I saw a cop today who reminded me of an old story that I haven't told in a long time. I don't usually tell the whole thing when I do tell it. It's usually just one little bit or another. I want to run through the whole day to help refresh my memory though. I'm sure I'll forget some of the details, but nothing will be embellished. I wouldn't even know what to add to it besides maybe aliens.
During the early 90's, I lived in a little house just outside Orange, Texas with a roommate named Rob. Rob had an old purple GTO. He drove it to Texarkana to give his kids back to his ex-wife. He made it there all right, but he broke down in the middle of nowhere on the way back. Of course it was going to take a week to get parts for his car, so I had to drive up there and get him. I didn't leave right away. In hindsight, maybe I should have just driven up there and back that night. Instead, I made him get a motel room and left pretty early (for me) Saturday morning.
I had good reason not to want to make that drive at night. He was a five hour drive (for normal people) away in a little town somewhere between Texarkana, AR and Shreveport, LA. The first hour and a half is perfectly straight roads broken up with the occasional ninety degree turn. The other three and a half hours is windy two-lane highway through the middle of nowhere. There was no way I was driving up there at night with my dumbass roommate's shitty directions in my piece of shit car.
Actually, I had three piece of shit cars. I had a '74 VW Bug, an '84 Chevy Cavalier, and an '86 Pontiac Grand Am. The Cavalier was my best car. It had been rear ended by a train. The trunk was folded up like an accordian, but it never gave me one single problem. I didn't take the Cavalier. The Bug wasn't running at the time because most of the engine left with the rod that I never did find. I loved that Bug. We went through a lot together. The pounding bass coming from her dual 12"s. Popping wheelies. Forgetting to reconnect the heater vents after changing the clutch. That night I tried to drive through the median and up the entrance ramp on the wrong side of the highway. Sliding out of control down an icy North Carolina mountain. Getting robbed at a black strip club in Atlanta. "Don't worry. We LOVE white people" Lying bastard. Getting pot and pity sex from a stripper at another strip club later that night. Getting hassled by asshole Louisiana cops less than ten minutes from the Texas border and being left to put my car back together in the middle of the night on the side of I-10. Good times. What happened on this particular Saturday almost made up for that other night in Louisiana. If I hadn't taken the Grand Am, none of it ever would have happened.
I left around 7:30 Saturday morning. I took the Grand Am because it was faster than the Cavalier, and I was already pissed that I had to waste the whole day driving to Texarkana and back. The trip up was as boring as expected until I got to Mansfield about 2/3 of the way there. Now I don't remember what time of year it was, but apparently it was a holiday weekend. A cop made me turn right where I wanted to go straight, and the next thing I knew I was driving behind some bitch scratching the paint on a Corvette with her sequin dress. She was giving the queen wave and tossing candy to a crowd of people that I swear to God wasn't there ten seconds ago. Shriner or Elks or Meese or some kind of lodge popped up behind me with a banner. I was trapped between Miss Mansfield and the Royal Order of the Water Buffalo in my piece of shit Grand Am blaring Metallica at full volume and smoking a cigarette. Happy F'n Whateverthefuck Day! I couldn't turn because the whole damn town was out there. I couldn't stop because the old guys with the banner were walking right up my ass because Miss Paper Mill was getting driven slower than those old bastards could walk. And that's how I ended up in the Mansfield Whateverthefuck Day Parade.
It took me about half an hour to make my way back through Mansfield with all of the parade traffic, but I made it the rest of the way with just one more minor incident. I missed the town. He told me if I reached Arkansas then I'd gone too far. I did, and I had. The five hour trip up there ended up taking the full five hours plus.
I should preface the return trip with a little background about my driving habits. I've never sold a car to someone who wasn't a junk dealer or restorer. I got my first ticket the same week I got my learner's permit at 15. I got my second ticket on my 16th birthday. I proceeded to rack up hundreds (see paragraph 1) of tickets over the next five years. I got a speeding ticket for speeding in a school zone as I pulled out of the school parking lot. I got a ticket and then got another ticket before I even went half a mile. That wasn't the only time I got stopped more than once in the same day. I got fucked over by a cop who wrote me up for unlawful speed or some such nonsense because I accelerated too fast. I never broke the speed limit. I just got to it too quickly. That was more points than a regular speeding ticket. Prick. I almost missed my high school graduation because I got a ticket on the way to rehearsal. I almost missed my high school graduation because I got a ticket on the way to graduation. I got a ticket for drifting my way down a parking garage. I don't remember what that one was called, but it was so fucking worth it.
