Dow: My one stop
I’ve only had one traffic stop, (well, that’s not true … I had one in Avon, but that was a speed trap … totally unfair) and that was while returning on Highway 44 from Springfield, Missouri, years ago. I was a fledgling German student. I had been playing tennis at the indoor Cooper Courts and that evening had handbell practice at the Methodist Church.
We all know that four bells missing will annihilate a chord or a run. Simultaneously, I was thinking about my German class with the famous etymologist, Jerry Cohen, the following day, so I decided to listen to German tapes while driving. To make this scene more complete, I also had my caffeine drink and the usual M&M’s in the center of the console, a requisite for safe driving.
I put the “work truck,” a Toyota 4Runner, standard transmission, in cruise control at exactly the speed limit and concentrated on the road and German lessons, all the while reaching down for a drink or a morsel of chocolate. Life was good.
All of a sudden I noticed some lights flashing behind me. I knew my speed was good, and I never budged from the right-hand lane, demurring from passing, so I was sure the lights were for someone else. I had noticed those patrol cars previously. They would flip on their lights, drive rather slowly at first, and then pass and take off like bullets to nab their prey.
Well, those lights remained steadily behind me, precisely at the speed limit. I thought to myself, “There must be a problem with my car.” Highway 44 at that time had very narrow shoulders, which I considered a hazard for pulling over, so I decided to keep driving until I came to an exit. This went on for miles.
Finally, I stopped at a safe pull-out along the brim of an exit, rolled down my automatic window, and watched a state patrolman approach my side.
He said, “I have been following you for miles.”
“I know,” I responded, “and I thought it was dangerous for you to step out of your car with that insufficient width of a shoulder on I-44.”
He looked at me incredulously, shook his head, and then added, “You have been crossing the center line repeatedly.”
“Only slightly, I am sure,” I said, knowing it must have been when I reached down for an M&M or repeated a German phrase on the cassette tape.
“Have you been drinking?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied, and added “hot tea,” as I held up the cup.
“Where are you going?” he inquired.
“To bell practice, and now there’s a chance I’ll be late,” I responded.
Then he finally asked me, “Have you ever been stopped before?”
“No, this is my first one.”
He motioned for me to leave, explaining that this was a warning, and he was still shaking his head as I drove off, incidentally making bell practice on time.
Marie Dow has been sashaying between Little Rock, Arkansas, Avon, and Missouri for many years, mainly chasing music, good snow and fine living. She recently taught at Gulf University for Science and Technology in Kuwait.