Flashback, Summer 1972. You and your cousin, age seventeen, are wearing tube tops, bell bottoms and flip-flops, with hair two feet straight down the back and parted in the middle and immense chandelier earrings you’d bought at the Gay Dolphin in Myrtle Beach. With a swish of hair, you leap into the front seat of your canary yellow Camara and hot-foot it down Highway 17 like Super Fly. You suck down cokes and crank up Eric Clapton.
Lo and behold, blue lights start flashing from behind, and you pull off on the sandy shoulder, cussing up a southern storm–using words such as dadgummit and dadburnit amongst choice others.
The trooper sidles up to you and asks for your license. It doesn’t help that y’all look like what they call, hippie freaks, which does not bode well with the trooper. He is as cool as iced tea with his hat clamped around his forehead, and states that you were going 15 over the limit and that and you owe him $100. Cash.
You have no checkbook, no credit card, no cellphone. You tell him that you have twenty-four dollars and thirty-two cents. They didn’t cover this in Driver’s Ed. Can’t they just bill you? You and your cousin sit Indian-style on the hood, under live oaks draped with Spanish moss. Bummer. Man–you were gunning it to get home so you could meet that cute guy Kyle–winged hair, jean jacket, Frye boots– at the Silver Dollar.
Then y’all get scared. What’s that movie where hippies travel through Mississippi and never come back out? Does it count that y’all are really just FAUX SOUTHERN HIPPIES and just dress like the real ones? After a couple of hours, he gets out of his squad car, takes your cash, and peels off. No points ever appeared.
Fast forward, 2011. Age double-nickles, you climb into your old tan SUV to drive home from the beach. J. Crew top, black jeans, hair foot long and parted on the side, small chandelier earrings, flip-flops. As you try to find the beach music station, you pass a parked patrolman.
No. frickin. way. You’re not real speedy by nature, but this is the only state where you’ve ever been caught going over the limit.
You remember a sweet, nerdy lawyer friend, who’d just left her firm to drive back to her apartment one night. Soon there was a flashing rack behind her on the highway; she got all nervous and searched for a well-lit spot. She hesitated for so long that the patrolman in pursuit called for reinforcements, and by the time gentle Julia exited, she was surrounded by 3 squad cars in a Chic-fil-a parking lot, as she quaked in her perm and dark suit–complete with a bow tie blouse, supp-hose and sturdy pumps.
The gas station is chock-full of folks staring at you as you pull in, softly cussing up a southern storm–dadgummit, etc. Face burning, you scrunch down in your seat like you are seventeen again. Even your children have never gotten tickets. What are the rules now? Will he search your car? What’s in your car? A humble chicken salad sandwich in tin-foil. Duffel bag, stale snacks and bottled water, some shirts to take to the cleaners. Quickly you try to look as Mom-ish and boring as possible. You gather your hair up into a pony tail, fluff up your neck pillow, take off your aviators, and apply reading glasses. You re-position your Diet Green Tea and packet of Nabs, and then pull out your license and registration.
He takes your cards and disappears. With horror you realize your back window sports big fat decals of South Carolina’s two major football rivals. Hmmm. Too late to rip those babies off. To add insult to injury, your state license plate is their third biggest enemy.
He crunches back over and hands you a ticket. You can mail in a check. Your cell phone suddenly sings out, “Bell Bottom Blues,” and you hastily turn it off. Easy. Done.
You are the only one of five sibs who has not attended traffic school; you gotta hold on to that record.
Missing that date with Kyle? Thank God.