My cell phone rang, and I answered to hear the growling, angry voice of my boss Riff. “Where are you, loser?”
“South Georgia, on my way down to West Palm Beach, Florida.”
“What the hell is taking you so long?”
“I left Minneapolis two days ago, I’d say I’m making pretty good time.”
“I could care less what you would say, you dumb fool. You need to make better time. When you drop the car off in West Palm Beach, you need to get yourself down to Miami. There’s one of those Jewish ambulances there, and its going to a memorial ceremony in Orlando. Is that too much for you, my little buttercup?”
“I can handle that.”
“My precious little buttercup.”
“Goodbye, Riff.” I hung up, and then noticed that there were several Georgia State trooper cars pulled over, each one of them having stopped a passenger vehicle and writing up tickets. I began to count, and all totaled there were ten cop cars and ten violaters. Then the blue lights in my rear view mirror caught my attention. I had the cruise control set on 73, and the speed limit was 70mph, so I was confused about what I had done.
I slowed down and signaled as I pulled off onto the right shoulder. The officer stopped behind me, then got out and walked purposefully up to my car window. “License and registration, please sir.” I already had them out, and handed them over.
“What did I do, officer?”
“Are you a professional race car driver, boy?” he asked as he examined my paperwork.
“What? No, sir.”
“Really? Could’ve fooled me, flying through here like a bat out of hell. Who do you think you are, and what makes you think you’ve got the right?”
“My speedometer showed that I was going 73.”
“That’s right, and the speed limit is 70. Who said that you could go zooming along with no regard for the speed limit?”
“No one… I mean, I didn’t—“
“You didn’t what? Huh? Get out of the car, boy.”
I did as he said, feeling a bit nervous. He told me to open the trunk, and I did. He searched it but found nothing besides the spare tire and jack. Then he opened the back door of my car and began to throw my things out on the side of the road. “Are you looking for something particular?” I asked.
The officer spun and pointed his finger at me. “I don’t like your attitude. You wouldn’t be one of those Yankee drug dealers, would ya?”
“No sir, I’m from Birmingham.”
"Figures." He cleared his throat and shook his head with disgust. Then he leaned into the car and reached across the back seat. “Well, well, what have we here?” He pulled out the small box of fireworks. “What are you doing smuggling fireworks into the state of Georgia?”
“Didn’t you know that fireworks are illegal in the state of Georgia?”
“No sir, I did not.”
“Ignorance of the law is no defense, boy.”
“I can just leave them here, would that be OK?”
“No, that would not be OK. That would be littering, are you a litterbug?”
“I don’t think you understand the gravity of your situation here. You could be spending the night in jail. Have you ever seen 60 MINUTES? Do you know what happens to cute lookin’ young men like you in prison in south Georgia?”
“I don’t think I’m very cute.”
“Don’t sass me, boy. That is very unwise, a bad choice.”
“What can I do?”
“What you do is go and sit in the car, while I go get in my car and check on your criminal record and past violations. Don’t think about running.”
“Don’t you dare.” He went back to his car, and I went back to mine. I saw him spend a lot of time talking into his radio. After 15 minutes had gone by, I began to worry. A total of 25 minutes later, he sauntered back to my car window with his ticket pad in hand. “I have to admit, I was shocked to find that your record is clean. I don’t know if you are lucky or just a cool customer who is good at outsmarting law enforcement.”
“I am neither.”
“Maybe. But what you are is a speed demon, and this ticket for $300 will be a reminder to you to slow down. My job is to catch offenders like you. I’m saving lives,” he proclaimed. I took the pad from him and signed the ticket, all the while biting my tongue so hard I nearly drew blood. I handed him back his pad, and he said, “I’ll take the box of fireworks for you and dispose of them later. You pick up all your junk off the side of the road and then get out of here. Maybe next time you pass through Georgia you will drive with respect.”
I picked up my stuff and drove away. I felt a sense of comfort knowing that in this part of south Georgia, all of the murderers, rapists and drug dealers were safely locked up so that the police had the manpower to assign 11 cars to catch dangerous criminal speeders going 3 miles over the limit.