Cell Phone Wake-Up Call While Driving

11/23/2011 01:33 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2012

I got a ticket for talking on my cell phone while driving today.

This wouldn't be the hugest deal except for two embarrassing facts: 1) That I am the cell phone Nazi in my house, always lecturing my husband and kids not to text and drive, not to email and drive and to only talk and drive if they use their headset; 2) That they all have headsets, to start with, and I don't.

Michael has offered to go buy me a headset more times than I'd like to admit, and I always tell him not to bother -- that I'll pick one up next time I'm out. I know this is no excuse but I rarely talk on the phone in the car, and the only conversations I was ever able to have on my old headset involved me moving my head in every direction and yelling, "Can you hear me now?" so it just didn't seem like a priority.

Anyway, this morning I set out TO THE DMV (!) to get my license renewed. I had to do it in person this time because I guess it's been 10 years and I was required to get a new picture, take a vision test and give a fingerprint. Although my license wasn't expiring until my birthday in January, I didn't procrastinate this time and I even made an appointment so I would avoid the lines. I was right on top of things. Ha! I wrote down directions from their website, and headed down the 805.

Everything was fine until I exited at Clairemont Mesa Boulevard. The directions said to go west but I was absolutely convinced I was supposed to go east. I remembered driving there before, and the thoughts going through my head went something like, "stupid website," "directions are always wrong online" and "why can't anyone get anything right?"

So I went east -- far east. Almost China east. But I still couldn't believe I was wrong. I could even picture the building on the left. So I called my parents to ask them to look up the directions on their computer. We started chatting about the kids and Thanksgiving and ... suddenly I noticed flashing lights behind me in my rearview mirror. OMG! It was a police car and those lights were for me! I slammed the "end call" button and threw my phone down. When it rang again, I ignored it -- sorry, mom and dad -- and carefully pulled over to a safe place.

When the policewoman came over, I immediately said I was sorry, and went into a whole explanation about how I never talk on my phone in the car but I was on my way to the DMV and was lost and was calling for directions. "It's okay," she said, quietly, but proceeded to take my license back to her car anyway.

While she was processing my information, I had a real "aha" moment. I realized that I honestly had no idea how long that policewoman had been following me. That information took me a while to process. We could have been caravanning for miles -- I just didn't know because I was obviously so distracted with my phone call. This was really shocking to me, even though I had made everyone in my family watch the Oprah show all about the dangers of distracted driving. (And, head down in shame, I even signed Oprah's pledge -- although, to be fair, that was about texting while driving, and I was NOT doing that.)

The policewoman came back with my ticket, and I asked her if she could please give me directions to the DMV since I still didn't have them. She pointed me straight ahead and told me to drive safely. Then, she came back out of her car again to tell me she had made a mistake and I had to make a u-turn! See? No one knows how to get to the DMV!

But that's really not the point. I was totally in the wrong, and I learned a lot of hopefully life-changing lessons from this experience:

* Talking on the cell phone while driving is distracting and can be dangerous.

* It is important to practice while what I preach. If I believe in something strongly enough to be yelling at everyone else to do it, I'd better be doing it myself. (Politicians should take notice of this -- although that's a whole other post.)

* Be open to the possibility of being wrong. Hmmm ...

The real irony is that the address of the traffic court on my ticket turned out to be the building I had remembered as the DMV! I apparently had never been to the DMV on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard before but had definitely been to the traffic court there when I contested a ticket for not stopping before making a right on red out of the Ralph's parking lot. (For the record, I saw the policeman there and definitely stopped before making my right. The judge said he believed I believed I stopped and, $300+ later, when I asked the bailiff if anyone wins against a police officer, he just sighed and shook his head.)

Anyway, although I was nervous about telling Michael because I thought I'd never hear the end of it, he just laughed -- and so did my daughter. My son said, "That sucks." But, really, it doesn't. I'm grateful for the warning.

I just hope any future wake-up calls don't come while I'm driving -- because I won't be answering them.