My dad made me go get a new driver's license the other day. "I'm sick of you being an outlaw," he said.
I pondered this for a moment: after all, I had been an outlaw for the better part of my life. When I was 10 years old, I started stealing from both my mother's purse and stores, getting to the point where I couldn't walk into a Barnes & Noble without leaving with two or three books under my shirt (all right, so I was a nerdy criminal). I spent most of high school telling my parents that I was at a meeting for one of the many after-school activities I did, while actually spending the afternoon making out with my boyfriend on his bed, responding that student council had gone "really well," while wiping off my smudged lip gloss when I got home.
As I got older, I decided that breaking my parents' and various bookstores' laws was small-time stuff, and worked my way into the fun and exciting world of ecstasy, cocaine and other substances that can, you know, kill you. Awesome, I thought, as a cop caught me inhaling a balloon filled with nitrous oxide in the middle of my college dorm's courtyard. Of course, this was all I really could think, because my brain cells were popping like the balloon in my hand. And I never got punished -- my mom made me do a day's worth of yardwork after discovering my kleptomania, my parents were proud of my extracurricular involvement in high school, and the cop gave me a warning and a lecture about the illegality of consuming nitrous, presuming that because I had been doing it in such a public area, I must be ignorant and not simply the idiot that I actually was.
But I am 21 now, and I've quit the drugs, quit stealing and am now relatively open (sometimes to my dad's chagrin) about my various encounters with boys. As much as being an outlaw had been fun, I had decided -- as a change of pace -- to be a productive, contributive member of society, and getting a license was really all that there was left. My license had been stolen, along with my wallet, passport and everything else I brought with me (apparently, what goes around comes around in the world of thievery) on a trip two years ago to Brazil, and I'd neglected to make the trip to the DMV to replace it. So, on an exceptionally cold Thursday afternoon, I drove (illegally) to the DMV and sat next to a group of Cheetos-chewing toddlers who seemed slightly too young to be driving, but that's just a personal judgment. I emerged into the lack of sunlight several hours later with orange-stained pants (apparently, toddlers like to touch things) and a slip of paper that declared me a licensed driver.
"That was so pointless," I complained to my father as I scrubbed at my pants that evening. "It's not like I'm ever going to get pulled over."
Sunday, I got pulled over.
I was going 85 mph while driving back from L.A. when I saw the blue and red lights flashing behind me. I talked to myself as I pulled over the car (I like to talk to myself when I'm in trouble, I find I'm the most sympathetic subject) and heard a tap on my window. It's OK, I thought. All of my friends have told stories about talking their way out of tickets when they were going 110, 115 mph. I'll be fine.
"License, registration and proof of insurance," the officer said as I rolled down the window.
"I ... uh ... do you want ... "
"License, registration and proof of insurance," he repeated, looking utterly bored with the interaction.
"I don't get to ..."
He interrupted me with a loud sigh and stuck out his hand. With shaking fingers, I found the various documents and gave them to him. He returned with a ticket and not another word.
Well, that's not how it's supposed to work, I thought, as I drove away with honks behind me from those not pleased with my 40 mph speed.
I guess I can't escape my outlaw past -- but at least now I'm a licensed one.
Liz Moody, a Johansen High School graduate, is a student at the University of California at Berkeley. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.