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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Caught and Released!

Posted on September 3, 2011 at 9:15 PM

Thrice now over the course of my married life, Dana has made prophecies that have almost *instantly* come true. As in, the air molecules had barely finished vibrating their way from her lips to my ears before her words were fulfilled. In fact, come to think of it, that prophecy has really been more like a curse, a harbinger of instant doom, than an actual helpful warning.


The prophetic warning proclamation is always the same. “The limit has dropped here; you’d better watch your speed.”

The first such warning came on our wedding night; literally minutes after we left the reception hall as man and wife. We were married in Florence, Alabama and then spent our wedding night in Galatin, Tennessee (near Nashville), which is about a 3.5 hour drive. Which we made after our wedding and reception and with me eager to, uh, not be driving and to, um, hurry up and get to my destination. (Lascivious double-entendre wink.) So, about 20 minutes after leaving our reception, Dana gives me the first council—and the first utterance of the prophecy -- of our new marriage. And almost the instant the words left her mouth, the blue lights came on.

“Oh, MAN! I can’t believe it! You were totally right! You know what? I’m not gonna let this ruin our night. We’ll just get the ticket and forget about it and go on with our honeymoon.”

When the cop finally saunters up to our car he shines his MagLite into the window and says, “What’s your hurry, young man?” (Remember, this was back in 1995, and I was a good deal younger. Probably more manly too.)

“Sir, to be honest, we JUST got married – we are coming from our reception. And we are driving to our hotel to start our honeymoon. It’s near Nashville, so I guess I’m just in a hurry to get there.”

“There’s no monkey business going on in there, is there?”

“Uh, no, sir. No monkey business.”

The officer took a look at my California driver’s license, shined his light in on blushing Dana – her first sweet taste of the embarrassment of what life with John was to truly be like; and yet, too late to get out now! Sucker! – asked, “Are you OK, ma’am?” seemed to weigh the situation for a moment and then told me to slow it down and keep my mind on the road and then…let me off! Sweet!

Second time was also in Alabama. We were on our way to a religious convention and driving on this state road where the speed fluctuated between 55 and 35 like every half mile. Speed up, slow down, speed up, slow down. And if you weren’t on the constant lookout for the constantly appearing signs, trying to keep up with the current speed was like a guessing game. And then Dana hits me with, “You’d better watch your speed; it changes a lot through here.”

And then, those damn blue lights!

This time I was more irritated than anything. I had been trying to adjust my speed to the changes but it was just ridiculous. California had none of this nonsense. When a man is driving on a highway going 55, he should be free to proceed about his business without the added hindrance of constant fluctuations. The officer walks up and there are four of us in the car all dressed up in our Sunday finery.

“Where are you folks headed?”

“We’re going to Huntsville for a religious convention.”

“Do you know how fast you were going?”

“Yes. I was going 55.”

“Do you know what the speed limit is through here?”

“To be honest, I really don’t. I’ve been trying to keep up with it, but I’m not from around here and the speed limit seems to change like every half mile. I’ve been trying to pay attention, but, frankly, it’s quite difficult. I’ve been trying to keep up with traffic, but since you pulled me over, I guess I missed a sign and that this isn’t a 55 zone.”

Johnny Law honestly seemed a bit flummoxed over the brashness of my honesty. So he took my particulars back to his car – again with my California “You’re not from around here, are you, son?” license proclaiming my ignorance to local custom – and then returned and told me to try and pay better attention and watch my speed and…let me go!

This brings us to last night. Another religious convention has us traveling to Salisbury, North Carolina which is about a 3.5 hour drive under optimal conditions. It isn’t the distance – the GPS scores it about 176 miles -- but again much of the end of the drive is through small towns where the speed fluctuates rapidly from 55 to 45, 35 or – oh, the humanity! – 25. Clearly these towns are just put along the roadway in a sad and cruel attempt to raise revenue by troll fishing the highways for people whose sole goal in life in that moment is to get out of their town as quickly and uneventfully as possible.

