Sunday, November 20, 2016

I broke the law

There's not much more that can give you a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach than seeing blue lights flashing in your rear view mirror.

And you don't know why.

That happened to me about a week ago early one morning when we were at the beach. We were on a lonely stretch of road between Ocean Isle Beach and Sunset Beach, heading back to Calabash for breakfast. We'd just gone through a British-like traffic roundabout and made our right-hand turn toward a veggie omelet when...

Blue lights.

"Uh oh," I said as I pulled over. I really thought the officer was going to pass me on the way to some emergency. But, no. The blue lights followed me to a stop on the shoulder of the road.

Apparently, I was the emergency.

"What did you do?" asked my wife as she reached for my registration card in the glove compartment.

"I don't know. I can't imagine," I said as I lowered my window and shrank deeper into my seat.

Moments later, the officer came to my car door. He looked like he was about 15 years old. I could imagine that the ink on his officer certificate was still wet.

But he was pleasant enough. He asked for my registration and driver's license, and then explained that he stopped me because "you ran a stop sign at a four-way intersection back there." His exact words.

Wha...??? I thought that to myself. I didn't remember seeing a stop sign. Clearly, my driving skills after nearly 50 years of experience on the road were deteriorating.

The officer went back to his vehicle, where I assumed I was being checked by the computer for any priors. When he returned, he told me he wasn't going to ticket me and to please be more observant next time.

"Yessir. Thank you, sir."

"Have a nice day."

Well, the chances for a nice day had already plummeted. I was grateful that I wasn't cited, of course. But I suddenly started doubting my driving expertise. I couldn't remember a stop sign. Neither could Kim.

Later in the day, as we prepared to return to Calabash from Cherry Grove for a seafood dinner, Kim suggested we return to the scene of the crime to locate this mysterious stop sign.

And we did. We approached the intersection from the same direction we had that morning. And, sure enough, there was a four-way stop. However, there was also a dedicated right-hand turn lane in the direction we were headed, and to me, that made a huge difference.

Especially when I saw the three vehicles ahead of me make the right-hand turn without stopping.

"Oh, for crying out loud," I said. "I got stopped for this? Good grief."

OK, OK. Technically, and under the law, I need to come to a complete stop at every stop sign. There's no excuse. But I know me, and I know while I didn't come to a complete stop, I also know I slowed down and checked for opposing traffic, even though I was the only vehicle in sight. I didn't intentionally "run" a stop sign.

Kim smiled. "I didn't know I lived with a lawbreaker," she said. "I don't think I can go to dinner with you."

We laughed. And went to dinner. Conscience clear.

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