I learned to drive in Honolulu and then spent the next six years driving in Southern California. Both places are known for heavy traffic and ridiculous speeding. The two might sound like mutually exclusive categories, but remember after you get out of traffic you have to make up for all the time you lost.
That introduction is so you understand that I’ve been struggling with the need-for-speed all my adult life. I’ve gotten much better, really. I’m not a speeder. At least not often. Not until you give me a cup of coffee, music with a backbeat, a car pointed toward Florida. The Highway Patrol loves people like me. But not in the way you might think.
I came around a curve in the far left lane and saw a Georgia Highway Patrolman with a radar gun pointed straight at me. I was going at least 10 miles over the speed limit in a work zone. I slowed way down, but clearly it was too late. As I drove toward the GHP officer I thought he was flagging me down. But he wasn’t. He just smiled and waved. I waved back—very animatedly, as if we were old buddies.
You’d think that I’d have learned my lesson. You’d be wrong. Before long, caffeine, a stretch of road with no cars, and some serious U2 had rolling down the highway. I met another curve. On the other side was another GHP. I slowed a lot. He looked at the car behind me.
The third time I was cruising through Atlanta, blasting by the traffic in the HOV lane. I looked into my rearview mirror and a GHP car was on my bumper. I slowed down again (to the posted speed limit) and waited for the siren and lights to go on. But instead, the GHP car whipped around me and continued at the speed we’d both been going at.
Yes, there was a fourth time. Later when Cal started driving, I said, “I thought for sure I’d have gotten a ticket. Do you think they viewed my slowing down as an acknowledgment of their authority and my fault, and so they didn’t give me a ticket?” Cal raised his eyebrows and made a noise that expressed disbelief. He said, “If it had been me, they’ve given me a ticket.” Hmmm. I guess I should be mildly offended, but it’s hard to work up any outrage.