Some people think it is a curse to be a morning person. As I writer and mother of four, it is a blessing. I love starting my day before the rest of the world is awake, before demands are made of me, before noise and chaos and disorder reign. It is my favorite time of day. The house is quiet, the world is quiet. There is peace. And some mornings there is the anticipation that Lennon’s Imagine might come true. Someday.
I woke up yesterday morning, facing away from the clock, and had the sense that it had to be almost morning. Intuitively I knew it was an appropriate time to wake up – which is anything after five. Anything before five is a ridiculous waste of a good night’s sleep. I rolled over and looked at the clock. Ten after five. Immediately all the gears in my brain started up, all the synapses started firing, and at least twenty thoughts roared through my head. My sweet little dog must have sensed a change in my breathing or heard the gears and synapses fire, for I heard the morning shake of her collar as she stretched.
Together we stumbled through the dark and down the stairs to the back door so she could get outside to do her business. So at five thirty, I stood in my kitchen, in the dark, having celebratory thoughts about the fact that it was Friday, when my little dog started to bark nonstop out in the yard. It was her “we’re under attack” bark and it woke up the old black lab sleeping upstairs in our bedroom closet.
I hurried outside in my bathrobe, telling the little dog to be quiet, hoping she hadn’t disturbed any neighbors, but she wouldn’t settle down. As I came back into the house I could hear the big dog at the top of the stairs, barking out her own alarm. The little dog continued to bark facing the door to the garage, so curiosity got the better of me and I opened the door.
Sitting on the trunk of the car my two youngest daughters share, was my youngest daughter, Bri. A serious looking police officer, we’ll call him Bad Cop, stood next to her. Bri said something to me, but I couldn’t hear her because the dogs were still going nuts in the house. It was at that moment that I realized I had heard the doorbell ringing when I brought my little dog in from the yard, but it hadn’t registered in my brain. With some adrenaline flowing through my body, things started to make a bit more sense. I walked through the garage and out to the driveway to let Good Cop at the front door know I was outside. There he was, like a Hollywood scene, shining his mega flashlight into the house, freaking out the old black lab.
Good Cop hurried over to me, apologizing that he had to wake me up so early. “Your daughter isn’t in any trouble,” he said. “We just have a situation.” And the scene at the end of my driveway comes into the focus of my brain.
There is a large Suburban-type vehicle parked halfway in my driveway and halfway in the street. Behind this vehicle are two police cars situated so that no one is going to come or go in our cul de sac for a while. The driver’s door of the Suburban is open and next to it stands a very tall boy, looking to be about nineteen or twenty. In the front passenger seat sits a teenaged boy, slumped down in embarrassment or humiliation or some other unpleasant emotion.
While my brain gathers the visuals, I realize Good Cop is talking to me and Bri is agitated. As if to show discretion, Good Cop quietly tells me that Teenage Boy is intoxicated and that he misunderstood something Bri told him, thinking she was suicidal. So Teenage Boy had his older brother drive him to our house to prevent Bri from leaving and doing something stupid. And while the two boys were driving to our house, Teenage Boy called the police hoping they could get to our house sooner and prevent Bri from harming herself.
I look at Bri, who is laughing now, and anger mixes in with the adrenaline coursing through my blood. “I didn’t do anything wrong,” Bri says loudly. “I’m just sitting here, having a cig, and all these fucking people show up.” Bad Cop stares at her. Good Cop says to me, “Obviously she’s not suicidal. We just need to make sure she’s safe and in someone’s care and we’ll be on our way.” Good Cop walks away to talk to Older Brother, and Bri’s mouth begins to spew forth all kinds of bravado-type words and completely inappropriate statements. That’s when I notice the breathalyzer in Bad Cop’s hand.
“I have rights,” Bri says. “I was just sitting here minding my own business. I wasn’t doing anything wrong.”
“You’re underage,” Bad Cop says, “and you’ve been drinking.”
“I can do that in my parents’ house and you can’t do anything about it.”
“Is that right?” Bad Cop asks. It’s at that point I see the writing on the wall. I stepped in front of Bri’s face and told her to be quiet and go in the house. And true to form, she doesn’t obey and keeps spewing forth from the mouth. Good Cop must have realized things were going sour because he was back by us. Bad Cop asks Bri if she’ll blow into the machine. She agrees and registers .037. The legal drinking age in our state is twenty-one and we have a zero tolerance law for underage drinkers. Bri is eighteen. The two officers walk down the driveway to their cars and I get into Bri’s face. I explain to her what’s going to happen and I tell her to shut her mouth for her own good.
A couple of minutes later, Bad Cop comes back and hands Bri a ticket for minor consumption. Again she tells him, “I wasn’t driving. You can’t give me a ticket.”
“You are underage and you were drinking.”
“But I wasn’t driving. I’m going to court and I’m going to fight this.”
“I promise you I will be in court and I will tell the judge I gave you this ticket for three reasons. One, you were drinking. Two, you have a bad attitude. And three…” (For the life of me, I cannot recall the third reason now. But I remember that it was at that moment that I wondered when the officer had lost his sense of professionalism.) He looks Bri in the eyes and says, “And this one’s going to stay on your record.” He turns and starts to walk away.
“Yeah, I’ll see your ass in court,” Bri yells as he walks down the driveway.
“Get in the house,” I tell Bri.
“I want to talk to Pete,” she says. So it was Pete in the passenger seat.
“You’re not going to get to talk to Pete. You’re going in the house.”
“No, I’m not done.”
“Yes, you are done. And you’re going to go in the house before the officer changes his mind and comes back to arrest you for disturbing the peace.”
Bri sat on the back of the car and watched the officers talk to Pete. Older Brother got in the car and the two of them rode away. Pete didn’t get a ticket. Now Bri feels she’s been discriminated against. She wants to argue that point, but wisely the two officers get in their cars and drive away. Bri goes up to her room and I pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming all this up.
I take a deep breath and let it out slowly, while I think about what in the world I’m going to do with Bri this time.
And then I realize, if I don’t hurry I’m going to be late for work. My mom didn’t live long enough to tell me there’d be days like this.