The blue, red, and extremely white flashing lights suddenly lit up behind me – at car level but also up quite high – was this an SUV or a truck? It was such overkill in the midst of this dark highway and certainly made it seem more like a national offense than a middle-aged woman getting pulled over for speeding. I noted that my sympathetic nervous system didn’t seem alarmed. That’s good. I was meditating, after all.
For the past 3 days, I had been on my solo retreat camping in my tent over the ocean on a special hill for my annual 12 day stint. This is where I rest and restore. When I get these 12 days, the rest of the year is manageable. This special solitude is always filled with mass quantities of sleep and mindful observation of the sights, sounds, smells and feel of the natural world around me. I absorb it and dissolve into it. And this one was perfectly timed – at least in terms of my being as massively sleep-deprived and over-worked as I get. I needed this.
But it was far from perfect timing as far as work was concerned. I have 3+ careers and the one that contributes most to my income (acting) was just picking up – a time at which it is unthinkable to “unplug” – yet this was when I had the space reserved and the only available 12 day slot this year. I needed it, but could I afford to do it now?
My agents made a point to admonish me which added to my trepidation about risking the loss of work at this time. As I packed up – and even during the first 2 days – I found it more difficult than usual to let go of some residual guilt over being on a hill doing nothing when so many things required my attention back in the city.
Then, on the 3rd day, my agent called with a “callback for the director” for the film role of a secretary who gets fired by LBJ during his first day in office. And yes, Bryan Cranston would be playing LBJ – so this would be one of those “Gotta Do This” choices – although I remember being a bit surprised (and possibly insulted) when I was given the initial audition (which I did a week earlier), as the role was described as an “old biddy” and the other actresses there were all over the age of 70 (and I will insert here that I am in my 50’s.) I remember being slightly annoyed that my agent had sent me as there was no way I’d ever book it, and yet here I was called back by the director as only a few actresses were … okay, I’ll let go of all insult and go for it. This would be a good job and definitely worth driving back for.
So yes, I would make the 3-4 hour drive back for this – leaving my silent campsite to drive into LA and perform (i.e. the antithesis of sitting in meditation outside my tent) – yet suddenly I felt calmer and able to accept having this private time. Now, I’d be able to still take advantage of a potential job opportunity – while also saving grace in the eyes of my agent – plus I’d still be able to come back and still get 8 full uninterrupted totally guilt-free days. (I used to just take 5-6 days and over the years it grew to 12 – so I know that 8 days could be quite effective.) And that’s if I don’t book it. If I book it, I simply come back for that day (and get to work with Brian Cranston) so no matter what happened it would be good. Somehow this was the perfect outcome.
I happily watched the sun set into the ocean that night, and as the stars came out, instead of setting up to go to bed (pulling things into the tent to protect from animals), I pulled together what I needed to take with me and hiked down to my car and headed back to LA. I decided to leave the night before and come back the next night to avoid LA traffic in the morning and, also, let’s face it, I was going to have to do some serious cleaning up before this audition. There is no way to shower or wash at this environmental campsite. This was all going to unfold in a relaxed, organic way. Just keep on meditating.
The full moon was rising as I was heading out. Perfect. Nothing like being outside during a full moon, and as I drove south on the 101, the bright, huge moon was right up in front of me and seemed to lead me home. I was loving this. The organic mindful connection to nature was uninterrupted.
I decided to employ one of the driving meditations I have taught others of simply labeling the “See”, “Hear”, and “Feel” experiences connected to the driving process, but instead I quickly fell into a great “zone” and tuned into the moving nature (or “Flow”) of the “See, Hear, Feel” of driving. I was observing the lights, the relationships between cars, the moon, and the sounds, sights and touches of driving were also flowing and I was “at one” with all the Sensory Flow this drive. It didn’t matter if I was sitting by my tent or driving in the car, it was the same meditation. RIch and satisfying.
I put my car on cruise control but on 2 occasions when I was passing trucks on a curving section of the 2 lanes, I turned it off and apparently just never turned it back on after the last time – something I realized as now, there were these wildly bright lights behind me.
Okay, so apparently I must have gone over 75 mph. I pull over and stop right in front of a big sign that says “Shoulder Closed Beyond this Point” (thinking it best not to pull over after it.) And I start rummaging through my quickly packed belongings in the passenger seat for my driver’s license.
