Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I'm Just Full of Surprises

Can you stand another car story? If not, you may want to skip this one. If so, then read on:

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:



SkylersDad said...

Love the story, and it blends well with the deliverance vid!

That damn expat said...

I really liked this story. Your writing is really enjoyable.

I would have been scared to hell if someone tailed me AND pulled over behind me. Thank heavens we have cell phones now.

Angie said...

Wow. You were much nicer to the cop than I was the first time I was pulled over. In my defence, he wasn't an actual police officer, he was a volunteer who was doing traffic at the high school. He didn't even have an official uniform, just an off the rack button down with a patch sewn on the sleeve and a nametag (not a badge) pinned to his chest.

Alice said...

Loved the story... I have just reciently got my first ticket... He is lucky it wasn't me... i would be in jail... I would have pulled a gun out.

Candy's daily Dandy said...

Hahaha! Never a good idea to piss off a cop. Especially one with a backwardass Southern accent!

BPOTW said...

That is hilarious! Couple of things:

One: I would have wet myself I'd have been so scared. And I wouldn't even have been able to stammer out my name...so cudos to you for even being able to be sarcastic!

Two: Why was he driving behind you with his brights on? That's freaky.

Three: What's a horn and how was it supposed to be attached?

LegalMist said...

BPOTW: On the 1972 Mustang, the steering wheel was round and sort of thin, with three or so "spokes" holding it to the middle part where it attached to the steering column. There was a largish "cap" over the middle part of the steering wheel where it attached to the steering column. You could push in the center part of the steering wheel / "cap" and it would make the horn go "honk" outside the car. The "cap" had a sort of spring device to hold it away from the metal contact that made the horn blow, and you could sort of push down and twist to put it on (rather like a childproof cap on a medicine bottle). But a piece had broken or something, and so it kept just popping off -- spring loaded, it would literally fly into your lap if you hit a bump.

Fancy Schmancy said...

God, that's scary! Something similar happened to me at about 2am on a Saturday night out in east buttfuck on an old country road. It wasn't raining, but I had been drinking and was trying to play it safe and stay below the speed limit. Driver came out of nowhere and tail gated me his high beams on, even during the passing zone. I pulled over, he pulled over, which scared the crap out of me. So I started driving again and he stayed on me, they suddenly in a no passing zone, went around me and Slammed His Brakes On! It wasn't a cop, just some redneck getting his jollies. Thankfully, he took off after that. I was never so thankful to see the highway that brought me back to civilization.

LegalMist said...

BPOTW: Here is a link to a steering wheel that is similar, but not exactly, like the one my stepmom's car had. The metal piece with the "Ford Mustang" logo on the top is the part that had fallen off.