Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Richmond 5-0

Last night we were on the road from approximately 10 pm to 12 am, heading further into the South than I had ever been (think Sam Gamgee's voice as you read that sentence). I have known that the road known as I-95 was a mostly functional, desolate road occupied at night by loons and truckers, whose chief distinction lies in mode of transportation, not an actual state of mind. The speed limit was 65, but the flow of traffic was at least 70. Those few non-truck cars that were on the road generally would zoom past us at a ferocious speed of at least 85, which is so rare in these parts (it seems). So we confined ourselves to the lanes occupied by trucks; that is, the most beat up bumpy lanes where one does not need to be worried about being tailgated but then one has to worry about being shaken from potholes and engineering imperfections.

At one point, two of the three lanes were occupied by trucks, so I warily ventured into the fast lane. It was then that it happened--a police car was tailgating me. Now, I hadn't been speeding, but for me to get away from this truck and get out of the fast lane, I would have to go much faster than the speed limit. I tried speeding up a bit (as I noticed a small truck weave past these two trucks at a truly fast speed), but the truck next to me also sped up, in typical male fashion, where everything in life is a race, except life itself.

I gave up on trying to pass this trucker and started to slow down, and in the meanwhile, so did the cop who was still apparently watching all of this, looking for some excuse to pull me over. I decided to slow down even more and just get into the second lane. That's when my worst fear came true. The cop behind me followed likewise. I tried my hardest to not swerve or waver, but I'm sure something happened. A few moments later, the cop instantly sped up and left us through the sluice also known as the fast lane.

"He was checking my license to see if there are any reports on me. I'm sure of it."

Annoyed by the knowledge that my background was just researched not because I had done anything wrong, but because this man COULD do so, I thought of our society's ill of assuming that we should operate "justice" by looking for injustice when it's not apparent. Presume me guilty until proven innocent, this modicum will not produce health and harmony, and it sounds a little backwards in comparison to our actual legal standards.

But we weren't in Richmond yet. About 40 miles later, and we exited the dark roads of I-95. With just five miles to go, I was safe, right? About five minutes later, I would be proven wrong. I was expecting a left turn to come 4.1 miles down the road, but I knew not to trust to odometers and the like. As I have said before, the South's roads are still labyrinthine to ensure that Yankees are cursed forever for their treachery of aggression. While driving slowly (roughly 42 in a 45) so as not to be pulled over for speeding, an unwelcome guest appeared behind me-the county police.

They followed me while a guy in a run down car (with Virginia plates, mind you) sped past at an exorbitant speed. And by this point I was getting close to the left turn, so I really did need to slow down. And just as the police car passed us at a light, I realized that very light was the one we had needed to turn left. As a consequence, my abrupt left turn which coincided with the cops passing us looked too suspicious for the next turn events to not happen.

As I turned left, the cops magically changed their minds, and also wanted to turn left. As we started driving, they followed us for almost a half mile. The road was getting work done it, so it looked like some mythical obstacle course from a 1960's driving instruction film reel. This, in turn, led me drive even more slowly than before. It was a lost cause, like the cause of the South. Then the blue lights started flashing, and my Honda Civic was illuminated by a light. Fortunately, my two sons remained comatose in the back seat-they never woke up throughout this gauntlet.

As they approached me (for whatever reason the partner needed to accompany on this perilous road to pull over a guy with his two sons and pregnant wife), they pointed out the obvious.

"We've been following you for a while and you've been swerving quite a bit, and driving quite a bit below the posted speed limit."

"I know sir, I'm sorry but I've never been here before in my life." I wanted to elaborate, to explain how I would be interviewing at a university that these two lads probably rooted for during various sports events, and how much I loved to actually be near the capital of the legendary but infamous Confederacy. But I didn't. I merely continued to explain that we were looking for our hotel. I showed them the printouts from Google Maps, and they discussed among themselves where this place could possibly be. Seeming incredulous, they asked for the particulars about our hotel, and they also asked for my registration. It turns out it wasn't there-it was removed for other identification purposes, and as a result they needed to check my driver's license again.

As the cops came back, they returned with the attitude I had anticipated from this region. They were very apologetic, and (imagine!!) helpful. They gave detailed descriptions of every store/gas station we would be passing, and sped us on our way.

Pulled over in Dixie by the Richmond 5-0 wasn't my idea of heaven, but it was much nicer than my California, Arizona and Maryland police experiences. And don't get me started about the tribal police of New Mexico!

No comments: