There were those pesky blue lights again, filling up my rearview mirror.
"What now?" I said to Kim as we were approaching the city limits of Asheville, our destination, Friday morning.
We soon found out what.
"Is this your vehicle?" asked the State Highway Patrolman.
"The reason I stopped you is because your license (at this moment I thought he was going to say our license plate had fallen off) tag has expired."
He was talking about the little sticker in the upper righthand corner of my license plate, which had not fallen off. The sticker was a year old. It was still a black sticker, not the current white one, which is no doubt how he spotted our illegal car in a pack of traffic moving at 60 miles per hour on I-240.
From his perspective, he was the exact right officer at the exact right location at the exact right moment in time to make the collar. A minute or two earlier or later and maybe I'm scot free.
I was dumbfounded, of course. I quickly sorted through the confusion in my confused mind.
"We never got a license renewal bill in the mail," I told the officer, pleading something resembling ignorance of the law.
That never works.
"It's still your responsibility to stay current," he said, essentially telling us it's not the DMV's fault for not sending us the bill as he walked back to his cruiser.
We've been billed annually — just like everybody else — for years, and have never missed updating our license tag.
Then the officer returned, with our citation. Our $190 citation. Kim calmly looked it over because I was a hot-wired mess.
"Sir," she said. "This isn't our address."
Good catch, Kim. I thought she might have found our way out. For some reason, despite years of sending our annual renewal to our correct address, the DMV apparently and suddenly reverted to sending our bill to our former address, where we haven't lived in 15 years. And our bill, of course, wasn't forwarded to our current address.
I asked the officer if he couldn't just issue a warning, pretty much feeling like none of this was our fault.
"It still doesn't matter, and not after a year," said the officer, who said he updated our current address with the DMV on his in-car computer (so there goes our proof of a wrong address). "You're still responsible for renewing your license."
The news did get slightly better. My court date is in June. If I show up in court — in Asheville — on that date with proof of renewing my license tag, the citation will be dismissed. So now I need to make a six-hour round trip to the mountains for a 15-minute court appearance ... never mind.
Back in November, we were pulled for a rolling stop at an isolated intersection near Sunset Beach. I think I'm developing a severe case of blue light syndrome. And I just thought I had a cold...