When I was in high school, I decided to dress up as Princess Leia for Halloween. In particular, I decided to dress up as sticky buns Princess Leia (thankfully, I knew better than to attempt to wear a metal bikini).
I put my costume together carefully. My mom helped me make a white robe, and I went to a beauty supply store for fake hair to help create buns on the side of my head. The footwear was a bit tricky (white leather boots were not in the family Back-to-School budget), but I ended up making some pretty good imitation princess boots out of Keds tennis shoes, a lot of white felt, and a little bit of duct tape. To finish off the costume, I carried around a (close to life-sized) stuffed Ewok that a family friend had given me.
The overall effect was not exactly professional-looking, but I was pleased. At school, people poked at my fake hair and teased me (gently) about my giant stuffed animal. I was super-excited about going to a friend's house to help pass out candy that night.
I had butterflies in my stomach as I drove my dad's truck to my friend's house after school. We were going to a friend-of-a-friend's party after we passed out candy, and it was rumored that there would be cute guys there.
Now, I have a bit of a lead foot these days, but at the time, I was still a fairly new driver on an unfamiliar route, and was driving about 5 mph slower than what I thought was the posted speed limit. When I saw lights flashing in my rear-view mirror, the butterflies in my stomach turned into lead weights. I pulled into a gas station and turned off the engine. I felt like I couldn't catch my breath.
What was it you're supposed to do when you get pulled over? I wondered. Are you supposed to take your insurance out of the glove compartment? Or are you not supposed to touch the glove compartment at all, in case the officer thinks you're getting out a gun to shoot him? Oh crap. My parents are going to kill me.
My breath began to feel strangely caught in my throat. I rolled down my window.
The police officer stood outside my truck window, not saying anything. Am I supposed to take my seatbelt? I wondered. I handed him my driver's license.
"I'm gonna need your insurance card, ma'am," the officer said, using a tone of voice that indicated that he thought I was an idiot.
"I... It's in the glove compartment," I said. I could tell now that I was going to start crying.
The officer rolled his eyes and sighed. "Then get it out of the glove compartment."
Silently, I got the insurance card out and handed it to the police officer.
He began writing me a ticket. "You think it's funny to speed around a school zone in East Austin?" he asked.
At this point, my eyes filled with tears and a large lump formed in the back of my throat. I had no idea I was in a school zone; I had been driving down a busy six-lane road with no kids or schools in sight. I shook my head "no" as tears began to spill down my cheeks.
The officer scribbled on his pad, stopping every so often to take in my costume. I got the feeling that he was not a Star Wars fan.
After what felt like hours, the police officer finished writing.
"The instructions are on the ticket," he said. "You can take defensive driving or whatever you want to do about it." He ripped the ticket off of the pad and handed it, along with my license and insurance, back through the truck window. The papers rattled in my shaking hands. By this point, I was beginning to sob.
"What is your costume supposed to be, anyway?" He asked. "KKK member?"
His question shocked me enough that I was able to take a breath. I opened my puffy eyes widely. "I... I'm Princess Leia," I said. "I... have an Ewok?" I gestured to the passenger seat, where, to make my friends laugh, I had buckled in the stuffed animal when I left school.
The police officer looked at me for a minute. I got the impression that he was wondering whether or not he should take me to get some kind of mental help. Finally, he grunted dismissively and walked back to his car.
I called my friend to tell her I wouldn't be coming over to pass out candy, and headed home.
It was five years before I could be convinced to dress up for Halloween again.