I am not the best driver in the world, but I am certainly not the worst driver either. I have had my share of wrecks, and I have had my share of tickets. I bet I have had over a dozen wrecks and they were all my fault. I think it was because I was an inexperienced driver, plus I never paid attention to what I was doing. But I am proud to say that I have only received three traffic tickets. Two were speeding tickets and one was a reckless driving ticket. I admit that I deserved the reckless driving ticket, but I thought the speeding tickets were a bit petty and unfair.
I got one speeding ticket because I was driving 45 in a 35 miles per hour speed zone. That was back when I had my Mustang Convertible. I was on my way to work one morning and the cop pulled me over. He got out of his car and walked up to my car and said, “Where you headed?” I said, “Work.” He gave me a sarcastic grin and said, “Running late, are you?” Now, anyone who knows me knows I am always running late, but I happened to be right on time that morning. So, I looked back at the officer and I smiled and said, “No, I wasn’t running late, but I suppose I’ll be late now, won’t I?” He wrote up the ticket that cost me $115 and, sure enough, I was late for work that morning.
The next speeding ticket I got was at The Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky. My friend Lynn and I had left early that morning and drove to Kentucky Lake so we could see the bald eagles. I don’t know what it is, but state and federal parks must have a restricted amount of speed limit signs they can post because they are few and far between. And, naturally, if I don’t see a speed limit sign, I assume that speed limit is 55. Well, that morning I was doing 60 miles per hour and I had not seen another vehicle for several miles. We came upon a straight stretch in the highway and off in the far distance, I could see another vehicle approaching us. A few minutes later, the vehicle passed by us and it was a park ranger. I looked at my speed odometer and I was going about 60 miles per hour, so I let off the accelerator and tried to slow down to 55. When I looked in my rear view mirror, I saw the park ranger doing a u-turn in the middle of the road. I thought surely he’s not going to stop me; I’m the only one on the road and I’m not even going that fast. But when he got turned around, he put his blue lights on and started his hot pursuit.
I pulled over to the side of the road and he pulled up behind me. He walked up to my car and he asked, “Where are you going in such a hurry?” I thought, “If you think this is ‘in a hurry’, you should have seen me thirty miles back when I was doing 75 miles per hour.” I explained what we were doing there and I told him we had driven up for the day to try to get some good pictures of the bald eagles. I continued by saying that we were excited about the trip and had been waiting for a nice day to travel. He told me, “The eagles aren’t going anywhere. They will be there all day.” Then he asked to see my driver’s licenses and my proof of insurance. I immediately found my driver’s licenses, but finding my proof of insurance was not nearly as easy. Lynn was searching for my proof of insurance in my glove compartment and I was looking through the console that was located between the front seats. We were pulling out one CD after another, napkins, ink pens, sun glasses, can huggers, check stubs and receipts and we had the dashboard full of stuff that had come out of my glove box and console. It was at that point in my life, I realize how much of a pack rat I really was.
Lynn and I found several proof of insurance cards, but all of them were expired. I had kept insurance cards from the past six years. I had insurance cards for the Mustang I owned four years before. Every time I found another insurance card, I would hand it to the officer and he would look at it then hand it back to me because it was expired. The cop was becoming impatient and I was getting nervous and I was a little embarrass. After about ten minutes of looking, I finally found the insurance card that was current and as I handed it to him I said, “I found it; here it is.” He took the insurance card and looked at it then he looked at me and said, “Well this is certainly current, but it’s not for the truck. It’s for a travel trailer, and I don’t need that one because you’re not driving it.” He told me to keep looking for the insurance card while he ran a check on me. He took my driver’s licenses and he walked back to his car.
I bet we sat there thirty minutes while he did a background check on me. I am not sure what they do when they are sitting behind you in their car, but I believe they do a search on your name to make sure you’re not on the F.B.I.’s most wanted list or to make sure you’re not an escaped convict or something. Anyway, while I waited for him to return to my truck, I kept looking for my proof of insurance. I never did find it. When he finally came back, he handed me a piece of paper and said, “I wrote you a citation for speeding. I clocked you doing 62, but I marked it down to 55.” I thought, “55? Well why in the hell is he giving me a ticket?” So, I asked the officer, “If you marked it down to 55,why are you giving me a ticket?” He said, “You are getting a ticket because you were speeding. Do you have any idea what the speed limit is?” I said, “55.” He shook his head and said, “No. It’s 45, and I advise you be more aware of the traffic signs.” I thought, “Hell I haven’t seen a speed limit sign for miles and miles. I looked at the officer and said, “The last speed limit sign I noticed said 55.” Then I looked at Lynn and asked, “What was the speed limit on the sign you saw? The last one I saw said 55 and I haven’t seen one since.” Lynn gave me a look that said, “Just shut up and take the ticket so we can leave.”
