Why I wouldn’t put a pink decal on a teen’s car

My heart goes out to Christina and Corey Darveau, the parents of Taylor Darveau who was tragically killed in 2013 in a crash involving a driver with an intermediate license. These people are living every parent’s nightmare daily and are nobly turning their grief toward policy to prevent future deaths.

But Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of LD 737 and the idea of putting pink decals on young drivers’ cars brought up a couple memories. Both the Senate and the House voted to override his veto, and when the law goes into effect, the decals will be voluntary.

Three weeks after getting my license (sweet freedom!) and just before I turned 18 (more sweet freedom!), I drove down to Woolwich to visit with a friend. I had a blast, but the blast lasted too long, and it was still basketball season.  And I was one of the captains of a varsity Class A team. We didn’t have behavior contracts back then, but Coach Vachon had just started his tenure at Cony and was a stickler about curfew.

Coach used to threaten to call to make sure we were home, and if we weren’t, starters would get benched. Even worse, my father was one of the coaches. Unless he had fallen asleep watching TV, he, too, could bust me for breaking curfew. I can’t remember what time I left Woolwich that night, but I do remember knowing there was no way I could make it home by midnight without time travel.

Somewhere after Turner, going 85 mph in a 55, I saw blue lights in my rearview mirror and pulled over. A man, not in uniform, approached the car and said he was an off-duty officer who saw me blow by. His appearance was a bit disheveled, but I was a kid and didn’t think much about it. I went into my spiel about curfew, captain, blah, blah, and he said to be careful and let me go.

I was too panicky to drive so I watched him in my rearview while I calmed down. He turned off the light, which turned out to be a default blue dashboard light. As his vehicle turned around, I saw it was a beaten-up, smaller van. I never told my parents obviously, so I never got to investigate whether he was a real officer or someone impersonating an officer.

Looking back, though, I do remember him sizing me up as I babbled about being an athlete, and maybe he was noticing that I did have a size and strength advantage over him. I’d like to think a real officer would have called for someone on duty rather than approach a teenage girl in the middle of the night on a lonely stretch of Rt. 27. While driving a beaten-up, old van.

A couple years later, I was bartending, and a customer I didn’t know solicited an act for money. It was my first experience with such an offer — and I was shocked. Of course I said no. Even if I were so inclined, which I wasn’t, the offer was way under what it would have taken for me even to consider such a thing.

The man persisted, and I grew more adamant in my refusal. Suddenly he reached into his pocket and flashed a badge. He said he was an undercover officer and quickly left the bar. That time I did go to my boss in the back office who called the police and learned there was no undercover prostitution operation involving that restaurant. It was someone impersonating an officer, and they came to question me and filed a report.

I’m not a young, seemingly vulnerable girl any more, nor do I have daughters. I don’t know if these situations still happen. I also don’t know the prevalence of these situations with boys; neither of mine has reported such an incident, yet.

I do know, that because those incidents happened to me, I am inclined to think Governor LePage is right on this one. And I know I wouldn’t put that decal on a family or teen’s car.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.