[The following is an approximate re-telling of a recent traffic stop I had with local law enforcement for a moving violation. The events of my run-in all happened exactly as described below. Well, almost exactly.]
It was 7:22 am on a Wednesday. I was driving northbound on Main Highway like I always did this time of week. But this time, there was a problem. I was running late for my regular Wednesday meet-up with a buddy of mine. Let’s call him Terry, because, well, that’s his name. Terry was waiting for me at our regular rendezvous, a place called Terry’s Corner (honest). My buddy Terry is a big deal in this small town. But Terry was going to have to wait. Because, like I said, I was running late.
I knew I shouldn’t have downed half a six-pack of Mountain Dew Live Wire first thing in the morning. My heart rate was through the roof as I raced down the highway in my silver Toyota minivan, desperately trying to make up time. I saw the speed limit sign. It read 50 mph, just like it always read this time of day. Some things never change. I looked in my rear view mirror. Drivers were climbing up on my tail. Okay, not literally my tail. I don’t have a tail. It’s just a figure of speech. Maybe I was just imagining things, but it looked like the guy behind me wanted to run me over. My heart started pounding. My palms got clammy. I could barely hold onto the steering wheel.
My mind buzzed with all the things I had to do today. Little did I know that my agenda was about to take a major U-turn – because just as I was writing the previous sentence, I zoomed past a parked trooper. In that instant, the cop pulled onto the highway, flashed his lights, and started in hot pursuit.
Crap! In my haste to meet my buddy, I must have been speeding. Uh Oh! And what about the 20 kilos of cocaine hidden in my trunk? Nah, my memory was just playing tricks on me again. That was from an episode of Law & Order I watched this morning while I ate my usual carbo-loading breakfast of Eggos and Captain Crunch.
I slowed down, hoping against hope he had someone else in his sites. The trooper pulled up right behind me. By now I was fairly sure he was after me. When he turned on his loudspeaker and shouted “you in the silver Toyota minivan, pull over immediately”, I became slightly more convinced. Yeah, looks like this speeder was going down.
I pulled over and sat limply in my car, awaiting my uncertain fate. The burly, no-nonsense trooper slowly plodded towards me. As I watched him in my side mirror, I couldn’t help but notice that he was closer than he appeared. I trembled as I saw him firmly clutch his loaded revolver in case he needed to use it to subdue me when I attempted to overtake him with the handy six-inch tire pressure gauge I had cleverly hidden in my glove compartment for just such an encounter.
Suddenly my future flashed before my eyes. It was straight out of the movie The Shawshank Redemption – but without the redemption part. I lowered my window. “Do you know how fast you were going?” the policeman asked sternly.
“Um, seeing as it’s a 50 mile an hour zone, I thought I was doing about 50”, I lied, knowing I must have been doing easily 75 or more.
“You were doing 47,” he growled, in obvious contempt.
“I’m sorry,” I stammered. “Did you just say, 47? What exactly appears to be the problem, officer?”
I looked back at his seething glare, not quite sure what I’d done. “So let me get this straight. You pulled me over because I was going 3 miles per hour BELOW the speed limit? I’m sorry. Are you saying that I was supposed to be driving EXACTLY 50 and not one mile per hour less?”
The officer was now clearly furious. He locked his eyes on mine and snarled, “So you think this is funny, eh? How about I just double the ticket to $150?” (He actually said this!)
“Officer, I’m just trying to understand what I did. Can you enlighten me?” I pleaded.
“You were impeding traffic. You had four cars stacked up behind you. If you’re not going to do the speed limit, you need to pull over and let them through… you idiot.” (Okay, so I added the “you idiot” part. But I’m sure that’s precisely what he was thinking.)
So there I was. Caught in the act of committing the heinous crime of driving 3 mph too slowly. I had no excuses. I was caught red-handed. I’m riddled with guilt and shame. What will my kids think of me now that I’m a criminal? How can I face them now that the man who once drove them to soccer practice is nothing more than a vile, lawless hooligan?
I threw myself on the mercy of the officer, asking if there was any way he could possibly let me off with just a warning for my reckless driving. I briefly considered asking him whether I should go 53 mph the rest of the way in order to offset the 3 mph I was driving too slowly. But then I thought better of it and reserved my right to remain silent.
In the end, the officer let me go with just a warning. I want to thank that kind police officer for taking 15 minutes out of his busy day to read me the riot act about my dangerous driving. And officer, if you’re reading this, I want you to know, you’ve taught me a valuable lesson: Driving below the speed limit is dangerous. I’m committed to being a safe driver, which is why, from now on, at all times, I will make a point to drive at least 15 mph over the posted speed limit.
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Check out Tim Jones’ latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time