Hope and I are taking a trip to the beach this weekend. Note, this is not a vacation since both Hope and Yappy are accompanying me—this is a trip.
If you are traveling with your kids, it’s never a vacation. It’s a trip.
In the wake of all that’s happening in the world, tonight I will be giving my daughter another briefing on what must happen during a traffic stop.
I got a ticket about two months ago on the way to visit my parents. Hope followed my lead, remained quiet and made no sudden moves. Yappy was in the back seat, and the dog believes every human has the potential to be his best friend. Tail wagging, mouth open giving a toothy grin, he appeared harmless, charming even.
But that was before two more deaths of unarmed black men, the deaths of 8 police officers and this week’s shooting of an unarmed black man who was assisting an autistic black man and trying to get him out of the street with his toy truck, which some numb nut called in as a possible gun.
So, before we head out on a long, hopefully uneventful, fun filled weekend at the beach, I will remind my daughter what she must do if we are stopped by police.
- Remain calm.
- Before the officers approach the car, calmly turn on the video on your phone. I have purchased more data for this trip and set your settings to automatically upload anything you record to our family cloud where it will be safe.
- Put the phone on the center console.
- Make no sudden moves.
- No reaching into your purse, there is not enough lip gloss or mascara in the world to explain how that might be misconstrued as you reaching for a gun.
- Always carry your student ID, as it’s the only ID you currently have. You are tall and womanly and you might be mistaken for someone older; you need to be able to establish you’re just a kid.
- If you are asked for ID, ask for permission to reach into your purse to retrieve it. See reason above.
- Put your hands in your lap or put them on the dashboard so they are always visible. See reason above.
- It’s all “yes, ma’ams, no ma’ams, yes sirs, no sirs” for the duration of the stop as anything else might be considered you being mouthy.
- If you are asked to step out of the car, ask for permission to release your seat belt.
- Do not put your hands in your pocket after you exit the car, no matter how fidgety you might be because you are afraid.
- Remain as still as possible.
- Try not to cry and please don’t scream no matter how scared you might be.
- Let them search your purse.
- Answer all questions clearly and as politely as possible.
- I will reassure you as much as I am allowed to that we will be ok.
- If we are separated in any way ask to call your grandparents; they will drop everything to come get you. I printed cards with their number and put it in your wallet since they may take your phone. Tell them where the number is. Better yet, write their number with a Sharpie in your hand before we leave.
- When our stop is completed, we will stop at the first safe place so that you can let all of the emotions out. We will take as long as you need. I have put fresh handkerchiefs in the glove box.
As for me, I’ll also be turning on my video with an automatic upload setting, and I’ll be following all the same rules.
Yappy will try to get by on his adorable looks and charm. He will very likely be successful with this approach because well, he’s Yappy.
We live and travel the Interstate 95 corridor all the time. This is a heavily policed interstate from end to end. It is known for being a big trafficking route for drugs, guns and sex workers on the East Coast, consequently, there are lots of troopers along our travel route. It is also notorious for being problematic when you are DWB–driving while black.
I’ve traveled this route for my whole life, especially so for the last nearly 30 years. I’ve got a few speeding tickets along the way, very few. The likelihood that anything terrible would happen may be small.
But the likelihood was small for all of the people who have died unarmed too. Statistics seem remote until you are a part of the few.
I’m not anti-police by any stretch of the imagination. I understand and appreciate the sacrifices that they make each and every day. I am grateful to them and all public safety servants.
I also know that they are not supposed to be my enemy.
I also know that I’m not supposed to be afraid of them.
I also know that having to go step by step through a survival protocol with my daughter on how to just be OK during a traffic stop should be unnecessary. I know that having to explain the nuances of why she has to be sure to have her student identification and why my highly emotional child has to contain herself for our safety is supposed to be unnecessary.
I use my cruise control a lot when driving long distances. I’ll definitely be using it tomorrow as we depart on a 5 hour journey to the shore.
If we get stopped on this journey, I hope that we will be like Yappy and can rely on a cute, but compliant, charm offensive to ease the burden of DWB.