In light of my third "confession" in this post (that I love to drive fast like a NASCAR driver and I'm obnoxious about it, besides), you might find it surprising that, on my seventeenth birthday, I actually received a ticket for -- get this -- driving too slowly! Can you believe they even allow police officers to ticket teens for driving "too slowly"!?! You would think they would award medals for that kind of thing instead.
As you might surmise, it wasn't really a ticket for driving too slowly, although that's what the checked box on the form said. But that was just the officer's euphemism for "she flipped me off and was a smart-alec besides, so I'm going to make her pay for that," because there was no box to check for that particular offense.
Here is what happened:
I was driving my dad's fiancee's car* (a 1972 Mustang) one very rainy night on an unlit, somewhat remote, curvy, hilly, narrow, very bumpy and very puddly gravel road** through the woods in Northern Virginia.*** The car was sliding around each curve, and I was a little afraid I would run off the road and into the ditch, particularly at the bottom of the hill where the one-lane bridge crossed the creek, when a car came hurrying up behind me with its bright lights on, shining directly in my rearview mirror.
The Mustang did not have one of those day / night mirrors. I could barely see the road in front of me before this other car arrived on the scene, and now the lights reflecting in my mirror were pretty much blinding me.
I tried speeding up a little to put more distance between us. It didn't work; he stayed right on my tail.
I slowed way down and drove as close as I could to the side of the road, hoping he'd pass me. He did not.
I stopped, hoping he would go on around me and leave. He stopped behind me and waited.
I opened my window and waved for him to pass me. Still, he waited behind me.
I got scared and drove quickly away, then slowed to a speed that would ensure I did not run off the road. The last thing I needed was to be in a car wreck deep in the woods with this maniac stalker right behind me. (If I had seen the movie "Deliverance" before that incident, I would have been humming that tune from the dueling banjos scene while I drove.****) The stalker followed, close behind, those bright lights still blazing away in my rearview mirror.
In an effort to appear brave instead of scared out of my wits by this nut job, I flipped him off. He flipped on the blue and red lights and the siren and pulled me over.
. . . . .
The officer swaggered up to the window and asked for my license and registration. As I dug them up, he directed his flashlight's beam into the car and, so far as he could without knocking off his Stetson, poked his head into the open window and had a good look around.
He noticed that the horn was not attached to the steering wheel (it had an unfortunate habit of falling off every time the car went over a bump.)
"Whar's yer horn?" he asked.
"In the back seat," I replied.
"Well, sir, it falls off whenever I hit a bump, and this is sort of a bumpy road, don't you think? It seemed a little silly to keep reattaching it on this road, so I tossed it in the back seat to get it out of my lap. I figured I'd put it back on later, when I got to the pavement. Do you want me to reattach it right now? I'm just a wee bit afraid it might fall right off again, though." (Sadly, my tone was a "wee bit" sarcastic throughout this long-winded explanation. He didn't interrupt me, though, or tell me to stop being sarcastic ... just gave me more rope to hang myself with....)
"Well now, that horn's not doin' ya' much good in the back seat, now is it?"
"Well, no sir. But I haven't really needed it tonight anyway. All the bad drivers have been behind me." (Oh sh** I shouldn't have said that.... why can't I keep my fool mouth shut?!?)
"That so, eh? You wait here, missy." He swaggered back toward his red and blue blinking cruiser.
An eternity and a half later, he appeared at my window and, mimicking my sarcastic tone, said, "Happy Birthday, LegalMist," while handing me a ticket for "driving too slowly" and "failure to maintain proper equipment on the vehicle."
(If you want to know what this cruel man looks like, just go to the dictionary and look up the word "jerk." His picture is right there next to the definition. I think they've even computer age-progressed it. And, um, no... no, I haven't held a grudge for over 20 years or anything stupid like that.... ahem...)
I was young and foolish and too scared to tell anyone I had flipped off a police officer and then had been sarcastic besides, or why I had felt so provoked, so I just paid the ticket and didn't tell anyone the story behind it. My dad's fiancee was very kind and paid the fine for the "equipment" portion of the ticket, saying she should have had that horn fixed before. When I told my Dad about the "back story" years later, he laughed and said he always knew there had to be more to that ticket than I had let on, since he had never known me to drove "too slowly."
I learned two valuable lessons that day: I never flip the bird at anyone when I drive, no matter how annoying they are. And I am never sarcastic with police officers, even when they deserve it.
* It was a bright red 1972 Mustang fastback; this was before I got my awesome 1965 'Stang) My soon-to-be stepmom was a very cool lady to let me borrow her beloved 'Stang.
** I tried to think of more adjectives to describe this road but I think I used them all already. Please do not have me arrested for "adjective abuse." Thank you.
*** Ironically, the road was named "Lawyers Road"; it has since been paved and widened and is now in the middle of the suburban sprawl. You can tell I am a lawyer because I have three footnotes in one sentence, and all three contain irrelevant matter that I find fascinating but which may be of no interest at all to others.
**** For your viewing pleasure, here is the aforementioned "dueling banjos" scene: