With all of the alternative news stories in my life the last couple of weeks: devastating Notre Dame football losses, hurricanes and earthquakes (listed in the order of devastation brought upon my life), I have neglected to share one that I once thought was less newsworthy. But it has apparently become the Barack Obama birth certificate story of my life – it just won’t go away.
Let me first give you some background to the story.
Shortly after we got married, Katie began suggesting that I wasn’t a great driver. I drove too fast. I followed other cars too closely. I switched lanes without using my blinker (mostly because there was no one between here and Oregon who would have seen that blinker). The list of attacks on my ability to safely get us from point A to point B were endless. I began to wonder if I hadn’t married a budding Driver’s Ed instructor. I fully expected to come out one morning and find one of those goofy signs sitting on top of my truck.
Then, the first miracle happened. Katie was in an automobile accident. Thank God no one was hurt or it wouldn’t work well in my story. I think she was looking at roadside flowers (knowing her, she was taking pictures of them) and didn’t notice a vehicle in front of her. She hit it. In fairness, it was a big weekend for us. Our families were coming to town to celebrate our marriage that had taken place several months earlier, which is an entirely different post. The point is, her mind was preoccupied, which might explain her willingness to depart from a religious-like clinging to safe following distances.
From that point forward, when she offered me driving advice, I referenced back to that unfortunate incident. Usually in a way that simply asked us both to pause for a moment and reflect on our driving records and determine who in our little family last had a driving infraction. Initially, her defense for this was to bring up my driving record from my youth. Like the fact that I lost my driver’s license before I ever had it (a small little incident of borrowing a boss’s car and getting it run over by a tractor trailer truck when I was 15 years old).
Then, the second miracle happened. My auto insurance carrier, a small firm by the name of STATE FARM INSURANCE, decided they wanted to recognize my 10-year perfect driving record. They sent me a beautiful certificate to honor the occasion. I made copies and posted them anywhere near where I thought it was remotely possible my wife might address my driving habits. It took awhile to get used to looking through those certificates covering the inside of my windshield. I never had to bring up her auto accident again; I just pointed at one of my certificates.
And now the story becomes less than miraculous.
A couple of weeks ago I was driving Elliott and Ian to grandma and grandpa’s house. It was a beautiful morning. The boys were keeping themselves quiet in the back seat, so I took advantage of some uninterrupted thinking time, right up until – the interruption.
We were about 3 minutes from our destination. I was driving down a small crossroad when I paused my deep thought for a moment to check my rear view mirror. Nothing breaks a peaceful trance like the flashing lights of a police car. I’m still trying to recall what my first thought was when I saw them. I’ve reduced it to three possibilities:
I watched the officer approach me through my side mirror. “Sir, do you have any idea why I pulled you over?”
I looked down at my speedometer. It was stuck in a blank space somewhere beyond 120mph. How many times had Katie told me I needed to get that fixed?
“No sir, I really don’t know how fast I was going, really. But if you’ve pulled me over, I’m sure it was too fast.”
I was doing 54 in a 35, which meant my speedometer was only off by about 70mph, which is really better than I expected. I tried to tell the officer about my perfect driving record, even offered to show him one of my certificates. He showed me a ticket.
The officer made friends with the two quiet boys in the back seat. And if there was a blessing in the event, the boys’ first encounter with a police officer left them with the impression that policemen really are the good guys.
I had no idea what the boys were going to say when we pulled away. It was quiet for a minute or so before Elliott finally spoke up.
“Daddy,” he said, “We just got pulled over by a policeman. We’ve never done that before. Not on the way to Cicis, not on the way to church, not on the way to anywhere. We did something new.”
Oh yes Elliott, we live a life of excitement.
A few days later when I was sitting in the back room, Elliott came walking back there wearing a cowboy hat that he obviously thought looked a lot like the policeman’s hat. He looked at me with a big grin, then said: “Excuse me sir, but you’re driving too fast.”
A car passed us the other night on the way to dinner. Ian said, “daddy, they better slow down or they’re going to get pulled over by the police.”
“Yes,” said Elliott, “they are going WAY too fast, just like daddy did.”
Needless to say, it is a story that isn’t going anywhere. And in the background, Katie just smiles.
After our speedy adventure, Elliott decided he wanted to do time trials at the local park.
Which meant Ian did as well, which was all well and good.....
Until Ian lost.