(How Vermont State Troopers Are Sadistic)
It was a dark and stormy night….
Wait. No. Wrong story.
It was a bright and beautiful morning (there we go)! We set out, coffee and maps on hand, ready to wend out way into Vermont. I have a very careful method of trip navigation, and it goes like this: I type some stuff into Mapquest, print out whatever it gives me, and then drop it into the lap of my travel companion. “There ya go! Let me know when to turn!”
Of course, I often forget that Mapquest sometimes smokes crack.
My first clue should’ve been the series of directions in the middle of the plotted route, all of which claimed to occur within several tenths of a mile of each other, all sounding something like this:
Bear left on Route 112W / Route 34B / Route 9576E / Old Cow Road South / also known as the following: Betsy Ross Memorial Parkway, Edgar Allen Poe Landmark Route, John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt Congressional Thruway.
But far be it from me to take a clue.
So, needless to say: we got lost. Well, not lost. If you’re driving from here to California and you’re headed WEST, you’re not lost. And neither were we. We were headed the right way on a road we might not have otherwise picked, but that’s fine. We had a general idea of what was happening. We were on track and on time.
And then it happened. Out of nowhere, a gigantic orange moving van pulled into the road ahead and us. Now, New England is kind of a sprawling place, you know. Not all of the roads are major thruways. But SOME of the roads are very narrow and very twisty and not in the best repair… and those roads? Are perhaps not safe for large orange moving vans. I’m just sayin’. Maybe there isn’t another way to get where you’re going. Maybe you’re just brain-damaged. Who knows. Whatever the reason, we found ourselves behind this truck.
I was sure it was going to wreck. The truck lurched around the road, touching the shoulder, drifting back towards oncoming traffic, then swerving back shoulderward again. I gave it VERY WIDE berth, except for the times when (mercifully!) the lane markings indicated we were in a passing zone; at which time, I would speed up and prepare to pass. On account of this truck was averaging about 25 miles an hour (less on inclines).
Passing zones on 2-lane “highways” in Vermont are approximately ten feet long, by the way.
I’m not an aggressive driver, and I never got a safe, clear stretch on which to pass this guy.
So I did the mature thing: I hung back, swore a lot, and bemoaned the fact that we were going to be quite late to meet Joshilyn.
At long last, we came around a turn and into a straightaway where passing was allowed. My passenger and I both let loose with loud WHOOPs of joy as I sped past the truck. End of problem! The end!
So, onward we went, still basking in the joy of having escaped Ye Olde Lumbering Truck. We consulted the map and I called Joshilyn (whose cell phone, it turned out, was not working at all) and we figured we were under half an hour away from our destination. And the heavens opened up and the angels sang and I came over the crest of a hill…
(… you’ve already guessed…)
… and there were flashing lights and then I was pulling over and only freaking out a little. “What’s the speed limit here? How fast was I going? Shit. SHIT. I… SHIT!”
We sat there for approximately an hour while the trooper slowly got out of his car and came over to my window. By that time, I’d extracted my license and registration, lowered my window, and my friend had said, “It’s okay, Mir. It’s gonna be okay. It’s alright,” about eleven times.
“Good morning,” he said, leaning down to make brief eye contact and then scan the inside of my extraordinarily empty and boring car. “How are you today?”
“Uhhh… I’m guessing I could be better,” I ventured. He took my paperwork from my hand.
“Any idea what the speed limit is here?”
“I… uhhh… no, I guess I don’t know.” And I didn’t. Whoops.
“Any idea how fast you were going?” he pressed.
“Mmmmm… not really, no. I’m guessing it was too fast.”
He stooped a bit lower. “Ma’am, have you had anything to drink today?”
“N… no…?” It was 11:45 in the morning, and although I’d had a rather large iced latte, I figured that wasn’t what he meant. And I was stunned that he was even asking.
“And who are YOU?” He was now peering at my friend as if she had an automatic rifle spread across her lap instead of a map.
“I’m… her neighbor…?” We exchanged glances. This was bizarre. Is there such a prevalence of 30-something mothers on the lam in rural Vermont that this inquisition was warranted?
This seemed to irritate the trooper. “You were going 73 in a 50-mile-an-hour zone,” he snapped. “That’s TWENTY-THREE MILES over the speed limit. That’s FIVE points on a Vermont license and a $249 fine.”
The orange truck crawled past, a line of bunched-up and annoyed motorists coasting behind it. My glum consideration of 5 points on my spotless driving record was briefly interrupted by the furious certainty that the truck driver was laughing at me.
“I… didn’t realize… I’m so sorry,” I wailed. Yes. I wailed. $249?? That was about twice my budget for the entire weekend. And I wasn’t even THERE yet. And I hate that orange truck so very much. And THERE IS NO GOD.
“Where are you headed?” That one was easy. I told him more about Joshilyn’s scheduled appearance than he probably wanted to know. “Where are you coming FROM?” he countered. Uhhhhh… home? Each question seemed to pull another sharp string of tension across my shoulders.
“Do you have current proof of insurance?”
“Wh–yes! Yes I do! Here, let me find it.” I rummaged in the glove box, and after a minute I’d found 59 napkins and my insurance card from 2003. “I just… I’m sure I have it here… well, here, this card’s expired but I’m up to date, I think I maybe just don’t have the current card in here. They direct debit from my checking, it’s paid, it’s current, I swear.” Oh GOOD, I thought. Next up: body cavity search for the crazy babbling woman with the expired insurance.
“Wait here.” Mr. Trooper Man headed back to his car. I sniffled a little. My friend–an old and dear friend, as I have mentioned–knew that this was a precarious time. I was teetering on the edge of a deep, black funk. She repeated that everything was going to be fine, and then grabbed up the bag of snacks she’d brought.
“Want some CHOCOLATE?” she offered hopefully.
“No.” I think she gasped, but I was busy watching the trooper in my mirror. He was typing on his computer, talking on the radio. He was taking FOREVER. I was inching closer and closer to despair. How had I managed to do something SO STUPID? Ugh. Why wasn’t he getting out of the car??
Years passed and finally he emerged from the cruiser… with only my license and registration in hand.
“OHMYGODHE’SNOTGONNAGIVEMEATICKET!” I yelped. I clamped down on the relief that was spreading across my face. He could change his mind. Better to stay contrite. Not out of the woods yet.
He handed me my things. “Had to make you sweat a little,” he said with a quick grin. “My wife’s down shopping in your neck of the woods today, and she got pulled over, and the trooper let her off. So I owe someone one.” I released the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding, and laughed. Squeaked, really.
“Sweat! HAHA! Yes, well, you DID! I’m sweating!” SHUT UP, my brain shrieked. “Thank you SO MUCH, I’ll be good, I will, really, thank you! And PAY IT FORWARD and all that!” Shut up shut up shut UP.
“Keep it under a hundred,” he offered. “Have a nice day, ladies.”
He sauntered back to his car while I put away my things and my friend said, “I bet you want some chocolate NOW! No ticket! That’s awesome! I can’t believe it! Okay, drive, but not too fast! And… ‘keep it under a hundred’… OH MY GOD that was OBNOXIOUS!”
“Yeah… well… he can be as obnoxious as he wants as long as he keeps his tickets to himself. Ooooooooookay… speed limit is 50? I’m setting the cruise control. Gimme some chocolate. Please.”
We munched in silence for a couple of minutes.
“If we end up behind that orange truck again I’m going to CRY.” She choked a little, but it was okay.
STAY TUNED for Chaper 2 of The Vermont Adventure (You’re Pretty, I’m Pretty, We’re All Pretty!)! Coming soon!