So… we’re driving down the interstate on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Posted speed limit is typically 70 MPH, occasionally drops to 65. Like many drivers, I try to limit my speed to 9 mph over the posted limit – an infraction that I’ve been told by many police associates is typically “safe” from ticketing. So, as I cruise at 79 MPH down the road, I notice the signs that show it has dropped to 65. So I do the right thing – I drop my speed down to 74. I also noticed the Sheriff pull onto the road right in front of me. So far, my observational skills are not to be challenged. But somehow, I did not notice the sign indicating the further reduction of speed in a construction zone to 55.
As a quick aside, let’s define construction zones for a moment. In my mind, they include workers, machinery, flashing lights and traffic cones. They certainly involve more than a simple sign indicating a lane shift for a few hundred feet. I think any reasonable American would agree to that…
So… As we enter the lane shift area I find myself passing the Sheriff, legally in the left lane as it’s supposed to happen. In my mind, Sheriffs don’t cruise interstates, so I figured he was off duty heading to visit his mother or some other Sunday activity. Tara clearly tells me that we’re in a 55 zone, but I assure her I had slowed down when I saw the 65 MPH sign.
Within a quarter of a mile (once we’re out of the terrifying “construction zone”) I see flashing lights in my rear view mirror. I slow down and pull over, sure the Sheriff will speed past me in pursuit of a hardened criminal, but he pulls over behind me. Before he can even get out of the car, I feel the intense gaze emanating from the passenger seat. As i slowly look over, I get the look. We’ve been married long enough now, that Tara never has to verbalize the words “I told you so”, but trust me, she can communicate it with no chance of misunderstanding.
The officer comes to my window and says, “Hey, you just passed me in a construction zone going about 65. You know that was a 55 zone don’t you?” I looked him straight in the eye and said “My wife told me that, but I assured her it was 65, as that was the last sign I had seen”. He went back to his car and spent the mandatory 10 minutes clacking on his keyboard looking up my past tax returns, any filed complaints from roommates in college and an overdue library fine from 1983. When he came back to the car he started to scold me. Then he saw “the look” still glaring from my beloved passenger. “How much longer of a drive do you have?”, he asked me. I told him about 3 hours. “Ooohhh”, he moaned, “I think that’s punishment enough! Good luck pal”, he commented as he headed back to his car.
For the remainder of the trip, I never complained. That look saved me a $65 fine plus increased insurance coverage. Of course it will cost me a nice dinner and a bottle of wine tonight. But as I see it, that’s not an expense, that’s an investment. I want to thank that Sheriff for his service to the community, but also for his empathy for a fellow married man.