I Thought I Would Have Outgrown My Cry-Baby Ways By Now
Last month, I appeared in court for a nearly three-year-old ticket. Before I even approached the judge’s bench, I could feel the lump forming in my throat. My fiancé, who accompanied me for moral support, gave my hand a reassuring squeeze and next thing I knew, I was at the bench standing next to Officer Cooper, the young, white traffic cop who had issued the summons. I knew that there was a chance he would attend the hearing to defend himself, but I had somehow convinced myself that he had better things to do. Clearly, he did not. As the judge rambled on and on about how we would both get a chance to share our versions of what happened, I eyed the gun in Cooper’s holster as I felt the lump that had been forming in my throat spread throughout my entire chest.
It’s just a traffic ticket. The worst thing that can happen is that I’ll be forced to pay a fine, and a couple of points will be added to my license. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not that deep.
After Cooper had shared his side of the story, which pretty much painted me as a flippant driver who disobeyed a traffic device because she was running late for something trivial like her Tuesday morning pedicure, it was my turn. It was show time. My testimony should have come out flawlessly because I had been rehearsing it for close to three years, but instead, something strange happened.
“Officer Cooper is correct. On the day in question, my mother and I were heading to my cousin’s funeral,” I said.
With each word that escaped my lips, I could feel the lump in my chest get bigger and bigger. Then, my voiced cracked and within seconds, hot tears were gushing out of my eyes. You could hear a pin drop in the room. The judge looked at me and rested her temple on her pointer and ring fingers. Her facial expression showed a mix of concern and confusion. She clearly didn’t have enough Excedrin pills in her purse to deal with the theatrics that accompanied my testimony that afternoon. I tried to pull myself together and continue.
“We were driving along Atlantic Avenue when we realized that we were lost. On top of that, we were late. Our relatives kept calling us asking where we were because the funeral was about to begin and the entire family had to be there so that we could march in together. We found out the funeral home was in the opposite direction so as we approached the next intersection and the left turn arrow turned green; I made a U-turn. It was an honest mistake, and I really didn’t see it.”
My attempt to get a grip on my emotions had been unsuccessful and at this point, I was sobbing. Yes, a grown-behind 25-year-old woman in traffic court crying like she was about to be hauled off to jail or something.
“I’ve had my license since I was 16, and I have always had a clean driving record. I took driver’s ed in high school, and I respect the rules of the road. It was just a mistake. I was upset and distracted. We had been going back and forth to the hospital for weeks checking on my cousin and we were just emotionally exhausted. It was a mistake,” I finally concluded.
Since I admitted to making the U-turn, the judge found me guilty but dropped my fee from $250.00 to $5.00 because of my clean driving record. The points were never added to my record because they were so old. In the end, I suppose that I won, but I also walked away feeling like a complete fool for crying over something as trivial as a traffic violation.
When I returned to work the following day and told my coworker about the experience, she told me that I probably had suppressed emotions stemming from all of the police brutality incidents that have been in the news over the past few years. While there’s a possibility that this may have been partially accurate, the truth of the matter is that I have been a cry-baby all of my life—literally all of it. And I hate it. I can remember crying over nothingness, frequently—like that one time in elementary school when I cried because I got to cheerleading practice and realized that I had forgotten one of my saddle shoes at home. Or that time my parents accidentally signed me up for an advanced AAU basketball team instead of for a beginners team. I made it all of 20 minutes into the practice session before I started crying and my dad scooped me up and took me home. Oh yeah, there was also that time in college that I broke down crying in a professor’s office while discussing why I wanted to base my thesis on The Color Purple. Apparently, talking about Celie’s struggle and Robert K Merton’s Strain theory struck a nerve. My professor was stunned. Poor guy.
As a child, I managed to convince myself that I would grow out of my cry-baby ways, but here I am, a full-grown woman still crying over dumb sh-t. Pardon my French, but there’s no other way to describe some of the trivial things that I’ve shed tears over in the past. Several months ago, I cried in the Verizon store during a dispute with a saleswoman who had been dishonest about the package she sold me. A few weeks ago, I snuck in some alone time so I could cry over a petty disagreement I had with a relative of my fiancé. Sure, there were times when I could blame PMS for these emotional outbursts, but definitely not all. I have spent much of my life praying that I would toughen up at some point. At the very least, I’d like to be able to hold the tears in until I have a private moment to cry as opposed to breaking down whenever and wherever I feel the urge, regardless of who is around. Perhaps I’m just wired this way and instead of fighting it, I should chill and figure out how to embrace it. Sigh.