The street outside of our apartment complex entrance is a busy one, especially during a weekday morning. Two schools are on that street, among other public facilities, and the speed limit drops accordingly within a block. I learned within our first week of living here that the local police department, seemingly having nothing better to do on any given day or night, has two favorite spots into which they like to tuck their cruisers and wait for someone not paying attention to the speed limit drop to happen by. I’ve seen them in the dark standing to the side and pointing their lasers over their hoods at oncoming cars to check speeds. These guys take this stuff seriously.
This morning, two cars ahead of me, the inevitable happened: the blue lights flared to life, the cruiser emerged from hiding, and someone likely running late for work was made significantly later.
I spin the stories in my head: someone who had the battery die in their alarm clock, who is struggling to make ends meet and has a boss that refuses to understand anything but punctuality and is having a bad day himself, now 30 minutes late instead of 5, terminated on the spot and left with no income, sky-rocketing insurance and an expensive citation, all because they were in a rush to keep their responsibilities.
And, yes, I know that it is never that simple, that driving is a privilege, and that there’s public safety to be taken into account.
When I was in college, my guilty pleasure became watching Cops. My father and I used to watch it, actually, on a many a Saturday night, for years. We found the antics of the individuals being arrested and the crazy situations to be no end of amusing. Karen found my Saturday night Cops-watching habits to be…less than tasteful…when we were first married. Watching the show through her eyes is interesting, because, as the suspects (“innocent until proven guilty in a court of law,” of course) offer their excuses, she hypothesizes ways in which they could, in fact, be true. And, so, my mind wanders to all of the situations in which I’ve found myself in life, and remembered myself thinking that I would have a ridiculous time explaining the situation to someone (like a police officer) were I to have to do so. I was completely innocent, but we’ve all had those…awkward…moments.
There’s something troubling about our sweeping tendency to assume the worst, to disbelieve the awkward explanations, to make up our minds as to guilt, regardless of the legal standing. I’m the worst at not trusting people, but I know that it does harm to not do so.
I’ve had many friends who were police officers in my life, mostly because of my old career. They’ve generally all told me the same thing: It’s difficult to not become jaded because everyone lies to them. Everyone. They never hear the truth the first time. I understand how it would become so easy to distrust everyone with whom you have contact if you had that experience.
And, so, it becomes cyclical. We assume the worst.
Trust isn’t easy. It has to be earned, yes, but it also must be given. I don’t want others, be it my family, my friends, or the officer who just stopped me for speeding (because, let’s face it, that’s happened a few times in my life) to assume that I’m going to do something nefarious.
There’s plenty of reasons out there for us to not trust. Those reasons make trusting difficult to do. Nothing important is ever easy. At some level, we really must stop assuming that everyone standing next to us is evil.