Saturday, April 1, 2017

120 and Counting....

Years ago I was traveling down I-20 coming back from a visit to our sister facility in Columbia.  It was early evening, clear, slightly cool and much to my liking very little traffic.  I was somewhat bored as you can get when you do any amount of travel day after day.  As I traveled I daydreamed.  I looked down the road in front of me and I could not see a car in forever.  I glanced in the read view and found it was also clean and green.  The highway straightened for what seemed miles.  President Eisenhower stipulated when he introduced the Interstate system that one mile in every five had to be straight.  It was thought that in times of war if the interstate was ever closed to civilian traffic they could land planes if needed.  Anyway with all that straight road in front of me I decided it was time to try the old Ford out and see if it really had a Fusion engine, so to speak.  I nailed the accelerator and quickly was up over 100 mph.  I knew the car had guts, but how much?  The lines on the road now seemed like a solid line.  My grip tightened and my palms probably sweated but I didn’t dare to raise my hands to look.  The acceleration slowed but didn’t quit and it steadily climbed to 100, then 120, then as far as I could tell about 131 mph before it topped out.  It seemed like the car was floating.  I was surprised a modest production passenger model could attain that kind of speed.  The road was still clear, I think with the speed I had going if I did see a car ahead I would have backed off.  No cars ahead, but,,,, one was behind, and gaining sort of quickly at that.  I really didn’t have time, although I was slowing down now, to study him but he would be on me in a few seconds, we would pull off and I was sure no amount of talk was getting me out of this.  I pulled the car over and turned it off knowing I’d be there for a while.  I started digging in the glove box for the paperwork.  I really thought it silly digging since this wasn’t a 40 in a 25 situation.  This was going to be major!  I figured he would be pissed but he wasn’t.  More like in disbelief.  “Where you heading in such a manner chief?”  “Quite honestly with a wide open road I thought I’d see what the beast could do.”  “And what did it do” he responded?  Figuring I had nothing to lose I confessed to 131.  “Sounds about right, I had you somewhere around 127.”   “Don’t get many of you guys doing 131.”  We chatted and I was as honest about everything as I could be.  He smiled and told me how long it took him to catch me since he had to start from a dead stop.  I never saw him anywhere, but then again my eyes were glued to the road not the trees in the median.  He gave me options one of which was going to jail for reckless driving, a speeding citation was not going to happen, and careless driving!  I think he had a good vibe and cited me for careless driving.  He told me all the facts would be on citation  but it would be called careless driving, not speeding, and I would have to go before the judge.  He also stated 131 mph on a careless driving citation was stretching it.  No mail in your fine option available.  Not going to jail was good, so I guess I got the lesser of three evils.  I had 3 ½ weeks to get my crap together for the judge.
Court day arrived and I was present and accounted for.  As was the trooper.  My case was called and  I was suddenly on center stage, one man band.  The judge stated I had been cited for careless driving and I had three options; I could plead innocent and go for a court date, plead no contest and receive a substantial fine, or plead guilty, state the facts as I know them, let the judge take those into consideration, and receive a stiff penalty.  I chose guilty with extenuating circumstances.  What did I have to lose.  I stated it was still daylight, the road was clean and dry, there were no cars within sight either in front of behind me, I had both hands on the steering wheel, no radio distraction, and I told him I even shaded the lane position of the car slightly left in the right hand lane so if an animal should dart out I would have a split second more time to react.  “I was speeding.” “ I was cooking pretty good as you can see on the citation our honor.”  “But I assure you and the people of this court I was not being careless about it at all.”  “That was serious business.”  “If anything would have seemed off I would never had done that, or I would have backed off.”  “I may have had a momentary lapse of good judgment but I was not careless, in my opinion.”  During this whole time I did not say the speed I was doing, I don’t think hearing it out loud would have been good, nor did I claim it was stupid, which it may well have been but I didn’t want him to hear me say I was stupid.  For what it was worth he really seemed to be listening intently.  I wanted to say my piece but not drone on and on.  So I left it at that.  The fewer the words the stronger the message.  I continued to stand.  Now silent.
He thought only momentarily and quickly told me the maximum fine for careless driving in the manner I did it was $2500.00 and or 10 days jail time.  Ouch!  That hit home.  He admonished me for doing something stupid, there’s that word I didn’t want to hear out loud, saying the trooped may well have been pulling me out of a wrecked car than just pulling me over.  He said he appreciated my statement, saying it was more facts than excuse.  “Excuses get you no where, admitting fault is the mature thing and having facts with admittance is nice to hear in a court of law.”  “Regardless” he said, “your not going without penalty.”  “Payable within 24 hours the sum of $500.00, or the maximum penalty will be invoked, both monetary and jail time.”  I thanked both the judge and the trooper and was dismissed.  Thankfully I had a $1000.00 cash on me, hell I didn’t know what to take that day, I paid the clerk and bolted feeling like I got off easy.  I probably did.  Heading home I wondered if 131 mph was all the old Ford had in her, someday I’ll find out.