There was a portable speed limit sign on Spring Street today. I registered an average score of 19 during my three trips through the 25 MPH zone because I now drive like an old lady in my old lady Buick. But it got me to thinking.
One summer night during Summer Break from high school, my friend Mitch and I were out cruising the back roads around town in his Grandma’s station wagon. A Chevy Chevelle Nomad Station Wagon 350 V-8 Turbo-Fire, with a top-speed of 117 MPH. A muscle car built for grandmothers.
There were a few empty beer cans on the floorboard (not funny) and rock music blaring from the 8-track player (funny) as we took a shortcut through downtown Toms Brook (population 226 in 1980) on our way to Strasburg. As we were supposed to be slowing to the posted 35 MPH on the outskirts of town, the red lights of the town’s one police officer’s car lit up the night.
The officer looked like your typical ‘nice Uncle Frank’, a small-town police officer with a small-town demeanor.
“Young man, did you know that you were goin’ 47 in a 35?”
Even as a teenager, Mitch was blessed with the gift of gab. The Silver-Tongued Master of a way with words. He could make a mime laugh out-loud. Talk a nun out of her habit. And on this memorable evening, after a ten-minute eloquent presentation highlighted with Mitch’s concern over a possible faulty speedometer calibration in Grandma’s car, the officer finally agreed with his logic and together a plan was devised to test the speedometer’s accuracy.
“Alright, listen-up. Here’s what we’re gonna do. You drive back up there to the top of the hill, drive back down going 35, and we’ll just see what Mr. Radar has to say”
So, after driving pass the radar gun for a second time at 47 MPH, Mitch pulled to the side of the road and patiently awaited the test results.
“Yep, you were right. That speedometer’s way off”
After a verbal warning was issued, thank-yous and goodnights were exchanged after vouching for Grandma’s compliance in fixing her station wagon.
Years later, I found myself with a different friend, in a different someone else’s car, pulled over for speeding along a different road by a different police officer.
Keith and I were trainee managers at a restaurant in Hilton Head, South Carolina. I had moved there from Virginia, he was a recent transplant from Florida. Our General Manager’s name was Huey. His truck and himself were still licensed by the state of Georgia. Our company’s management moved around quite a bit and weren’t the best at updating personal information.
Keith had brought along with him on his move to South Carolina a yellow Yamaha dirt bike. A man can’t just abandon his motorcycle. Even if the bike’s engine wasn’t running right and its tags were now expired. He had left it with a dealer in Savannah, Georgia for the repairs needed to get it back on the road.
Then one day, Keith got the call from the dealer that the motorcycle was running like new and could be picked up anytime.
Keith was driving a Plymouth Horizon and me a Dodge Omni, neither of which would haul an unlicensed motorcycle back from a 45-minute trip to Savannah from Hilton Head. So, we asked Huey if we could borrow his truck, to which he graciously agreed.
There’s a small town in South Carolina which lies between our Point A and Point B called Bluffton. There’s a small stretch of road in Bluffton that’s known to many a local resident as a speed trap that preys on tourists taking day trips between the two tourist destinations of Hilton Head and Savannah.
We had picked up Keith’s motorcycle and were heading back home. Sunny afternoon, wind blowing in the hair, good music on the truck’s radio. And then we entered the ‘Speed Trap Zone’ of Bluffton. In under two-minutes, we were pulled to the side of the road.
The police officer was nice enough, but highly suspicious of our situation. And rightfully so, from his point of view. The driver had a South Carolina license. He was driving a truck with Georgia tags which was hauling a motorcycle with expired Florida tags.
But he didn’t over-react and half-way believed our story. He had his dispatcher call our restaurant (no cell phones in those days) and check-up on our sketchy alibi. Lucky for us, Huey was actually there. The officer had been very lenient so far, but he wasn’t bending over completely backwards.
Huey would have to come pick us up himself, which meant he needed to find a ride over from someone to get his truck back. We were told to sit and wait for Huey in the convenience store parking lot just behind Huey’s parked truck. There were no chairs, so it was strongly suggested by the officer that we sat still on the curb.
It was a good hour or so before Huey arrived. During that painfully long period of time, we rarely lifted our butts off that curb. Because, just like promised, every ten to fifteen minutes a patrol car would slowly cruise by just to check on us. We were a couple of Cool Hand Lukes. Politely smile and wave as the patrol car went by. “Shaking the bush, Boss. Shaking the bush”
Well, enough talk about speeding cars. I’m gonna go hop into the Buick and mosey downtown for some frozen yogurt.