OK, so I admit I was speeding. But that’s not the point. At least, not to me. I was pretty steamed.
It all started early Sunday morning shortly after we left Donna and Homer’s house (my sister and her husband) in the south suburbs of Kansas City to come home. To get from their house to the four-lane divided highway we take south toward Arkansas involves about 15 miles on a two-lane highway.
It was pitch black at 5:15 a.m. I was driving carefully, keeping a keen eye out for deer and the other on the speedometer to make sure I stayed at the 55 miles per hour speed limit.
After a few minutes, there was a city limits sign for the small town of Harrisonville. Attached to the sign was a 35-mile per hour speed limit sign.
No town was in sight, just black nothingness, but I took my foot off the accelerator and began to coast toward a speed of 35 miles an hour. Within a few seconds, car lights came on off to the side of me and a car pulled in behind me.
“It must be a cop; I think I’m going to get a ticket,” I said to Jenny.
“No, the limit just changed. He wouldn’t give you a ticket. He’s probably just making sure you’re slowing down,” Jenny said.
My wife is not often wrong, but she was this time. After following me for a little while as I got down to 35, the flashing lights came on.
I figure he was checking out my Mississippi tag, making certain he wasn’t about to give a ticket to the mayor’s cousin or something.
Officer Bullinger couldn’t have been more polite. He identified himself, asked where we were headed, and said his radar showed I was going 48 in a zone posted 35. I mentioned that I had just passed the city limits sign, and that there was no “Reduced speed ahead” sign or any graduated speed reduction.
But from the monotone voice, I could tell this was going nowhere. Off he went with my driver’s license and insurance card. Soon he returned with a ticket, a listing of fines and a self-addressed envelope attached. How handy.
In the same practiced monotone, he mentioned he had given me a court date as late in January (the 18th) as he could, because he thought we might be a little short during the holidays. How thoughtful.
It was the second speeding ticket I have gotten in my life. The first was in west Texas about 10 years ago. I had forgotten to re-set my cruise control after stopping in a small town for ice cream at a Dairy Queen.
The episodes remind me of tales relatives used to tell about two small towns in New Mexico. In one, you were bound to get a speeding ticket if you were over the limit as you passed the city limit sign. In the other, stopping to fill up with gasoline at either of two stations in town could lead to tire trouble. While you took a bathroom break, the attendant would fill the tank, check the oil and wash your windshield. (Yes, they used to do that.) When you returned, he would point out a very low tire. And he just happened to have your tire size.
Maybe that’s why some drivers prefer to battle the traffic on an impersonal interstate highway, rather than the vagaries of smaller highways and even smaller towns.
Another in a series of life lessons. This one cost $100.
T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.