Not only did I get a ticket that day, I also got a good lecture. Once the cop started his lecturing, I didn’t think he would ever shut up. He said, “Thousands of people die every day in traffic accidents and 95% of the time speeding is involved. Your speeding could have caused serious injury to someone this morning.” I thought, “Who? We are the only ones on this damn road!” Then he started lecturing me on my proof of insurance and said, “You are lucky that I am not giving you a ticket for not having proof of insurance. You do know that it is required by state law that you carry proof of insurance with you at all times. My advice to you is to get rid of some of that junk and all these old cards and only kept the current one. And, keep it in a place where you can find it when you need it.” By the time he got finished lecturing me, I wanted to give him a ticket for running his mouth. Needless to say, I was no longer in a good mood and when he finally let me go, I had to set the cruise control on 45 because I kept catching myself doing 60. And Lord knows that I didn’t want to go through that again.
I am a pretty good driver, but my driving must scare the crap out of Lynn because she is always saying things like, “How fast are you going?” Or “Turn your windshield wipers on; I can’t see.” or “We’re going to turn, do you have your turn signal on?” or “DON’T YOU SEE THAT CAR IN FRONT OF YOU?” But evidently she doesn’t mind my driving too much because we go to several places together, and everywhere we go, I drive. That’s probably because we found out a long time ago, that it is best that I do the driving. It’s not that I drive any better than Lynn, but, the fact is, I have problems with reading a map. I can read a map, it’s just that sometimes I get confused about which direction we need to travel. You know, north, east, south and west. I can always get us on the correct road, but nine times out of ten, I have us heading in the wrong direction, especially in cities. My map skills usually get us lost and we end up stopping and asking for directions. I am terrible with that too. No matter how closely and carefully I listen, as soon as I get back in the vehicle, I forget everything. It was on our first long trip together when Lynn and I decided from that time forward, I would be the driver and she would be the navigator.
Our first long trip was to Savannah. Savannah is about an eight-hour drive from our town and we spent all day driving. I would drive for a while, then Lynn would drive for a while. When we arrived in Savannah, Lynn was driving and I was looking at the city map and giving directions to our hotel. Savannah is a charming city and it is filled with one square after another. While I was admiring the landscape and the beautiful houses, I had forgotten all about the map and giving directions and we got lost. We ended up driving around the same square several times. Lynn kept asking me where we were on the map and she was getting frustrated with my directions or, should I say, lack of directions. I was getting aggravated too because I knew Lynn was getting mad at me and as soon as I would find us on the map, we would turn onto another street and I would have to find that street on the map. After about forty-five minutes of driving around in circles, we really began to get snappy with each other. I remember Lynn saying, “You’re going to have to tell me where to go; I can’t drive and look at the map at the same time!”, and I said, “You need to slow down because I can’t keep up with us on the map.” Lynn said, “if I slow down anymore, I’ll stop.” I said, “Well, why don’t you stop so you can get over here and read the map and I will drive.” Lynn said, “Fine!” and she pulled the car over.
I had gotten us so turned around that it took Lynn five minutes before she could even find us on the map. It seemed like every time I would tell Lynn to turn, I had her turn the wrong way and we would drive a few miles then she would say, “Are you sure this is the right way? It doesn’t look right.” Then I would double-check the map and say, “Oops. We’re going the wrong way.” Yes, I has us on the wrong side of town and it would be a while before we got back across town. I saw a convenience store right down the road and I drove there to get directions to our hotel. Lynn and I both listened very carefully to the store clerk while he was giving us step by step directions to our hotel. When he finished, Lynn and I both thanked the guy and we walked back to the car. On the way to the car, Lynn asked me, “Did you get all that?” I nodded my head and said, “Yeah. I think so.” I got back under the steering wheel, fastened my seat belt and took off.
