Making the adjustment from England to Canada was not a major challenge given the language and cultural similarities however, it did have its moments of concern. I just recently had a dialogue about my early interactions with the police in Canada, and it was requested that I provide the full story!
Background: During my driving years in England (1960’s and 1970’s), if the police wanted to pull you over, they would position their car in front of you. A sign would then go up in the rear window “POLICE STOP”. It was very effective!
After a few years of living here, I volunteered at a hospital located on the other side (to where I lived) of Toronto. To get there, I used to drive along a major artery that took me over part of the downtown area.
On one particular evening, I was in the fast lane when I glanced in my rear view mirror and noticed a police cruiser, with all lights flashing, coming up behind me. Obviously he was on an emergency call so, being the thoughtful driver that I am, I pulled over a lane to let the cruiser through. Murphy’s Law came into play and the police cruiser driver had obviously made a similar decision as he was right behind me again!
I moved back into the fast lane to let him through and, once again, he made the same decision. Once more over a lane, and still he was behind me so I moved into the slow lane so he now had two lanes to choose from in which he could continue on his way at a good speed.
Seeing him behind me in the slow lane, and now with his sirens on as well as all his lights, I really didn’t know what else I could do to get him to pass me, so I slowed down. The police cruiser eventually pulled out and was clearly going to pass me. I was quite relieved that the confusion had been resolved, and couldn’t help but watch as the cruiser pulled along side. What really surprised me however, was the driver seemed rather agitated and was frantically waving at me and pointing to my right (the guard rail side). Given that I was on an elevated section of road with no imminent exits, I thought that I had perhaps better stop and see what he wants.
The police cruiser stopped right behind me, and the driver got out and came up to my window. In rather simple, direct, and very effective English, he asked me what I thought I was doing. He did not appreciate me telling him that I knew exactly what I was doing. I was going to Toronto East General Hospital. I offered my frustration and concern that while I was trying to let him through to continue on his emergency call, he just seemed to be making the same strategic decisions as me.
Then he offered the suggestion that perhaps he had been trying to pull me over. I explained that where I came from, that procedure was done from the front of the “suspect” car and not from the rear. As far as I was concerned, he was simply on an emergency call!
He then went into a rather excessive use of expletives which, diplomatically translated meant “I really don’t care where you came from. You are here now!” I could not argue with his logic so I apologized… and then asked why he wanted to pull me over. It was simply a check to ensure that I owned the car that I was driving because a similar one had been reported stolen, and my rear license plate could not be read too easily because of a dent (I had backed into a concrete post some months earlier).
All checked out well, and I gave him my best smile. The smile was not returned. I guess he was just having a bad shift! 🙂