“I’m thankful for serendipitous moments in my life, where things could’ve gone the other way.” —Rick Springfield, Australian musician and actor
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“Rode in a police car?”
That question appearing this week on one of those “Have you ever…” true confessions Facebook games triggered memories of my one up-close and personal experience with the back seat of police car. The simple sentence also caused some cringes with its infractions of grammatical law, but I don’t suppose that carries with it any tickets or trips downtown.
It was only appropriate that the memories would have come up during Thanksgiving week while chatting with a friend about what else? Small things for which we are thankful.
My sad saga started with a hasty exit from New Orleans some years ago after a long weekend in the Crescent City. Certain that I had covered everything needed for a clean getaway, I rolled out of the hotel parking garage and onto the interstate. The error of my ways had yet to dawn on me even as I turned north onto I-49. I didn’t know the jig was up until I saw the lights come on—the lights on the fuel gauge letting me know that I was almost out of gas in the middle of nowhere on a sparsely populated stretch of interstate in south Louisiana with dark approaching.
As I was coming to grips with the foils of my folly, a glimmer of hope appeared in the form of an “exit ahead” sign. That glimmer faded, however, when the car sputtered, missed a couple more times and gave a final heave-ho into silence sending us coasting toward the shoulder.
Lady luck was on my shoulder when the big “mobile phone” I had in the pre cell-phone days found a signal. She prevailed when dialing 911 connected me with a friendly voice asking, “What is your emergency?”
“I’m out of gas in the middle of nowhere on I-49.” I’m betting that response did not fall within the realms of a bonified emergency, but when you’re sitting in a fuel-starved car on an isolated stretch of interstate with the sun setting, all bets are off. Sharing with the friendly voice the location of that exit ahead sign I had just seen, the sign that momentarily offered hope a situation like this would not happen, got me assurance that help was on the way.
Sure enough, a sheriff’s unit soon sailed over the top of the hill traveling at a rate of speed sufficient to lay the long “whip” antennas on the back over approaching an almost horizontal position. Headlights dipped and brake lights came on just before the cruiser disappeared into a gully between the north and south-bound lanes. As fast as it had disappeared, it popped up into the northbound lanes and pulled up behind my car. “Need some gas,” the deputy asked with a smile. “Yes sir,” I replied. “Got a gas can,” he asked. “No sir,” I replied with an appreciative smile. “Truthfully, our having the opportunity to meet like this wasn’t in my original plans.”
“No problem, we’re used to that,” he laughed. He invited me to sit in the back seat for a trip into town during which he once again subjected the antennas to that horizontal position. Peering through the heavy mesh isolating the front seat from the “no way out” back seat that lacked window or door handles, one quick glimpse of the speedometer bouncing well north of 100 was enough information for me. I drew a deep breath, sat back and thought, “So this is what it looks like when being addressed as perpetrator.”
Sailing off at the exit plus a left turn under the interstate found us at a convenience store. “Hey, Doris,” the deputy called out as we entered, “You got an old can of some kind we can put some gas in? And how ‘bout some of that yesterday’s coffee?” Doris pointed to the back with a scowl, no doubt her thoughts regarding his coffee reviews. Makeshift gas can in hand and hi-test coffee in Styrofoam cups, we were back on I-49 south taking one more shot at that Louisiana land speed record.
My car fueled up and running again, I thanked the deputy profusely and tendered a donation to the parish sheriff’s office which he politely declined. He also dropped all charges associated with ignoring the gas gauge and wished me a safe trip home.
Hoping to ensure a safe trip myself, I saved the hi-octane, day-old, south Louisiana coffee for fuel just in case I ran out again. Only one time to say that I “rode in a police car,” grammatically correct not, is one small thing for which I am truly thankful.
We know the big things for which we are thankful every day, but I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday this week, and that we all found a few small things on our “To Be Thankful For …” list.
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