Plead Nolo and give a ticket lawyer $35 and the ticket disappeared. It was cheaper and easier than defensive driving school. It was hella easier than teen court. Even though teen court got me laid. You could only do it once anyway. I just budgeted for speeding. $35 bucks a week went to speeding tickets. At least. Seemed fair at the time. That didn't mean I always stopped though. It was fun to whip down a side road and hide behind a house until the cop drove by. I think the immortal Rip Torn put it best when he said, "Remember the 5 D's. Dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge." Anyway, back to Louisiana.
We were flying down a little windy, kind of hilly, highway. We were probably going about 120-125 through this big sweeping, swooping turn when we started to run up on a farm truck. There was some traffic coming the other way so I had to slow down and wait. Just as I settled in behind the truck, a sheriff's car came flying up behind me with his lights flashing and his siren blaring. There was no way out of it so I just pulled over. I remember what happened next like it happened this morning.
He made us wait a few minutes before he got out of his car. When he finally got out, he very deliberately donned his big Sheriff's hat and adjusted it in the car mirror. He took a can of dip out of his shirt pocket and took a pinch. He adjusted his belt and grabbed his gun (not like he was going to draw it; more like to make sure it was there, but he never let go). Then he kind of slowly sauntered over to my window with his hand still on his gun. I don't know if it was because he was trying to calm down, or decide exactly what he wanted to say, or because he was fat. He was in his 50s. He was fat, but he wasn't fat fat. He was more strong old man beer gut fat. And he had a gun. As he leaned down, I got my first good look at the man...sort of. I couldn't pry my eyes away from the part of his shirt near the top of his beer gut and the big, brown, very fresh tobacco stain. Shit.
"Driver's license and proof of insurance." He said it with a thick, almost painfully slow, Deep South/Mississippi River Basin drawl.
"Son, do you know why I pulled you over?"
"Do you have any idea how fast you were going back there?"
"No, sir. I wasn't really paying attention", I lied.
"I clocked you at 110 in a 55. You got a reason you're in so much of a hurry?"
"No, sir, not really. We've just been driving all day, and we're trying to get home."
"You know I can take you to jail for driving that fast, right?"
"Uh, no sir, I didn't know that.", I lied again.
"You boys sit right here while I decide what I want to do with you."
After he got back into his car, I told Rob, "We're fucked. I'm fucked. You have to bail me out."
"Dude, he won't take you to jail. He's just dicking with you."
"Dude. Did you see his shirt? I'm fucked."
"Dude, didn't you see his shirt?"
"What about his shirt?"
"He spit chewing tobacco all over his shirt when we drove by." I already had a mental picture of him sitting in his car by the side of the road, just put in a nice big pinch of chew. He probably got all Buford T. Justice and did a spit take when his radar popped up with 110. Gottdammit! (Ah, memories...sometimes even the one's we never actually got to see.)
"We're fucked, dude. I don't have any money to bail you out." (early 90's...we said dude a LOT)
We sat there another few minutes waiting to go to jail when he finally got back out of his car, did his hat routine, and slowly made his way back over to my window.
"Well, son, I'm supposed to take you jail, but I'm gonna give you a break because it's a holiday." I didn't know then and I still don't know now what fucking holiday it was. "I'm only gonna write you up for doing 84 in a 55, but you better slow it down the rest of the way, ya hear?"
"Yes, sir. Absolutely. Thank you."
And that's how I got out of jail by making a cop spit on himself.
Shortly after we got back on the road, I started to notice a little vibration in the steering wheel. Then a little thumping noise started. The thumping and the vibration kept getting worse. It seemed like it would get worse up to about 75 then it would kind of start to smooth out so I tried to keep the car over 75. I know, I know, I broke my promise to the sheriff. We were getting closer to home, and we were back on the paper mill roads. There aren't paper mills out there. It's where they grow the trees to take to the paper mills. Miles long straight roads around giant square forests. Real fun stuff. We were driving down this long straight two-lane road going a little north of 100 with the vibration going and thump thumping away like crazy, when all of a sudden everything went smooth and quiet and perfect. We had gotten so used to the thump that the sudden quiet took us by surprise. We took it as a good thing and kept on cruising until we got to the next turn in the road. That's where the people in the car coming the other way where kind enough to point out, "YOU'RE DRIVING ON YOUR RIM!"
And that's how I blew a tire at 100MPH and didn't even know it.
I know. That last one was pretty lame. You know what else was lame? Having to drive another hour on a donut. I never did pay that ticket.
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