer gestured for me to pull up further. Which I did.
Officer walking up. Blue lights still flashing.
On instinct, I put my hands at 2 and 10 o’clock. Face forward and neutral.
“Everything’ll be fine,” I said to my son.
He didn’t speak.
Here is what my son was doing:
He was leaned forward in his seat. Both hands splayed on top of the dash. Head up. Staring ahead.
My breath hitched. I knew he was doing what we’d taught his brother and him.
“Hands where their eyes can see. You got that?”
Clearly, he had.
Turns out 1 of the brakelight bulbs on my car was out. This was why he pulled me over.
Me: *hands still at 2 and 10* “It’s in my wallet in my purse on the floor. I am taking my right hand off of the wheel to get it, ok?”
My son closed his eyes.
He looked at my license. Then he walked back to the police car. I went back to 2 and 10 while my boy stayed frozen, hands spread eagle on the dash. All of it was terrible and weird.
The officer came back with my license.
Him: “Where y'all headed?”
He let me off with a warning. As soon as the officer walked off, I placed my flat palm on my son’s chest. I could feel his heart was pounding like a drum. An involuntary response of fight or flight.
I hated it.
“You ok?” I asked. He nodded--then let out a big breath.
Him: “I got nervous when you went to your purse.”
Me: “It was cool.”
Him: “I bet a lot a people thought that before.”
Him: “I felt mad when he asked where we were going. It was none of his business.”
Him: “But I’m glad you just said where.”
And after that, we stopped talking about it. We just went on to church and rode in silence.
Service was good. The sun still shone. And our middle school review resumed on the way home.
And, from then on, all of it was super normal.
I tell this story because I want you to bear witness. I want you to know what colleagues who look like me are considering between patients and unpacking at kitchen tables with their kids after work.
Mostly, I want you to know what interrupts my super normal.
And no. This is not to make anyone feel bad or guilty. Instead, it’s just me offering you an honest glimpse into what swirls around the lives of some of your colleagues, residents, and students.
And what threatens to pierce holes into sun-drenched off days. (On days, too.)
And let me say this:
That officer was mostly nice. But all of it was still super complicated, you know?
My point: I think all of this is a case for diversity. Hearing one another’s testimonies broadens our scope. And just maybe increases empathy.