I’ve had many knackered nights lately since welcoming our second child. That’s to be expected, and I’ll write more about that experience later. Anyone who has been sleep deprived for an extended period of time understands that the simplest act of kindness can really go a long way.
We’ve been lucky that we’ve met more nice-Kiwis (native New Zealanders) than not-so-nice Kiwis. Having grown up in what’s called “Minnesota Nice” syndrome, which seems a kind of co-dependent sort of nice, and then having been hardened by the realities of adulthood in New England, there’s a part of me that doesn’t know how to accept sincerity. I tend to always think, what’s the catch?
A few weeks ago we were stopped by police, and it was such a Kiwi (straightforward) experience that I have to write about it.
Previously, we’ve been stopped at random road blocks over Christmas holidays when police breathalyse drivers, and a few years ago we had an attempted burglary, in which the officer sent a text following the incident to ask how we were doing. Most speeding violations are caught on camera along the motorway so we’ve never really interacted with police. This time, we were pulled over.
Our three month-old baby had his immunisations earlier in the day and developed a high fever that night. I rang good ol’ Plunket who suggested we take him to the A and E (accident and emergency after-hours clinic) and that he needed to be seen within two hours. Our friend came to stay with our five-year-old who was asleep.
My husband was driving a bit over the limit in a southerly storm. About ten minutes from our destination, lights flashed behind us. We found a spot on the city street to pull over. Both of us mumbled swears about how long this would take; our concern rising along with our boy’s temperature. We prepared ourselves for what we expected would be 20 questions and I reassured Hubs he hadn’t done anything wrong.
Just tell him we’ve a sick baby. Tell him we’ve got to get him seen within two hours. Tell him it’s urgent.
I hope to god he’s not a dick. Please don’t be a jerk. Please don’t be a jerk.
Should I turn the car off? I think they like it when you turn the car off, right?
Leave your seatbelt on.
It felt like half an hour had passed by the time the officer approached the driver’s window. He leaned in with a brief scan of my husband and then looked back at me in the seat next to my infant who was in a good mood considering his fever.
“Going a bit quick,” he said.
“Yes, we’re just trying to get our baby to the A and E. Plunket said he has to be seen within two hours so we’re trying to get there.”
The cop looked back. “That’s stressful, aye. All right, I’ll leave you to it then.”
“Thank you.” We spoke in unison.
And he left.
That was it.
No driver’s license and registration.
No hand on his belt.
No “do you know why I pulled you over?” sort of game.
Just I’ll leave you to it.
I’m still in disbelief.
We breathed a sigh of relief, chuckling nervously, a habit from our youth built on conditioned shame.
“That would never happen in America,” my husband said, turning the car back onto the street.
“Or if we weren’t white,” I replied.
“In America, they wouldn’t believe us.”
“I was ready for an interrogation.”
In front of the A and E, my husband parallel parked our station wagon. A new vehicle for us combined with our racing hearts from the exchange with police, he forgot there was a trailer hitch on the back and accidentally scraped the front grill of the truck parked behind us. The driver honked.
“Shit, he’s in the car,” I said.
My husband swore again, which I interpreted as, “ahh, there’s the catch.” Setting the car in park, he stepped out ready to receive a verbal beating.
“Hey, sorry about that. We’re in a bit of a hurry,” my husband said.
“Aw, no worries. I see the Bubs in the back.”
We thanked him as we raced into the clinic. Then the driver said, “Hope Bubs is okay.”
Once checked in, my husband and I looked at one another and stated again, “That would never happen in America.”
Bubs was okay. So were we.
We left without a charge (children under seven receive free medical care), and New Zealand Nice embraced us, and I finally… accepted it.