Since I had to work yesterday, we didn’t begin our little sojourn until 7 PM. A little after 9 we pulled into a town that was almost exactly 60 miles away. Dining on this stretch of road is real slim pickens. There are either those really scary Chat & Chew type diners or gas station roller dogs or those mom & pop eateries where there are never any cars in the lot and dining is a scary game of gastronomical roulette. So this town has a Wendy’s which we have pre-determined shall be our eatery of choice. Except a high school game or something must have just finished because the Wendy’s is PACKED. Like I can’t turn off the highway into the parking lot because there are SO many cars lined up. It takes us 45 minutes to get throw the drive through, the whole time me thinking, “We still have over an hour of driving left. Over…an…HOUR!” Then the drive-through lady is like unable to process my order. After repeating it THREE times I finally say, “You can’t hear me or you can’t understand me?” She finally just bails and tells us to drive up to the window and give her our order mano a mano. Never before has a Wendy’s Single tasted so equally good AND vilely bitter.

We head on and are like 15 miles from our hotel and I’m like a zombie. I’ve worked all day, it is almost 11 PM, my stomach is roiling with fast food juices and there is a constant, retina searing lightning storm that is blasting like every 5 seconds AND Dana has taken over the iPod and is playing Lionel Ritchie. All things considered, it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t just steer us into a ditch. So, I’m just kind of blankly staring ahead, mind kind of wandering to its own quiet, happy place, as I face down the never ending road and focus on the GPS mile countdown. And then Dana hits me with those fateful words.

“The speed just dropped, you’d better check your speed.”

I look down and sure enough, I’m doing like 60, which doesn’t seem like much except for when it is in a 35 zone. So I start pressing the brakes as we crest a hill and I see a looming black shape on the side of the road.

“Crap! I think I just passed a cop!” Wait a beat. “Oh CRAP! I think he’s pulling out.” Beat. “Yep. That was definitely a cop. He’s coming up behind me.” Beat. “Yeah, I’m nailed.”

Watching a police car pulling up on you is like watching a silent horror movie in your rear view mirror. You can see the killer getting closer and closer, creeping up on the unsuspecting victim, but you’re powerless to stop it. You want to scream, “No! Don’t go in there! Don’t do it! He’s got AN AXE!” but, of course, you can’t.

And then the blue lights came on. DAMN! Not too surprising considering, but still…DAMN!

I’m thinking that this is the total setup this guy has been camping out for. It was the perfect con. It is night. It’s a holiday weekend. He is in a valley on a downhill where the speed limit just dropped 15 miles per hour. You don’t park there hanging out if you aren’t in a I’m-gonna-give-some-fools-a-ticket kind of mood. So, I don’t pull over to the side of the road expecting any clemency.

He approaches our vehicle and asks if I know how fast I was going.

“I think I was doing 50. My wife just got finished saying ‘you’d better watch your speed’ and I was slowing down, but obviously not fast enough. I’m really tired; we’ve been driving for a few hours, and I guess I wasn’t really paying attention.”

“Where are you headed?”

“We’re going to a convention in Salisbury.”

Again he takes my paperwork back to his car. I can see him sitting there giving it the whole flashlight, call in radio routine. Lauryn is in the backseat watching Toy Story 3 on her iPod mostly oblivious to everything. She yells out, “Why are we stopped here? This isn’t the hotel!”

And Dana says that we were going too fast and the police officer pulled us over. Lauryn blurts out, “Yeah. Daddy was driving too fast.” I can see who not to call as my first witness.

After a few minutes, the officer comes moseying back up and says, “I’m gonna cut you folks a break. Salisbury is just up the road a little bit. Watch your speed and drive careful.”

Awesome! And I can tell you from three personal experiences, an “I told you so!” – even when it isn’t spoken but just expressed in a knowing smirk or a promise of future “You know you should listen to me because…” -- is way, WAY easier to take when it isn’t accompanied with a ticket!

Categories: September 2011, Family

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