Déjà vu

I live in a small town. Our police force consists of a Chief, two full-time patrol officers, and one part-timer. I’ve met two of them—the Chief and one of the full-timers—and a nicer couple of folks would be hard to find.

But they still have jobs to do. And once in a while, a normally law-abiding citizen can end up on one side of a problem with one of those nice police officers on the other.

So, my house is at the top of a very long, very steep hill. And in order to go anywhere, I have to drive down that hill. Until this year, the road consisted of potholes, frost heaves, and lots of crumbling pavement. It was patched and lumpy, so it acted as one continuous speed bump. Anyone exceeding the speed limit—not posted because, hey, why bother?—would likely end up in a ditch, probably wrapped around a big-ass pine.

So imagine what it was like when the town got some Uncle Sam money and that road got paved. Clear, smooth, black-as-a-crow’s-wing asphalt, lightly crowned with its edges dressed in new sand and riprap—an awesome sight to those used to piebald pavement in myriad colors, patched with whatever was available that week.

I’m usually good about speed limits. In fact, I have never been stopped for speeding in my life. Never. Except this one time.

But, damn! New pavement! The car feels as if it’s on wings–not a rattle or vibration beyond those that are supposed to be there. I kinda get rolling, and there’s this euphoric sense of freedom that turns my brain cells to mush, and as I round a turn maybe halfway down that hill, I spot one of our full-timers, sittin’ at the bottom lying in wait. I’m going about 45 and quickly knock it down to 40.

When I get almost to him, those blue lights come on, and I pull over and shut off the engine. After digging through the owner’s manual and shoving aside the GPS and tossing out a few gas receipts, I hand over my license and registration…and the very polite police officer asks,

“Could you maybe hand over the license that’s not expired?”

“Are you serious?”

Now I know I’m in deep doo doo. I don’t know how deep, but this can’t possibly end well. And it’s already not slated to be the best of days.

He asks, “You live right up the hill here?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Where you headed?”

“To my sister’s.” I hesitate an instant. “I’m taking her to chemo.”

He stands there a moment, and next thing I know, he hands back my expired license and my not-expired registration and says, “I’m gonna pretend I didn’t see this.”

And I feel as if I’m in somebody’s novel—mine—because that’s exactly what my main character in Saving Gracie says in a similar situation. Thing is, that’s fiction. This is real. And I’m about in tears, because, damn—what a nice guy.

I stop at the registry on the way home and renew the license—can’t imagine how the heck I missed it—I mean, they do send reminders, don’t they? And the nice woman behind the counter, after hearing my story, says, “You know, he was supposed to tow your vehicle, and it should have been a mandatory court appearance.”

I hang my head in shame.

I suspect I’m all out of get-out-of-jail-free cards. And from now on, no matter how new the pavement, I will never speed again.

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11 thoughts on “Déjà vu

  1. You nailed it again, Nancy. What a brilliantly descriptive story you tell here. It seems to be fiction, not reality, but sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. Give that guy a star for unlocking deep emotions and bringing new life to dismayed dead cells. And I had wet-eye too! Thank you for posting this.

    • We have wonderful police officers here. They must love their job, because this town pays lousy. Any one of our officers could get an instant $10,000 raise by defecting to a neighboring town.
      We love them. 🙂

  2. This cracks me up and reminds me of two stories. Unlike you, I live in the County and work in the City which happens to be the capital of Florida and it is crawling with law enforcement. There is the City police, the County sheriff, the Capitol police (a division of Florida’s version of the State police), and the highway patrol. So once I got stopped by the highway patrol in the middle of downtown. (WTH? The highway patrol? Shouldn’t you be out catching speeders on I-10? This could only happen to me.) The occasion was, my tag was expired. I managed to find my license, but after pawing through everything in the glove box, could not find either the registration or my required proof of insurance. I was pretty sure I was doomed. But he only wrote me a ticket for the expired tag and told me if I renewed it and took the ticket and proof of renewal to the administrative court within a certain period of time, the ticket would be dismissed. Of course, being the disorganized oaf that I am, I waited too long and had to pay $90.
    Second story: Recently a highway patrol officer stopped a state legislator for speeding on I-10. He knew the guy was a legislator because they all have license plates that say “LEGISLATOR”. In the end, he only gave the guy a ticket for failing to have proof of insurance, which is something like $10 as it turns out. Had he gotten a ticket for speeding, it would have been hundreds of dollars because he was going so fast. Here’s where it gets so Florida-ish. The legislator got pissed, because he says he DID have current proof of insurance, he complained, and the highway patrol fired the officer, saying that was not their policy. The officer says there is an unwritten rule that legislators get a pass. (Hello. Why do they have plates that say “LEGISLATOR”?) In the officer’s appeal, he won, and was reinstated. Welcome to Florida.

    • I’m disorganized, too. (Probably already had that figured out, huh?)
      Good for that officer for appealing, and I’m glad to hear he got reinstated. Hey – I go to Florida once a year or so – gotta visit my MIL in Hollywood. 🙂

  3. “Where you headed?” – they have no legal or Constitutional right to ask you this question. Please don’t give away your freedoms. This is not a police state. Good story by the way. 🙂

    • I got stopped for a dead tail light once (it came back on when I walked to the rear of the truck), and another time when I was driving around frogs in the rain at night (probably appeared to be drunk). Both times the officer asked where I was going.

      I think it’s a standard question – a way to get a sense of the driver’s mental status – are you intoxicated? Otherwise impaired? Does he need to detain me in order to protect others? If he lets me go, am I so compromised that I’m likely to hit someone head-on in the next 5 minutes?

      Seems a fair question. I certainly had the right not to answer, but I suspect if I hadn’t, I’d not have been so lucky.

  4. “Where are you headed?” I also think is a pretty standard question. You may not be constitutionally required to answer, but why wouldn’t you answer? (The highway patrol officer who stopped me didn’t ask.) I pretty much think that being contrary because you have a right to be is a poor strategy for dealing with law enforcement or anyone else.

  5. Nancy,
    Thanks so much for the kind words about my officer. This is the exact impression that I want of the officers in Mason, the ability to understand when a person just needs a break. The individual who reminds you that we can’t constitutionally ask you “where you headed?” is correct. I think that individual needs to also be reminded that we don’t have to give breaks either but being the small town neighbors that we are, we prefer to show that we have hearts…

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