Monday, March 10, 2014

How I made a State Trooper MAD, and walked away smiling!

How I made a State Trooper Mad! A true story from my past.
This is a true story about a Young Sailor's first speeding tickets from a Trooper in Virginia. Why he got the tickets and the hilarious way it all happened.
This weekend actually happened to me while I was in the Navy, and my ship was in port in Portsmouth Virginia. I really did get two tickets in one weekend. I really did get them from the same State Trooper at the same place on a lonely Virginia highway. And, sad to say, it all happened, just like in the story.
A Long, Long ago, in a land far, far away ......... (Well, not that far away or that long, really.)
Almost everyone I know has had an encounter with a Police Officer at one time or another, either something minor such as a parking ticket, or maybe some other more serious offense, but it is almost inevitable to have to pay a fine for something in their lifetime.
And, I hope that they were all pretty common and mundane experiences, other than the fine itself, maybe.
My story is not one of some major offense involving death, injuries, or any such serious problem. Rather it's about a couple of simple speeding tickets that I got on a summer weekend in 1967.
At the time, I was in the Navy, and my ship, the USS America, was in Drydock in Portsmouth, Virginia. (FYI, when a ship, especially one as big as an Aircraft Carrier is put into DryDock, it is a costly and time consuming decision and it usually ends up being a relatively long time to make major repairs.)
Most of the work is performed by specialized contractors and while my ship was in Drydock, these contractors did not normally work on weekends. This left we crew members working the same hours off and we also had weekends off. 
Oh Yeah, I’m originally from Lynchburg Virginia, and back then I had a car, a "Baby Blue" 1963 Oldsmobile F85. It was a 4-door sedan and it had a small block V8 engine. It has turned out that is was one of the best cars I have ever owned.
And,just for perspective, if I remember right, my car payments were something like $26.50 a month. Those were the days, Huh?
Anyway, because we were in DryDock and I owned a car, I tried to go home to Lynchburg whenever I had off. The drive itself was only three to three and a half hours, depending on traffic as well as how fast you drove.
Now, for you non-military souls, when you are on board ship, they wouldn't call for liberty to start on a Friday afternoon until right at 4:00PM. It all depended on the OOD (Officer Of the Day, in Navy jargon).
The big problem was that the USS America was a "Flag Ship". This meant that we had an Admiral on board. And this forced us, the crew, to suffer through a lot of BS from the officers on board, including a policy of strict enforcement of all rules, many of which would normally be relaxed a little on another ship.
For example, we were tied up next to a Destroyer (a Tin Can) at one point in time, the year before, and while we had to wait until precisely 4:00 PM, most of the crew on that Tin Can were gone on liberty by around 1 to 2 PM, at the latest, every day.
And while they wore the worst looking dungarees (what we called looking Salty) while working on their ship, we on the America, took the chance of being written up by almost any gung-ho officer that might see us wearing work pants or shirts with a slight tear in them, or god forbid a stain.
There was a big difference in the standards on a Flag ship and just any other ship in the fleet.
Anyway, back to my story.
Here was the situation for me. If I left at precisely 4:00PM and walked the 15-minutes to the gate and then the 10- minutes to the parking lot where my car was stored, I could get on the road and out of the Portsmouth city traffic, at the earliest, by 5:00PM.
That meant that if I cranked it up, and ran just a little over the speed limit, I would get to Lynchburg, at the earliest by 8:00 - 8:15 PM. Then, I had to take a shower, and put on my "Civvies" (civilian clothes) before I could go across town and pick up my date.
And by the way, one of my early lessons about women was at this time. The lesson was that girls don't mind being late themselves, but they develop a real attitude if you show up late to pick them up. A Hormone thing or something, I don't know.
Being a young Sailor, I would party all weekend, of course, and then leave my Mom's house around 2:00AM to 3:00AM to arrive at my ship just an hour or so before liberty was over. And liberty was over at 7:00AM, no later.
Well, I had been making this trip for a couple of months when my unexpected adventure happened.
It was a beautiful Friday and I had a hot date in the 'burg. I was in line to get off of the ship at 4:00PM, and just as I saluted the OOD, he stopped me in my tracks with;
"Hold on Sailor! You don't really expect to leave this ship representing the United States Navy with that cover on your head do you?"
I was stunned!
I was speechless!
And thinking; What the heck was wrong with my hat, I responded with the obligatory;
No Sir! Of course not, Sir!
The OOD smiled and said; Then get below decks and put on a Cover that's not frayed, sailor. Then, you might get to go on Liberty.