The police officer came up on my right, ah yes, of course, on my left wouldn’t be as safe. I put down the window and call out to hm across the pile of stuff in the passenger seat and said, “I’m just looking for my driver’s license in all this mess” as I continued to burrow through what I now see is a chaotic spill of stuff all over my passenger seat.
“I’ve been camping for the past 3 days and haven’t needed my wallet, but it’s here.”
A wholesome, attractive, clean-cut young man bends over forward and says, “Car registration, driver’s license and proof of insurance please.”
I heard “car registration” first so I stopped rummaging and reached into the glove compartment because I knew, at least, where that was and pulled out the registration, handed it to him and returned to rummaging.
“Do you know how fast you were going?”
“Not really, I took off my cruise control when going past a slow truck on a turn a while back – and to be honest I was meditating …”
I realized as I said it that it could make me sound like a stoned hippie, so I said, “I was tuning into the lights & relationship of the cars…” and I wasn’t sure I was helping the situation so I stopped.
“You were going 80 mph.” (That couldn’t have been the case for more than a few moments.) “Do you know what the speed limit is here?”
“70? 65?” I wanted to be helpful and answer his questions.
“65, yes that’s right .” He seemed to respond the way a teacher does when a student gets the right answer. Almost as if I get credit.
“You know, when I say I was meditating, I mean on the sights, sounds, touches of driving – so I’m actually paying attention to driving and safety – much more than someone who’s texting, eating or talking. I’m a meditation teacher and I teach people how to do that.”
He wasn’t expecting that explanation and I’m not sure he was able to process it as he had an agenda of what comes next and it wasn’t a discussion on meditation.
“Where were you camping?” he asks. I tell him.
He knows the place and asks, “How’s the weather been up there?”
“Well, perfect for me!” I say with enthusiastic affection, “It was foggy and I just want to sleep and meditate, so I was in heaven! Then it would clear up in the afternoon to look out at the ocean. I love it there, have you been?”
He nodded slightly and seemed a bit surprised but mildly pleased. I realized in his reaction that he’s probably not used to anyone he pulls over expressing delight or affection, don’t know, but he says, “Yeah, I was thinking it would be foggy up there.”
“Oh, it’s been WONDERFUL!” I can’t help adding.
He almost smiled but I saw his training attempt to suppress it.
Then he looks at the registration and says (in a tone that reminded me of a father to a small child or a teacher warning a student), “Now, I’m not going to find that this is a fake registration, am I? Or that the dates have been altered?” as if he almost expected that to be the case.
What?! Why would he assume that?
“No! No! Of course not!”, I say in a surprised, are-you-kidding(?) kind of way.
“Here it is!” I found my license and hand it to him.
He says, “Now, if I run this license, will I find out that you have boots on your car? Or thousands of dollars in unpaid parking tickets? Or that there are warrants for your arrest?”
Now I simply started laughing and saying no – surely he is kidding at this point, even though his manner still seems quite earnest. Does he really ask everyone these questions? Good lord, what kind of people is he pulling over? This reminds me of that time the personal trainer started yelling at me to get me motivated and I just stopped and started laughing at how ridiculous it was to talk to me, a middle-aged woman, like that.
Even with these questions of possible miscreant behavior, I am struck again by how handsome and wholesome he is. His mother must be proud of what he has become. I liked him. He had a sweetness in spite of his training. I was enjoying this encounter as much as I had been enjoying the drive. It was all perfect.
Then he asked again for proof of insurance.
“Ah, that I have – I remember putting it into this wallet”, I say as I start burrowing through the many compartments of the wallet.
“This isn’t my usual wallet because I didn’t want to bring my big normal one camping, but I know it’s in here,” as I continued searching. Then I said, almost to myself as I examined each compartment, “You know, as a camper, it’s all about having the right place for everything!” (and I almost comically indicated the militaristic need for organizational clarity! He was enjoying my characterization but I could tell that he also understood and identified with that need for organizational departmentalizing. We connected on that.)
I finally found it and exclaimed with delight, “Here it is! Ah, see, I had put receipts in there – wrong compartment for that!” as I somewhat comically admonished myself.
