I had just gotten across the bridge and was starting out along the bayshore toward the cottage when I heard the short "whurrr" of a police siren and saw the flashing lights in my rearview mirror. Though I was mildly intoxicated, I hadn't done anything wrong as far as I knew. As soon as I pulled over, a police car came from the other direction and parked in front of my car, so that I was sandwiched between them.
"May I see your license please, sir," said the officer at my car window.
"Did I do something wrong?" I asked, as I handed him the license. Under the circumstances, that is, not being completely sober, I was surprisingly casual. It never really occurred to me I might get arrested for Breaking the law.
"Your left turn signal is out," he said shortly, and he walked away from my car with the license in his hand.
He conferred with the officer in the other car briefly, returning to his vehicle to do a license plate check. The other officer came to my car window.
"Where are you headed for?" he asked me.
"Home," I replied. "I live out at the cottages down Bayshore Drive."
He grunted and walked over to his partner's car, they said a few words, and as I was handed my license back the police car in front of mine pulled away. Apparently they decided I wasn't dangerous, in any case.
"Your plates are registered to another owner. Is this your vehicle?"
"Yes," I replied. "I just bought it. I sent in my registration fee. See, there in the window - the money order receipt." I knew very little about owning and operating a car, for even though I was 24 years old, I had not been driving long. I had moved to this rural Wisconsin town from San Francisco and purchased the rusted-out station wagon for $500.
"Get those plates off of there and give them to the original owner. When your plates arrive in the mail, put them on." Very business-like, unfriendly even, considering how friendly and cooperative I was being.
"How long have you been living in Wisconsin?" He asked - I had a California driver's license.
"About five months," I replied. "I really like it here," I added, thinking he was finally letting down his guard and becoming friendly.
"You'll need to apply for a Wisconsin driver's license," he said as he handed me the card. "I'm issuing a warning. Get the direction signal fixed. As soon as you get home, get those plates off. Get a Wisconsin state driver's license. You have thirty days to comply. When you have taken care of this matter, you need to arrange an inspection with an officer. Failure to do so will result in a violation." He was writing all the while on his pad. Now he ripped the note off and handed it to me. "Any questions?"
"No. I'm sorry. I didn't know about the license plates."
"Good evening," He said. "I suggest you go straight home."
As we drove off in our respective directions I began to reflect, wondering what more was behind this encounter than a burned out direction signal.