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August 25, 2020

A Traffic Ticket

‚??A bill please,‚?? my father waved to the waiter. Mom was leisurely sipping her cappuccino while I have already finished my espresso and was ready to go. It was our traditional Friday dinner with the only difference that my parents have just come back from Las Vegas where they went on a holiday. We are a respectable family who observes its Chinese mores of supporting each other and tries to fit in our relatively new American environment. Always remembering that we are foreigners we take our pride in behaving like law-abiding Americans at all times.
My father paid the bill and left generous tips. Now we could go. I was happy to pick my parents from the airport and take them out to dinner. We are ordinary people in a sense that I pay my parents due respect and try to behave as a loving child. I call them daily to ask about their health, run errands when they ask for my help, occasionally buy stuff they may need in their household and have dinner with them at least once a week. From time to time my father likes to talk to me about my future and where I am heading. I am not a big fan of these talks, but I have to endure them to make him feel fulfilling his paternal duties.
Our dinner was relaxed. I had been recently promoted, and it made my father feel content and important, and my mother was happy that we were all happy. We finished early, and my parents were too tired to hang out late. They even declined the dessert. We climbed into my mint new car ‚?? it was just a month since I placed my first installment ‚?? and buckled up. My parents were calm; they we sure that I was a confident driver. However, each time I touch the driving wheel I take a sharp breath and feel a surge of slight panic. It had been a while since I got my license and I still felt quite unsure when driving. I turned on the music to enhance the good mood everyone was in. Frank Sinatra was on. ‚??New York, New York‚?? is my mom‚??s favorite song, and she was murmuring the lyrics barely audible. My dad was tapping the rhythm on his knee and was looking at the trees rapidly passing by. I somewhat relaxed and sank back into the seat back. It was not very late, and the city was bustling with life. The dusk was just settling in.
Deep in my thoughts through the delicate sound of Sinatra, I heard the melodious beeping of the police siren. Surprised I raised my eyebrows and checked the rear mirror. Indeed the black and white police car was signaling me to pull over. My dad stopped drumming his fingers on his knee. My mom got tensed, and I could see concern in her eyes. I turned down the radio, and my mind was racing trying to understand what I did wrong. I could feel my father‚??s disapproval as he has never got a traffic ticket for more than thirty years of driving. I rolled the window down to hear the approaching police officer.
‚??Your headlights are not working?‚?? said the police officer in a polite voice. I murmured sorry and explained that I was a fledgling driver, and it just slipped my mind to turn on the headlights as it was not dark yet.
‚??That's all right,‚?? the officer said. ‚??Can I take a look at your driver‚??s license, please?‚?? The officer was looking right into my eyes, and I suddenly realized that my license was in my wallet and I left my wallet on the kitchen counter when I was leaving for the airport. I quickly reached to my father‚??s side and gestured him to give me his license. He was noticeably annoyed but gave me his license. Frankly speaking, at the moment I thought that the police officer would ask me to go with him to the police station and stay there until my parents bring me my documents. I was blaming myself for being absent-minded and forgetting about the headlights and the license.
‚??Whose car is this?‚?? the officer‚??s question pulled me out of my reverie. ‚??My father‚??s,‚?? said I and the officer went back to his car. While he was checking the database for the number of my father‚??s car and his driver‚??s license, dead silence hung in the car. My father was reticent. My mother did not dare to speak up. I felt bitter. How could I forget to turn on the lights? These are basic rules. My parents blamed me, and I blamed myself for being so stupid and forgetful. I was sure that I turned them on. But it was only 7 pm, and it was not dark enough for me to notice that I was driving with the headlights turned off. Having taken his time, the police officer soon found our numbers in the system. He gave me a ticket and asked me to sign. I was tremendously upset.
Such a lovely night was ruined by my forgetfulness. My exhausted parents did not even berate me knowing that I am usually very harsh on myself and they should not bother. What began as a pleasant mealtime was shadowed by a traffic ticket signed for my absent-mindedness. Now each time I see the police car I anxiously check whether everything is alright with my lights.

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