Now, he couldn’t help but smile. I felt that he was not just enjoying me as a character but he was probably a camper (or for sure a hiker) and overly organized himself. He also actually slightly nodded in recognition.
“So where are you going?” he asked.
“Well,” I confessed, “I’m actually STILL camping. I mean my tent and stuff are still back there, but I’ve got to get back to LA for an appointment tomorrow – but obviously need to wash first” (indicating my less-than-put-together appearance) “and then I’ll come back up tomorrow night.”
“So you’re going for work?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
Then he paused and leaned down again and almost didn’t say but half said, “Have you been drinking any alcohol…?” and I just started chuckling and gave him a look and while laughing, “No, and everything I’ve ingested is organic.” He nodded. He knew that.
At this point we were just sharing an appreciation of some kind of silliness (and/or that’s how it seemed to me.) He stood there with all 3 of my info cards in his hand, and hesitated for a moment, and then said, “I’m just going to …” (he didn’t seem to want to go) “… check these … back there,” as he gestured back to his brightly lit SUV.
“Okay,” I said cheerfully, “Take your time. I’ll be right here.”
We both smiled.
And now I could tell that my relaxed enjoyment was a novel encounter for him. For a moment I flashed on the classic story that Ram Dass tells of when a highway patrol office pulled him over (when he might have been on psilocybin, not sure) and he was just loving the blue of the light and the officer and the officer just softened at all that love and the two of them ended up hanging out in front of the car, kicking the tires and not wanting to part. Yes, there may have been something like that happening here.
We weren’t going to be 2 guys kicking the tires and sharing small talk about the car, but this was the version we have with a middle-aged woman and a young man late at night. I was enjoying this. No matter what happens. He is a lovely young man doing his job to make the world a safer place – and I was having a good time.
I enjoyed the moon till he returned and leaned in to hand me my cards and said, “Save your meditating till your back at your campsite.”
No ticket. I kinda figured that might happen but I was going to be good with any scenario. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t grateful. I smiled and thanked him.
Then he said, “Now, you stopped right in front of this big sign.”
I said, “Yes, I know. I figured it would be better than stopping behind a sign that says there is no shoulder with a police officer right behind me.”
“But you are going to need to speed up safely to get on the highway – and I want you to do it on the shoulder, so I will have to direct cars on the highway around you and I want you to drive around the sign onto the embankment and then get up to the appropriate speed on the shoulder and merge safely onto the highway.” He was so concerned about safety. Sweet.
“Sure.” I say.
He then has a different idea. “You know, i think there’s space to go to the RIGHT of the sign” (i.e. onto the slightly sloped grass.) He continues, “Yes, I think that actually will be safer.” He has a plan.
I said, with mock “no way” (I’m teasing), “Only guys with trucks and jeeps make suggestions like that, you know. My ex-boyfriend, who had this huge truck, was always saying, “yeah, just drive over that.” I’m a middle-aged woman in a Camry – I don’t think to do things like that.”
Yes, I probably sounded his mom.
He replies earnestly, “I’m pretty sure you can do it in your car.”
“Yes, I’m sure I can, I was just kidding.”
He was now focused on safety, but there was this …. moment. We both paused.
“Well, thank you. It’s been nice talking with you. I can do this. I will drive safely. Have a lovely evening.”
I put my car into gear and then leaned over and said,
“What’s your name?”
I was expecting him to say “Jeff” or “Chris” or “Brian”
He said, “Officer Green.” (it was actually another color found in nature, but I’m hesitant to put his real name here.)
Of course, it was Officer Green, how perfect. In that moment, I flashed on the green I’ve been living with at my campsite.
“Well, thank you, Officer Green. I will drive safely, wait to meditate, and I hope you have a good night.”
Okay, this time he gave me a full smile. How lovely. He couldn’t help it – and you could see a whole different person – almost (although I could still see his training telling him to keep everything official.)
This had been a quality encounter. I was glad he had pulled me over. Yes, police officers don’t tend to get met with honest affection and enjoyment (that is not connected with drug use or intended to manipulate them.) And he liked me – as I liked him. He’ll have a story for this one.
And so will I. How often do you get pulled over while meditating?