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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Confessions of a Lead Foot

“Just the good ole boys, never meanin’ no harm, beats all you’ve ever saw, been in trouble with the law, since the day they were born.
Straightnin’ the curves, roundin’ the hills, someday the mountain might keep ‘em, but the law never will.” ---Waylon Jennings

My heavy, heavy lead foot, my rush hither and thither with no particular emergency on my back, and oftentimes, with no particular place to go, and my zeal for that green blur that trees become when darting passed them in a road-hungry havoc, all these, have lead me into trouble after trouble with the law. Yes, I am admitting my guilt, confessing my misdeeds as the years have rolled by, and as I have rolled by, a bit too hastily, which has brought me into the pugnacious riff with the boys in blue.

Who has not, felt the surge of the highway? All the music flashing about you and in the speed and rush, you feel the blending in off everything. In the quixotic moment, in the same tempo of the song, you feel as if to breathe is life and to see is to catch a hold of that ecstasy. The road leaps and dips and turns in front of you, For in those moments, everything is sublime, everything is bliss, and your foot digs deeper towards the ground of this earth that you love so much, accept it hits the pedal and you go all but faster…and your crazed zeal and transcendent emotion lifts you to the dancing hymn and scene -And that quaking in your chest, for once is both free and captured, racing and filled with music and light and nature as you pass it by. And then a cop pulls you over…and that sublime moment and blissful mood is ruined.

When I was a boy, I remember a cartoon that Disney had made, a clever cartoon, in which the cars were to blame for the dramatic transformation of man, (or as Disney had it, a man that looked like Goofy) whenever he stepped into an automobile, everything was altered. The calm, peaceable citizen became a gravel-demon full of aggression and wildness. Little did I know that that cartoon was me. And so here I will relate my stories running many years back, of what those awful cars have done to me, whenever I step into them. The round steering wheel in front of me becomes a sort of full moon, and I sprout fangs and claws, and yellow eyes and wild hair, I howl and prowl the highway, devouring and feasting on the victim horizon, as I rush about the face of the earth.

2 years ago, I had my license suspended from me for an entire summer. Too many speeding tickets in one year. Well, it seems that I have not learned my lesson for once again I am on the verge of having it suspended for a second time. Which is catastrophic for if I cannot drive, I cannot work, for my job requires wheels more than anything.
Yes, yes, yes, call me stupid and reckless, but a month ago I received 3 tickets in 1 week. Sounds pathetic, but two of those tickets were given at the same time, one for speeding and another for not being able to find my proof of insurance, which I had on me, but my car’s a mess, and I couldn’t find that ridiculous little slip of paper in enough time. The thing that ticked me off was that I was barely going 15 over the speed limit, which is quite normal. After I got those two tickets, I was so miffed that I crumpled them both up, and told myself that I refused to pay them, as I threw them in the bottom of my floor board. But after I cooled off, I uncrumpled and had second, more sagacious thoughts on the matter. Wouldn’t it be ironic that after straightening them out, they both wind up being lost? I can’t find them at all. Luckily, I have copies that the beloved Court mailed to me.
The area where I was pulled over is a speed trap. Be warned. If ever you are traveling I-20 towards Birmingham from Atlanta, right before you really get to where you feel like you are in a city, the speed limit drops to 60 mph, and they are sitting there waiting like carnivorous boars to gore you with their speed guns. A Birmingham officer was the one who stopped me and treated me oh so unkind. A week later, I am traveling in that same exact spot. Just a bit faster. Near 90, when this time a notorious Alabama state trooper pulls me over. He was, believe it or not, kinder than the other guy. Allowing me to sit in his passenger seat while he wrote me my ticket, and while I tried to talk him out of it. Because he was unmoved of my pleadings of how 25 above the speed limit is not really THAT fast and how he could just let me go without all that scrupulous paper work of filling me out a ticket, and because he had a cold, cold heart, I owe the Court of Jefferson County the ridiculous fine of $313 for that one ticket alone.

Now, this is only in the past month and only within the city of Birmingham, Alabama. Down the years, and across the nation I have very similar stories.

