The state trooper walked so slowly up to my driver’s side window, it had to have been deliberate. Either that, or he was trying to mimic what he’d seen in all those Looney Tunes cartoons he’d watched as a boy.
The only sounds were those of July cicadas, one other passing car, and the trooper’s boots munching on gravel as if it were potato chips. The gravel had a clean look, and must have just recently been laid over the red clay by road workers along the shoulder of that country highway’s blacktop ribbon.
“What brings you to Georgia?” he asked, after an illuminating discussion about how fast I’d been going. Having noted my Florida plates, followed by my New York driver’s license, this was naturally his next question. He didn’t sound much like Mel Blanc. Kind of looked like him though.
I must have sounded a mite confusing in my long-winded answering of that simple question, as I tried to explain how my uncle had passed away, and that my father had left me my uncle’s car, and how I’d flown to Florida to pick it up, and now I was driving it back to New York, and I had decided to stop and visit my grandfather on the way.
“Who’s yer grandpa?” He asked this question in such a way that made it clear he wouldn’t give me a ticket if he knew who my grandfather was. So I told him who my grandfather was, and the name of the road he lived on.
The trooper took the rim of his hat stiffly between thumb and forefinger, adjusting it while I held my breath. He ten-mile stared down the road from behind his aviator sunglasses for a long slow southern moment, back in the direction of Moultrie. You had to watch closely to see him shake his head no.
“Welp”, he said, “sit tight. I’ll be right back.”
That money has long since been paid to the state of Georgia, but it’s still funny to think back on how – all the while I was pulled over and waiting for him to look me up, write the ticket, and have a conversation – a fat black film canister containing no less than nineteen joints lay beneath the driver’s seat, its existence (and, more important, its whereabouts) unbeknownst to me until two days later when I stopped at a Virginia gas station to write something down, and dropped my pen down the crack between the seat and the center console.
In hindsight I reckon this makes him the coyote, and me the road runner.
But you know how it is, sitting on piles of undiscovered treasure, or sometimes potential hornet’s nests, that – for long stretches of time – you never even know are there. You just carry on, keep going, twenty miles over the speed limit.
Some days you forget to check your rear-view mirror, some days you look back a little more often, and still other days you catch yourself staring. But always you hope, against hope itself, that one day you might learn to use your head for something besides a hat rack.
Of course, let’s not be so eager to smile about it that we forget this crucial point: I wouldn’t have had to part with one red cent, had Georgia law enforcement been acquainted with my grandfather. That trooper would’ve smiled, tipped his hat, clapped his hand twice against the roof of the car, and said “Well, you have yourself a nice day.”