Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stopped For Not Speeding

I recently had a speaking engagement in the small western town of Woodstock—aka Bryant Pond. While I often travel to such things alone, this trip was different. Steven came with me. It’s been ages since we’ve spent the day in each other’s company and I looked forward to the jaunt.

Knowing my propensity for getting lost; Steven had a friend at work ‘google’ the directions and with print-out in hand, I navigated for my husband.

The trickiest part was following the directions through Rumford, with its rotary, high volume of Friday afternoon traffic, and its painted-on-the-tar road signs. That’s right. The arrows pointing the way to Rt. 2 are painted on the pavement; at every little intersection, dog-leg and corner. We wound our way through town and laughed; saying we hoped we’d be able to see the signs when we came home after dark, so that they would guide us back across the river.

It was 9:45 before we were back on the road. It had rained and there were scattered areas of fog hanging close to the ground.

We’d never been to Woodstock, and we’ve rarely driven through Rumford; certainly, not at night. We hit the bustling mill town at approximately 10:15 p.m. As we left Route 232 and merged with Rt. 2, I leaned forward in the passenger’s seat… self-appointed “Arrows-On-The-Tar-Spotter”.

Steven drove cautiously; worried that if we didn’t take the correct road, we’d get turned around and stuck in the downtown area, swallowed up for hours by the metropolis alongside the Androscoggin River. Laugh if you will but this was serious stuff; and I refuse to go down alone. If I got lost, my husband was coming with me!

He couldn’t see very well. It was dark and foggy, and the road was wet. The glare of the town’s sodium vapor lights reduced the visibility through the sand-pitted windshield. The headlights of the car behind us shone into the mirrors, reducing Steven’s vision even more. He slowed down as I squinted to find the road signs leading us along Rt. 2. I leaned forward to get the “google map” directions from the dashboard, but as I did, the seatbelt locked up, trapping me and preventing any forward movement. That seatbelt is temperamental. If I cough or move even the slightest bit, it locks and there is no coaxing any slack out of it. The only way to prevent strangulation is to unbuckle, let it retract all the way, and then pull it out again.

I unbuckled, took the page of directions off the dash, and sighed.

“I suppose I should buckle up again.”

“Yep. Especially since there’s a cop riding my bumper!”

I rolled my eyes, knowing he couldn’t see in front of us, to say nothing about what was behind. Steven loves to spout doom and gloom—he’s a glass-half-empty kinda guy. But I complied. It is the law, after all—even though I disagree with it.

I’d barely snapped the buckle into place when Steven said, “Yessuh! I told you!” before pulling off into a small parking lot. Blue lights flashed behind us.

“Oh, for crying out loud. What’s that all about?”

I was glad Steven was driving. I’ve never received a traffic ticket, and I don’t intend to start now. He parked the Blazer and started digging for his license and I tried to open the glove box for his registration—but was strangled and held in place by the seatbelt, which gave an ominous ‘click’ as it locked and tightened.

In any other circumstance, I would have quickly unbuckled my seatbelt, sitting there in a stationary car parked off the road. But in my mirror I saw another police vehicle pull up behind us—this time an ominous-looking Suburban. Rumford Police’s version of a paddy wagon, I suppose. This seemed to be over-kill for whatever our infraction was… a plate light out? Tail-light? What else could it be?

Not only did an officer walk up to Steven’s side of the Blazer, but another approached cautiously on my side. What the heck was going on? I decided to find out. I rolled down the window and poked my head out. The officer shined his Mag-light in my face and stood far back, hugging the side of the Blazer. I understood the protocol, but it irritated me, nonetheless.

“Hey, what’s up?” I asked with a smile. No response. My ears tuned in to what Mr. Grumbles was saying to the officer on his side of the rig.

“What’s the problem, officer?”

“You were driving 18 miles per hour, sir,” came the response. Steven’s eyebrows rose.

“What’s the speed limit?”

“It’s 25 m.p.h.” the public servant answered.

I could feel static electricity as it began to emanate--snap, crackle and pop—from my husband’s aura.

“It’s 25 miles an hour… and I was going 18?”

“Yes, sir. And hugging the curb.”

“So, let me get this straight. You stopped me because I was NOT speeding, AND I was staying on my own side of the road?”

“Honey…” I poked him in the shoulder as I gave that cautionary word. I leaned past Steven to speak to the primary officer in charge. “I had a speaking engagement in Woodstock. We’ve never been there… and we’re just trying to find our way back home. We were going slowly so we could see the arrows painted on the road. Honest!”

Why I said “Honest!” I don’t know. There was no reason for anyone to doubt the veracity of my statement. The policeman gave me the same attention he’d award to a pesky mosquito. He ignored me—brushed me aside.

“Have you been drinking tonight, sir?”

Snap, crackle, pop from the driver’s seat while two vehicles-- blue lights flashing—drew attention to the violent law-breakers in the 15 year old Blazer.

“No. I haven’t.”

“You haven’t had a beer or two?”

The air was heavy laden with ticked-off-man. I poked said man again, and his voice remained somewhat polite as he once more informed the young officer shining the bright light in his eyes that he had not been consuming alcohol. None. Not one beer, not two. That he’d been in a crowded room, enthralled as he listened to his wife speak. (Okay, okay. I have it on good authority Steven didn’t doze off, and that’s close enough to ‘enthralled’ for me!)

“License, registration and proof of insurance, please.”


I unbuckled, risking the wrath of the law and a stint in the slammer. It was the only way to reach the glove box. I knew what I would find. Registration; yes. Insurance card; yes. But not a current insurance card. The day before—on Thursday—I’d remembered my truck registration expired at the end of July. I’d assembled the paperwork to license it, but realized that Steven and I didn’t have the most recent copy of our insurance cards in our possession. I called my agent and asked that she fax them and she did. But a new card didn’t get placed in Steven’s Blazer. My ‘bad’. I knew our insurance was current, but I couldn’t prove it.

The cops went back to their cruiser to ‘call us in’. They must have communicated our apparent harmlessness to the SWAT team in the Suburban, for their strobes were extinguished and the paddy wagon drove off. Reinforcements weren’t needed. We were just two boring old farts who hadn’t even had a drink on our first date in two years.

All we were was…lost.

The ticket for not producing a current insurance card was $171.00. The cab of the Chevy filled with blue smoke as we drove across the bridge and away from Rumford.

I had to laugh—and did. It was par for the course. Who else but my husband could get stopped—by FOUR cops, no less!--for driving cautiously, AND land himself a $171.00 fine?

Do I know how to show a guy a good time, or what?

1 comment:

  1. Wow, it sure sounds like you had a great date honey. How long 'til the next one ?