It happened last summer. I had been telling Tink about an adorable town a few hours away. This column runs in the newspaper there. In fact, that little town was one of the first to sign up when I syndicated this column 12 years ago. I cherish that and the wonderful people there.
Knowing that unless we have a reason to go “sommers” as my people say, we would never get there so I agreed to speak at Rotary. It was the loveliest of bright summer days as we made our way there.
We came into the town and I enthusiastically pointed out all the cute shops and ancient homes. Rotary was meeting a few miles out of town, so we turned right at the town square. Since road work was being done, we stopped for one lane traffic. Once through that, Tink gently accelerated.
My husband never speeds. This is the gospel. It drives me nuts. He watches carefully for speed limit signs and if the speed decreases, he will hit the brakes.
I’ll glance at the speedometer. “You can go faster. At least five miles.” I say this frequently and he, just as frequently, pays no never mind.
“What? Are the law? Or rather, you’re a scofflaw.”
I roll my eyes. No one has used that term for those who ignore the law since the days of Prohibition.
“Seriously. You can go five miles faster.”
He adamantly refuses. For the record, I only advise him to do this on the interstates not in rural or town areas. I point out his devotion to the precise speed limit because of that otherwise lovely day in that otherwise lovely Southern town.
Tink had just accelerated when he looked up and saw a blue light in his rear mirror. “What?” he asked. “He must want the car in front of me.”
He pulled to the side of the road for the police car to pass but it didn’t. It was Tink being pulled over. We were stunned and asking each other, “What could it be?”
This is where the stereotypical Southern stuff happened. The officer opened his door and had such enormous girth that he had to throw an arm over the window and heave himself out of the car. It was painful to watch him trying to extricate himself from the police car.
In an authoritative, proud manner, he told Tink he was going 47 mph in a 35 mph zone. There was no way. No way. However, the officer ticketed him. At Rotary, the folks said, “What’s his name?” We told them and they all laughed. “Yep, that’s typical.”
On our drive back, we discovered that the place where we were ticketed and noted clearly on the paperwork was a 45 mph zone not 35. We decided to fight it. We were driving a car that had a California plate on the front, so we knew chances were that we were targeted and the officer assumed we’d pay the fine because California is a long way to travel to dispute a $200 ticket. The president of Rotary is an attorney and kindly said, “I’ll represent you without charge.”
Thank goodness. You wouldn’t believe the rigmarole. The ticket should have been dropped over the fact that the officer either lied or did not know his jurisdiction enough to be familiar with the speed zones. It went on for months. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” the lawyer said.
When the prosecutor questioned the officer, he swore that he had videotape and could prove we were speeding. Our lawyer asked for the tape. Turns out that the camera in that police car had been broken for months. Finally, the case was dropped.
But the damage was done. My husband, a non-Southern, had seen what many consider the stereotypical South: a big ol’ officer lording unfair authority over a visitor.
What a crying shame for such a sweet town.