My wife is from Corinth and has children and family members living there. This past weekend was a significant occasion for our family — the first birthday of grandson John Braxton Tucker.
So, off to Corinth we went to enjoy this special time. And, enjoy we did. Parents, grandparents, friends and lots of kids. Were I a younger man it would have driven me nuts; however, with the mellowing that comes with middle age, it was a ball.
The trip home was marred, however, by a run-in with the police.
As a historical footnote, I noticed one of the old train tracks has been taken up. The Corinth rail system was vitally important to the South during the Civil War and was the main reason for so much fighting in that area. The battles of Shiloh and Corinth were, in part anyway, fought for control of the railroad tracks. What was worth tens of thousands of lives a mere 150 years ago is deemed insignificant today.
Back to my brush with the law.
I’m pretty much a boringly law-abiding citizen. Admittedly, I got several traffic tickets when I was younger. A speeding ticket in 1967 and another one in 1974 is all you’ll find in my file. I did get a parking ticket in Washington, D.C., in 1972 when I innocently, but illegally, parked in a “No Standing” zone. Since I had no intention of standing around, I parked and went on my way pleased with my good fortune at being able to find a parking space within 15 miles of town. Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law.
In Washington, a “No Standing” sign means that you can neither park nor sit in the car waiting for someone. I had to attend a safety class to atone for my ignorance and grievous transgression in addition to paying a hefty fine.
Returning to last weekend, we had just left the birthday party and begun our long trek back to Jackson when I saw blue lights in the rearview mirror. The road was narrow and there wasn’t a convenient place to pull over to let the officer pass. So, I kept going and he kept following.
Not in my wildest imagination did I suspect that he was pursuing me.
After he and I pulled off the road, I wondered what I should do. Since I hadn’t been stopped in 31 years, I was at a loss. Debra and I agreed that I should get out of the car and go see what was on his mind. So, I got out, innocently put my hands in my pockets and walked back to the policeman’s car.
The policeman was practically hysterical when he got out of his car.
He told me I was lucky that he didn’t “throw down” on me. I’m not well versed in law enforcement terminology, but I think that means he was about point his gun at me.
He ordered my hands out of my pockets and asked for my driver’s license. That’s where a problem developed — my license was in my pocket and he was threatening to shoot me if I put my hand in my pocket. This was clearly an inappropriate time to assume an assertive posture.
Finally, we got the license checked, and, I might add, without gunfire.
Left on a red? I don’t think so
The officer asked me if I knew that I had turned left on a red light and I said that I wasn’t aware that I had. He seemed disappointed.
During our exchange, he asked me two other times whether I was aware that I had made the illegal turn. Each time, my answer, which was the truth, incidentally, was the same.
Honestly, I don’t even remember a red light. Perhaps I didn’t see it.
I decided against telling the officer that I didn’t recall a red light since he was edgy and seemed focused on shooting me and I felt that any impertinent remark I might make could result in a “throw down.”
Go, and sin no more
Nonetheless, after giving me instruction on what to do when a policeman pulls me over, he sent me on my way. I don’t believe that he actually saw me commit the alleged infraction and when I wouldn’t admit to it, he let me go.
Incidentally, I so un-nerved the policeman that he apparently called in back up. Another police car with blue lights ablaze pulled over behind the first policeman. I expected the SWAT team to arrive at any time.
Clearly, I’m a dangerous felon.
My purpose in sharing this tale is to advise other boringly law-abiding citizens on what to do, and what not to do, should you see blue lights in the rearview. To avoid getting “thrown down” on, sit in your car (seatbelt fastened) and stick your license out the window. The officer will come to you. Under no circumstances should you get out of your car. Never, I repeat, never, put your hands in your pockets.
The good old days of Officer Friendly are definitely over.
Thought for the Moment
Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate. — President John F. Kennedy
Joe D. Jones, CPA (retired), is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.