I don’t know what it is, but I can’t remember names of streets nor highway numbers. If you tell me to “Take Lincoln Street to 17th Avenue then turn right and follow 17th Avenue until you see highway 64, then turn left on 64 and go three miles and take a right on McCarthy Blvd and the hotel is on the left.”, never in a millions years would I ever find it. But, if you tell me to “Go through 5 traffic lights then turn right by McDonald’s, then stay on that road until you see an Advanced Auto Parts store then turn left and go straight for about ten minutes and when you see Chili’s restaurant, turn right and the hotel will be on the left right after the Cracker Barrel.”, I would find it. That just makes more sense to me. Anyway, I didn’t remember the directions the guy had just given me; neither did Lynn, so, yes, we got lost once again. By this time, we had been in the car for over nine hours and we were tired, hungry and getting very, very aggravated.
We got all turned around that day, and we ended up stopping at a gas station to ask for directions. This time Lynn took the map in with us and the guy pointed out the directions on the map and we discovered that we were still all the way across town and it would take us at least forty minutes to get back across town. It was about five o’clock that afternoon, and the traffic was bumper to bumper. I drove past block after block waiting for Lynn to give me a signal to turn. It had been about ten minutes since we had left the gas station and we were in the very, very, VERY bad part of town. I was getting a weird feeling that something was going to go wrong. I thought, “What if we have a flat tire? What if we run out of gas?” Maybe I have seen too many movies, but I know what can happen when tourist get lost or stranded in the bad part of town, so I locked the car doors. When Lynn heard the doors lock she looked over at me and said, “Are you scared or something?” I said, “No, I‘m not scared, but we’re in a bad neighborhood and I certainly don’t want some manic jumping in the car and slicing my throat. Do you?” Lynn just shook her head.
We drove for a few more minutes then suddenly Lynn said, “Turn into Popeye’s Chicken.” I turn into Popeye’s Chicken’s parking lot and I asked Lynn, “Why did you tell me to turn in here?” Lynn said, “I’ve got to go to the restroom.” I looked at Lynn liked she had lost her mind and said, “You have got to be kidding me! Can’t you hold it? At least long enough for us to get out of this neighborhood?” Lynn said, “No, I can’t hold it; if I could, I would, but I’ve got to go.” I parked the car and Lynn opened her door and said, “You got to go?” I said, “Hell no, I don’t have to go. But I’m going with you; I’m not sitting out here by myself.”
I noticed several cars in the parking lot as we hurried into the restaurant. Lynn was in a hurry because she had to go, and I was in a hurry because I wanted to get the hell out of there. Lynn found the restroom and before she could shut the restroom door, I was in there with her. She gave me this “Are you crazy?” look and before she could say anything, I said, “I’m not staying out there by myself.” The restroom’s door knob was broken and the only way to keep the door shut was with a little hook you could latch. I stood guard at the door and waited for Lynn. I bet we hadn’t been in that restroom fifteen seconds when someone started banging on the door. The loud pounding startled me and before I could say anything, they started banging on the door again. In a half scared voice I said, “Just a minute.” Then they banged harder. I said it louder this time, “Just a minute, please.” And I will be damned if they didn’t bang on that door again. Before I realized what I was doing, I yelled, “WOULD YOU GIVE US JUST ONE DAMN MINUTE!” I heard Lynn say, “Ah oh.”
After Lynn had finished washing her hands, I unlocked the latch and opened the door. Now, I have seen some pretty big people in my life, but this woman had to have been the biggest and the ugliest one of them all. She stood about six feet tall and I bet she weighed 300 pounds and she was standing right in the middle of the doorway. I never said a word to her and I dared not look her in the eyes. I just slipped past her and headed to the car. When Lynn and I got back to the car, I locked the doors. I looked at Lynn and said, “The next time you have to pee, you might just have to pee in your pants.” It took us about thirty more minutes to reach our hotel, and we were both relieved to find that it was a very nice place and in a very good location. We stayed in Savannah for five days and toured the city, and from that time on, I became the official driver and Lynn became the official navigator. And, yes, we still get lost every now and then, but if you ask me, it’s the navigator’s fault 😛