In the Christmas season the view just off the highways I travel often take on a very festive look, an additional luster, especially in darkness, which seems to be most of the time once we do that fallback thing.
Now, as those of us who work and leave in the predawn hours, many of those lights can still be seen, a gift from those who feel that spreading some Christmas cheer is worth an uptick in their AEP bills.
However, last December, I was reminded that all the lights that can be seen certainly aren’t the type that spread Christmas cheer. As I was driving on Lakewood, just around the corner from my crib on Tall Oaks where I’d just left for work, heading for the stop sign at Cable and thinking about an upcoming meeting I had in Troy with a facility manager, I kind of lost track a bit of my speed, and a new set of lights abruptly turned on.
And, of course, those not-so-cheery lights were the pulsating blues and reds emanating from the bar on the top of a black SUV, the ones that instantly spike blood pressures and give you those empty pit-of-the stomach feelings. The car was facing me as I approached the stop sign, parked inconspicuously by a dumpster used by Cut Right Equipment. Of course it was our county’s law enforcement division who’d also gone to work that day.
With no one behind me, I knew for whom those lights were flashing, so I pulled up at the stop sign and began reaching for the glove box and the registration before reaching for my license. I also began practicing my somber, concerned and quizzical look as a means to be granted what we all want in such moments, enough engendered sympathy to be given just a warning for violating that sacrosanct 25 MPH limit that is standard in Lima’s residential neighborhoods.
Now, I will say the 25 limit is the absolute anathema for all us Type A folks who are always hastily trying to get where we need to go. At 25, it just seems to us that dogs and squirrels are moving faster than we are just off our asphalt.
When the officer arrived at my driver’s side window, I instantly noticed his youth, and, sensing someone to my right, I also noticed an older officer at the passenger window. So I rolled down both windows. I thought that this had all the makings of a mentor-trainee scenario.
The young officer asked me if I knew what the speed limit was, and, of course, I lied, a credible one I thought, by saying in the form of a question, “35?”
After educating me on the real limit, he told me he had me on his device at 45. Hmmm, I thought, this isn’t looking too good. Handing over the license and registration, I took a shot at a little begging. While that whole conjuring-of-tears thing perfected by the fairer sex which has worked so very well over time is hardly appropriate for a guy, I did think the senior-still-working-to-make-ends-meet-and-will-never-speed-again approach would. However, I got no real response beyond the young man saying he be back monetarily.
I’m sure when the two got back in their car, the mentoring officer complimented the younger on not promising anything. As I sat and awaited the verdict, I also realized I was causing quite an obstruction, an embarrassing one when you’re right in front of flashing lights, as people, including a couple neighbors, had to swing around me to make their turns onto Cable. There comes a point in this situation when an internal clock goes off when the officer doesn’t get out of his car quickly enough for this to be a warning, and that clock buzzed.
Sure enough, when they returned, I knew this was going to cost me. As the young officer fumbled a bit with his pad to tear off the summons and provide me the court options, the older officer leaned in through the open window and said to him, “Ahh, he gets the pink copy.” I asked in a final attempt to get just a warning, “Any wiggle room on this whole Christmassy thing goin’ on?” While there was a chuckle from both, that was also unsuccessful.
Even in our distressing times, there is humor, and for me, that was it. I was his first summons, so, essentially, I assisted in his training. Both laughed when I pointed that out. However, I found it a little harder to laugh the next day when I went up to the muni building clerk window and realized that the going rate for such a vehicular lapse was $155, what my Boston-born father, whose father was a Boston cop, called clams.
While such lapses are annoying and costly, I will admit they do work. I know that because I’ve kept my driving record clean for the past year. And, as for those festive lights this year, well, they look a whole lot prettier than those pulsating blues and reds did a year ago.
Young Officer, while it took me a year to say it, I will now. Thank you for the job you do and the risks you assume.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.