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?”
“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.