Monday, July 26, 2010

The Minnesotans Mean It

We are spending a week in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We frequently travel with Theo hither and yon while he speaks at and attends conferences across the U.S. and, very recently, even in Canada.

This morning, I drove our rental van to drop Theo off at the conference. Betty, our GPS, does a fair job of guiding us to our various destinations and we were following her well-informed advice this morning. Unfortunately, something about the streets in Minnesota have confused her. Since we arrived on Saturday, she's attempted to direct us the wrong way down a couple of streets. This is unusual behavior for Betty.

The worst part is when you don't obey her unvariably chipper yet authoritarian digital voice, it's kind of like when a mom has PMS and the kids are driving her crazy and she grits her teeth, tries to demonstrate self control, and wears a very thin veneer of NICE. Yeah, there's an edge. We all know it, Betty.

She violently spits, "Recalculating! Recalculating" from her speaker and an hourglass spins ominously while she "thinks" about what to do next. Sometimes u-turns ensue and great stress is had by all.

This morning Betty directed us to turn left where there was a clearly marked sign indicating "No Left Turns 7am-9am Monday-Friday." We found ourselves sitting at the intersection at 8 am, Monday morning. There was really very little traffic. Theo says, "Oh, I know it says no left turn but there isn't much traffic and I'm not sure how easily we can contend with a recalculation. Just go ahead."

I shrugged. I'm sure it was a similar gesture when Eve showed that new fruit to Adam in the garden. I turned left. And about 400 feet later, I saw a post man step into the middle of the road and hold his hand out in a stopping motion. I look questioningly at Theo because I've never seen a postman stop traffic before. He said, "Oh shoot, he's pulling you over". Still confused as to the identity of this man I say, "Why would he do that?"

"Because you made an illegal left turn."

Oh.... the postman is an undercover cop!

I pulled over and rolled down the window as he approached. I took note of his uniform and badge and marveled how closely it resembles a postal service uniform in Tennessee, but none of that mattered as he asked for my driver's license and insurance. My insurance card was, of course, where it always is. It was in the glove compartment of my van, in Tennessee.

He took my license to his police car, which actually was an undercover car, so you know I'm not completely crazy. As he started to walk away he said to keep looking for my insurance card. I was pretty sure we couldn't see Tennessee from here but Theo and I diligently scanned all the various cards in our wallets.

The officer walked back to the van and cavalierly stood in the middle of the streetlike a man who pulls people over without lights and a siren, and reminds us of the THREE signs indicating we were not to turn left. I was actively tucking my tail between my legs but Theo started to play the dumb tourist card by stating we were following the GPS.

With a stern glare, Mr. Officer raised his finger to his lips in a paternal shushing gesture and said, "It is my turn to talk. Your turn to listen." Yep, that definitely trumped the dumb tourist card. Theo's tail was now roughly looking like mine.

He was capitally unimpressed we were unable to produce our insurance card. Theo offered to call our insurance agent. Another glare. Seriously, Theo, just let the guy talk... "In Minnesota, we don't talk to people on the phone. I never know who I'm talking to. In Minnesota, you must always have your insurance card. Get it and keep it with you."

There was no "have a nice day" or "drive safe" or so much as a "you are free to leave". He returned to his post on the sidewalk to watch for the next person who dared to turn left at the wrong time of day.

Theo apologized to me several times before we dropped him off and we had to explain multiple times to the children that we, yes, had done something wrong and got in trouble. It was a very humbling lesson to realize we had read a rule and chosen to ignore it and then got caught right in front of the kids.

But I was able to use it as an object lesson. We talked about listening respectfully to members of authority. We talked about accepting responsibility for our actions despite the fact that someone else told me to do it. We talked about Adam and Eve.

Every couple of hours during the day, Hannah's barrage of questions started again. "Mommy, tell me about the law." I dutifully explained my misdeed and how I was very sorry and I was going to behave now. I also explained how God wants us to obey the laws of man as long as they don't go against His law.

"Mommy, do you remember when you and Daddy got in trouble but John and me were being good kids in the back seat?"

Yes, Hannah. I'd really like to forget.

"What did you do?"

Hannah, I turned left when I wasn't supposed to turn left. The sign said no left turn 7am-9am Monday-Friday.

"Does Lava melt everything?"

She's a three year old. I have no idea how lava was related but it came up every time.

Even John was tired of hearing about it and tried to answer at one point, with exasperation in his voice... "Mommy turned left when the sign said..."

When it came time to pick Theo up, the litany began once more. I called Theo to tell him we were on our way and that I was, in fact, exactly where I had been pulled over this morning. John looks surprised and confused, "Pulled over? Why?" Mommy's voice began to sound a little like Betty's. In a sweet yet barbed tone I staccatoed, "I. Turned. Left. When. I. Wasn't. Supposed. To."

Yeah, he dropped it. Smart boy.

As we pulled into the garage at our condo, Theo started to remark that I was a little close to the mirror. "I think you've done enough back seat driving today, don't you?"

Yeah, he's a smart boy, too.