The Columbia River ran along my right side as I scooted across I 84. I was nearing the Dalles, Oregon, on my way to Portland and I was cranking my Renault LeCar Gordini along at 112 miles per hour according to the wavering needle of my speedometer. It was three o’clock in the afternoon and the sky was a light high overcast that was easy on the eyes. The River seemed to be moving at the same speed I was, an illusion, given my rate of travel. But the little car was firm on its feet and it had solid control to the point I was fairly relaxed as I drove. My dog was seated next to me in the passenger’s seat, leaning into the turns and drooling onto the seat. I rolled his window down halfway and he immediately shoved his nose into the wind. Catching the air, his mouth puffed up full of air, startling him. He pulled his head back in and sneezed, shook his head and then stuck it back out the window. I moved into an area of gradual S curves and reduced my speed to just under a hundred. I cruised around one turn and then another before I saw the Oregon State Patrolman parked at the side of the road, a radar unit clipped to the side of his car. I swooped past him, dropping my foot off the gas entirely. I was doing 85 miles an hour when I passed his door. I rode the highway around the next sweeping turn, leaving the officer behind and out of sight, but I kept my foot off of the gas and costed to a stop in the emergency lane. I was going to get a ticket, there was no reason to get one from an adrenaline charged angry bison so I essentially was turning myself in.
I was outside my car and standing behind it when the state patrol car came whipping around the turn, his red and blue lights flashing madly. I was looking right at him as he recognized the car and I saw surprise register on his face. The front end of his patrol car ducked as he hit his brakes to pull over and stop behind my car. I was wearing cut off jeans and a light blue tee shirt that says MY MOTHER SAYS I’M SPECIAL. I had sandals on, but I was also wearing orangish Argyle socks. I peered at him through prescription PhotoGray lenses in silver military aviator style frames. My hair was to my shoulders, about right for 1979. He was a typical spit and polish Oregon State patrolman, complete with DI cap and mirrored versions of my similar glasses. “I give up.” I said.
“So I see.” he said, walking up to me. “You took me a bit by surprise; I wasn’t expecting to see you parked and waiting for me.”
“Well, I was just kind of groovin’ with the car and came around that corner and saw you. I looked and saw I was doing a bit under ninety and saw you had a radar unit. I knew right there I was toast so I figured hey, pull over and take it like a man.”
“Huh. Your gas pedal wasn’t stuck?” he asked. I said no. “You’re not trying to reach your dying mother before she perishes?” I explained my mom had already died some years ago. “You didn’t misinterpret posted road speeds?” I replied in the negative. I was aware I was over the posted 65 mph limit –which is why I’d pulled over. “Well, let me see your license and registration.” he said. I handed them over. He pored over them a moment and then handed them back. “Here. I get all kinds of stories out here. You’d be amazed at some of the excuses people come up with for speeding. But I have to applaud that you don’t have any fabcy story. You’re saying ‘yes, I did this’ and I’m standing up for it. I gotta say that’s a first and I appreciate you’re honesty, novel as it is.”
“So, I can go? I’m not getting a ticket?” I was nearly jubilant.
“Nope. No ticket –this time. And I do expect you to moderate your speed from here on out. I can see you have a vehicle modified for competition. I suggest that you use it that way in proper comeptition venues.”
I groveled, I thanked him. I swore on my oath as a CART racing member that I would do as he asked. Of course, I possessed no memberships in any racing organization, ergo I was not responsible for any promises made under fictitious authority. As soon as I put the officer invisibly behind me, my speed crept slowly above the posted limit again only to be reduced by traffic for the rest of the trip into the city.
I’ve had some interesting interactions with the police over my youthful exhuberance behind the wheel, but that’s one of three experiences that really stand out in my mind. It was a kind thing for that patrolman to let me slide. I could have been charged with reckless driving, endangerment, and then speeding, all because my speed was in excess of 20 mph over the limit. The thing is, there are times in life that you see issues coming and so you just go out to meet them so they can be dispensed with. So things can move on. It never occurred to me to do anything besides pull over; I was had. Just go face it. That it was a positive inspiration for the cop, so much the better. In the end, he did win. Having thought about the full ramifications of a reckless speed arrest more completely had the effect of removing about half of the lead weight attached to my throttle foot.
Because of the cops reaction, I assumed that I’d done an unusual thing. I’d stood up to face my demons. Of course, I realize now that there are many ways we stand up to meet our demons. Dealing with cancer, facing the loss of a loved one, dealing with other losses or mistakes in life’ in one way or another, I guess all of us at some point stand up and say “You got me. So where can we go from here?”