The Texas Outlaw

Once upon a time in Texas, I was driving somebody else’s car in a caravan somewhere between Amarillo and Lubbock and I was going the exact speed of those in the caravan. But for some reason I was singled out to get the ticket. And after the cop approached, he pointed out that my car had improper registration. I responded that this wasn’t my car, he responded that I and the owner would have to go to court a certain date. Now, in the car with me were 3 girls (the best way to travel) but none of these were the owner. The owner was miles ahead riding with someone else. So this couldn’t be handled there. The court date was a few months ahead when I was planning to be living in Russia. Somehow, after I moved to Moscow, with the help of my mother, I finally managed to get the court to realize that I actually was living in a foreign country. They dropped the court date, but I still had to pay a fine. A year passed, and I completely forgot about the entire incident. So it was a great surprise to me when in the mail to my house in Alabama was an announcement that there was going to be a warrant for my arrest in the state of Texas. Again my mother had to make several calls, one to my uncle who is a detective in Texas, and she handled the whole situation. Or at least, I hope it’s handled, who knows, if I ever get stopped in Texas, I may being visiting their jail cell.

The Entire City of Opp and their K9 Unit VS Me

One winter, I was on my way to my grandparents for Christmas, down in south Alabama, and wouldn’t it be a potential place to get stopped but in a small town called Opp. The streets were all nearly empty it being 9 pm and all. I cut this fat U-turn, looking for a store and who so happened to see my frantic turn but a proud member of the Opp Police Squad. And a squadron it was. They pulled me over in the only civilization that was still shaking, the Dairy Queen parking lot. I must of set off several terrorist alarms, for in 5 minutes the entire city police force was in the Dairy Queen parking lot as well, and they weren’t there because Dairy Queen got new donut-blizzards either. My long hair, the plaid coat, the fact that I was blaring Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, all pointed to one indisputable fact to them, that I was an Alabama drug lord. It wouldn’t be long, they thought, before they would find my goods, or at least a bong or two. How dismayed they were when I turned up sober. They shined the light in my eyes, blinding me severely and then while police car after police car entered the parking lot, they asked if they could search my vehicle. At the time, I didn’t know that you could legally say no. But, thinking that such a refusal only propagated their suspicions more, I said, “yes”, confident that they would not find a thing. However, I didn’t realize how drawn out a process this was going to be. From a distance a police officer on a mega phone, announced to me something, inaudible, but seeing how the megaphone was probably from the 1970’s, it made sense. I just stood there. “What!?” I cried out. He repeated on his ridiculous megaphone very firmly, “Do not move…if you try to run or escape…the K9, here, will attack you. I repeat he is trained to do so, so if you run he will attack!” I yelled back, “Okay.” The German Shepherd strutted up so importantly. A search ensued. And the officers kept repeating that they would be easier on me if I just admitted that I had drugs. I told them I was clean. They didn’t believe me as they played with the white rubber search gloves making the tops slap against their wrists. Then…one of the officers took me aside frisked me diligently and told me that the dog scented something on a pair of jeans in my car. Again, the advice to come forth and admit to them what drugs I had on me…that they would go lighter on me than if they actually do find something. Which he made it sound like they would. To their entire Opp police department, I was a big disappointment for they, of course, found not a thing. They angrily wrote me a traffic citation for turning the wrong way. They actually believed that I had out-smarted them at hiding my stash..for the glare they gave me, were all kinds of hostilities and we’re-gonna-get-you-yet looks. When I got to my grandparents’ house that same Texan uncle was there who told me that I could’ve avoided the whole ordeal and that if the K-9 had really scented something, it would have jumped in the car and started probing around.

The Race Down from Canada

Once I drove all the way up to Canada. I even took the round about way visiting friends along the way. It took me 3 days to get there. And not one ticket. (Accept that old car I had nearly fell part in Pennsylvania). But the ride down was a different matter. I received one ticket in New York for going not too fast. During that point in my life, I figured that ticket karma usually only struck every 3 months or so and seeing how I had already paid my speeding dues for those 3 months, the next day I was good. After stopping for the night in Ohio, I go flying down some highway that looked nearly empty through Kentucky. –And it was empty…..except for that one officer hiding in the bushes. I was going (gulp) 97mph in a 65 zone. That trip cost me $400 alone in citation expenses.

The Arkansas Sidewinder

Still, yet, another time, I was in Arkansas in this little town called Kinsett. Not far from Searcy; I was probably on my way to see the infamous Zonkee or Zedonk, and to explore some back roads, (a hobby of mine) when the truck in front of me was going much too slow, in impatience I gunned around him on the side of the road. Well, being the Einstein I am, I didn’t see the kingly Kinsett sheriff sitting right in that gas station beside the road. He pulled me over. I was so hot and fuming, I tore off my seat belt. And as he could see my rage in the mirror, he was afraid to come close. He eased out of his patrol car ever keeping his hand ready on his gun. As he carefully paced over like Barney Fife, he told me to keep my hands up, slowly, slowly and hang them out the window. I did so. And seeing that I was harmless…he wrote me a little municipal souvenir from the city of Kinsett.

Well, it’s not fair to complain and state all the times I’ve been penalized, and as much as I hate to admit it, I am very fortunate for all the times that I have been pulled over and managed to get out of it.

The Dothan Playboy

Once, about half a year ago, in my hometown of Dothan, I rounded a turn a bit too sharply, a bit too rapidly, and a bit too wildly. A cop saw this and pulled me over. Lo and behold what did appear before my spotlighted eyes, but when the officer turned out to be a she. And she was young, black, and cute. And she was probably the nicest officer I’ve ever met…stating the concern of my wild turn. She asked me so sweetly if she could search my car. I couldn’t turn her down….being innocent and seeing how she was so polite. But she wanted me to get out of my car, and then her search of me, personally, commenced. I tell you, as you can see, I have felt frisks before. They are always a quick pat to the buttocks. No lingering hand back there. But with this female, it was different. It was soft, more of a delicate groping, like a massage. And its not as though I’ve never felt this before…that’s just it, I’ve felt such a thing before…just never in a police search you see. I think I even blushed. And then she asked me to sit down while she searched my car. She commented on all the IBC root beer bottles (they look like beer bottles and they were all opened containers) in my floor board and said that she liked to drink IBC root beer as well. Then we talked a little bit. And I drove off without a ticket. I still wonder from time to time, to this day, what if I would’ve asked her out right then and there, that she could drive me around in her car (the front seat; not the back) and we could drink IBC root beer together and make prank calls on her CB to nearby rentacops.

The Cowboy Rides Again

A year and a half ago, I was in the western musical, Oklahoma, in this little community theatre in Tennessee. I was only one of the backup cowboys in the play, who sang and danced and fought, wearing this big fat cowboy hat the whole time. I had plenty of time during scenes between the main characters to run to the nearby gas station. Well, one night, I rushed over to one of the main corners of this small town in Tennessee and the gas station ended up being closed, so again like a real cowboy would do with his horse, I wheeled around the highway pulling a Uieee. A patrolman saw this move and pulled over this wild west hero and knowing that a ticket was about to be shot at me, I decided on a course of action. Being a quick draw, I threw on my large cowboy hat, seeing how I was already dressed the part, and when the cop walked up to me, I told him that I was in a big hurry that my part on the stage was about to occur. Then I rambled on how I know this a stupid excuse, but that any moment know I had to go on, a crowd of people awaited me. This being a small town and this theatre being the only means of entertainment around, it drew up much respect and prestige from all the inhabitants. He smiled at me and then let me go. My heart jumped a big “Yeehaw!”. I ran full speed towards the stage back door. When I got inside, I realized that I had a full 10-15 minutes until my actual stage time. Oh well, my mistake. I reclined back in the lounge room on a couch with my cowboy boots over the couch arm and my hat pulled down over my eyes.

The Church Boy Approach

Believe it or not, as much as I hate to cheapen the idea of God’s gifts, I’ve actually for awhile, used to be in the practice of praying whenever I was pulled over. I would pray the dumbest sentence before the Living Creator , “Lord, I know I deserve this, but could you please let me off the hook this time? Thank you.” And isn’t it neat, that every time I prayed that prayer with faith, I never received a ticket. There was a period of time that I got stopped 5 or 6 times that I prayed this and there were 5 or 6 times that I was let off the hook. You may ask, how come I don’t still pray this prayer anymore. Well, every time I get pulled over now, I fell as though I deserve what’s coming to me, and that God doesn’t wanna hear me weasel out of something that I put myself in. My faith has shrunk in these matters.

As of now, there is a frightening rumor going around that all during the month of August, cops are going to start stopping people for going only 1 mile above the speed limit here in Alabama. And I have already seem them lurking on the main highways here. I drive slow. As slow as can be. I cannot deal with another ticket. It’s a battle. We are like worms, wiggling among the roads and intersections, and the State Troopers in their silver chrome cars are like large basses just sitting, waiting to catch one of us. So I hope I won’t have to write about getting a ticket for a long long time.


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