Welcome to my blog. I write about fitting in, sticking out, and missing the motherland as a serial foreigner.

On not getting pulled over in Ithaca

I have never been pulled over by the police while driving, not once, not ever. And that is still true, technically, even after yesterday.

We spent the morning at Ithaca's astonishingly efficient DMV getting our drivers' licenses and car registration figured out. Did you know that in New York, they take multiple drivers' license photos and let you choose which one you want? And if you don't like any of them, you can have them take some more and choose from those? I know, it's like Glamour Shots, right there in the DMV!

Anyway, we thought we had to turn in our Arizona plate (Arizona only requires one, on the rear of the car, which always made me feel like a renegade driver) so Jeremy spent a good 30 minutes wrenching it off the car. Then the Ithaca DMV told us they didn't need it, which was too bad because not only had he mangled the plate, he stripped the screws used to attach it to the car.

So we drove away from the DMV with our New York plates inside the car, not attached on the front and rear as they should have been. I figured it wasn't a big deal and we'd get some screws later in the day.

But that wasn't good enough for the Ithaca police. I pulled into a curbside spot in front of the library downtown later that afternoon to pick up a book while Jeremy and the girls stayed in the car. When I came out, there was a cop by the car who wanted to talk to me. He said it was a ticketable offense to drive around, at all, without plates. Of course I explained that we'd only had the plates for literally a couple of hours and we would put them on at our first opportunity. He told me that basically, that first opportunity needed to be NOW.

Just before I got back in the car, he told me my parking job sucked. His exact words were that cars need to be no farther than 12 inches from the curb, but his real message was clear. And he was right. I had pulled alongside the curb, to the left, on a one-way street, which is not a skill you get to practice that often, so our unlicensed car was crooked and sticking out into the lane of traffic just a little.

Fortunately, before he had the satisfaction of seeing me cry at being called a bad driver, the police officer's attention was distracted by someone driving the wrong direction down a one-way street.

Kudos to the Ithaca police for being so attentive and upstanding. I really am impressed not only that he took the time to tell me how to get on the right side of the law, but that he took my word in good faith and didn't give me a ticket.

Discussion question: My sister drove around Utah and Idaho recently for a few months with no license plates on her car without anyone ever bothering her about it. I didn't even make it two hours in Ithaca. What is the deal with that?

Words pronounced incorrectly by Nigel the GPS

Organizing my bookshelves by color