By Gale Griffith
It was a crisp, frost-in-the-air-but-not-on-the-ground morning. I revved the engine a time or two to chase the overnight chill from under the hood, pulled out from my condo parking spot and drove into the day. Traffic was always congested at 7:30 a.m. as a host of focused commuters vied for best position. I was fortunate I didn’t have to join the throngs on the freeway. My workday destination offered me travel choices and I always chose to cut cross country.
December 8, 2008, was perfect for a drive through Mother Nature’s landscape. As I veered from city traffic to Anderson Road I turned on my radio and was immediately uplifted by the beautiful strains of seasonal songs. Christmas would soon be here and it was easy to catch the spirit while passing farm lanes boasting traditional yuletide décor: a mailbox entwined with bright red ribbon; a tree strung with childrens’ hand-made snowflakes and angels; a large drain barrel sawed in half and filled to the brim with bows and boughs. My mood was merry. I felt free and full of joy. My foot tapped on the gas pedal to the tune of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”.
Anderson Road jogs twice creating 3 long stretches of two-lane driving through a large country block. The first stretch includes a railway crossing and a secondary road intersection with a stop sign. The speed limit is 80 km/h. I don’t know what possessed me, but feeling as jubilant as I did, I wanted to fly. Unfortunately, the only way to do that in a car is to press pedal to metal. And that I did. Cautiously, to begin with, as I glanced to the sides and in all three rear-view mirrors to be certain there were no cars in sight. In particular, police cars. The farther I went, the faster I“flew”. It gripped me like the fever of a contagious disease pulsating through my veins. I was able to see in both directions that there was no train approaching and I leapt over the tracks at 115. No cars coming nor going. No vehicles in sight. Gleefully blew past the crossroad intersection stop sign at 120.
The second lap of Anderson road is residential. A developer’s dream of “luxury, convenience-living in a country setting”. Double solid lines to prevent traffic passing and a speed limit of 40. A red Taurus pulled out from a driveway and was heading south, as was I, but he was moving oh so slowly for my buoyant mood. With a thought bubble tinged with guilt, and a silent apology to the shocked-looking driver, I carefully passed him at 80.
Ignoring the stop sign at the second jog, I launched into the third and final lap of my adventure feeling exuberant, free and simply delighted about breaking rules. (Indeed a commanding sensation for a generally “by the book” personality.) I gauged the stretch ahead of me. Perfectly flat and straight. Not a vehicle in sight. 130 km/h felt entirely exhilarating in an 80 zone!
Because of the crop-less, winter-prepared fields bordering both sides of the road it was easy to see, very clearly, both directions of the approaching “T” junction at the end of Anderson Road. No traffic whatsoever, so I slowed down just enough to negotiate the stop sign without rolling, and that’s when the unmarked police car from nowhere pulled me over. To this day I remain baffled. I will never know, nor understand, where that car came from!
As I wondered how much the “running a stop sign” ticket would cost me, one of the two officers approached my window. “Are you alright?” He asked with concern. “Yes” I said. “Where are you going?” he continued. “To work” I replied. “Well, you’re not going to make it. Not the way you are driving. We have been tailing you since you first turned on to Anderson Road. In the beginning we thought we’d give you a break because the road was clear and you were endangering nobody other than yourself. But the longer we followed you the more intrigued we became. Do you know how many traffic violations you have broken?” “No, sir, I don’t,” I muttered. “Seven” he pronounced. “Let’s see your license and registration, please.”
As I opened my glove compartment my eyes caught sight of something just inside the box. Color red crept up my neck and into my cheeks. The officer, noticing the change in body language, asked, “What do you have there?” I told him it was a gift from a friend that I had forgotten about. “Let’s see it,” he said, and I passed him my pewter angel whose sash reads: “Never Drive Faster Than Your Guardian Angel Can Fly”.
“I guess that says it all,” the officer said quietly as he passed the angel back to me. “Please drive carefully from now on…and do have a very Merry Christmas,” he said, as he turned and walked away without giving me a ticket.