With an obligatory; Yes Sir! I snapped to and headed below decks to my compartment to search for another hat. I removed my hat as I went into the ship, and took a close look at it. I could see one tiny place on the left edge with an ever so slightly frayed area.
Remembering the OOD, I thought to myself; What a Prick!
But, an enlisted man will never win against an officer, so I reached in and pulled out my best and newest hat. It was the one I reserved for inspections, so it was plain and a pure white without the slightest blemish.
I returned to the gangway, and got into a line of several hundred other sailors who were also going on liberty, and finally I made it to the head of the line, saluted the prick OOD, who, I swear, had a smirk on his face, as he returned my salute.
Of course, by this time, I had lost a full thirty minutes off of my already tight schedule. And I was definitely going to be late for my date. But, after a hard jog across the Base, I was in my car, leaving the Portsmouth area, and heading onto the highway.
A quick glance at my watch and I decided to kick it up and make up some of the lost time, deciding that I would just take my chances with the law, if I was caught speeding.
As luck would have it, when you decide to tempt fate, I was driving into the setting sun, speeding like a bat out of hell, of course, when I passed a State Trooper on the side of the road.
A Speed Trap!
And I had missed it, with the sun shining directly into my face.
Knowing my fate, I just pulled on over, onto the shoulder of the road, before the Trooper even had time to get onto the highway and turn his lights on.
Accepting defeat, I waited patiently for the Trooper to pull up behind me. He finally did and then he sat there for a few minutes, writing something on his clipboard while I sat string at my watch..
Finally, he got out of the car, and clipboard, in hand, he walked over to my side window, bent over and spoke. He said; with a bored smirk on his face "Navy Huh? I was in the Army, myself."
Then, still frowning down at me, he went on with; Sailor do you know how fast you were driving?
And before I could answer, he continued with; You were driving 16 miles per hour over the speed limit. Do you know how dangerous that is? Do You, son?
I looked up slowly at him and it was obvious that he was mad. Really Mad! And at me.
His face was all red and covered in sweat as his voice kept getting higher in pitch, while he went on with his tirade which essentially implied that speeders were the dregs of the Earth and the cause of pretty much every thing bad in America.
All I could think was; This is not going good for me!
While I was trying to keep from either laughing at his outrage or at least reaching out and taking his clipboard away from him, just get him to stop, he answered for me.
Of course you don't know. And you probably don't give a damn either. Well, I am going to give you a ticket for speeding, and I hope your Captain throws the book at you, when they tell him that you broke the law. That's what I hope happens to you. Then maybe you will learn a lesson from this.
God knows that I write enough tickets to you cocky sailors and marines on this road, every day.
His eyes rolled back in his head and he went on;
You know, you just sit there while I do the paperwork, then I'll figure out what to do with you.
Then he stomped back to his car with his handy clipboard in one hand and my drivers license in the other.
About ten minutes later he returned, and obviously calmer, he returned my license to me along with a pink carbon copy of a speeding ticket. While I stared at the ticket he fell into what was, an obviously, often repeated, list of the required instructions for a speeder.
Basically, it was a long litany of legal-speak that included instructions that; I could go to court and pay, or I could mail in my fine and not have to go to court at all.
I thanked the Trooper, as he walked away, and after he pulled away, I pulled slowly onto the road, with my new ticket in my hand.
Needless to say, I drove the rest of the trip to my home at a speed slightly below the speed of light, that I had been trying to reach before I got my new ticket.
The only thing that saved me with my girlfriend was the fact that I did stop at the next gas station, call her and tell her my sad story about the Trooper and my ticket.
I finally got to her house, and we went out for a late, a very late dinner, and the rest of the weekend went without incident.
That is until Sunday afternoon.
Normally, I would have spent the afternoon and evening with my girlfriend, but she had to work, so I was at home, and after dinner, I told my Mom that I was going to take a short nap, before hitting the road.
Of course, fate stepped in again, so I wake up at 2:00 a.m.
Nothing was packed, nothing was loaded into the car, and I needed a shower.
I jumped up and after about fifteen frantic minutes, I was in my car and on the road.
Quickly doing the math in my head, as I headed back to the Ship, it was obvious that I was going to be checking in late, if I didn't crank it up
So, feeling lucky, against all common sense, I did just that, I put the Pedal to the Metal.
Everything was going well, and in short order, I was heading through the Low Country of Virginia, in the same county where I had gotten my ticket, just 2 days before.
I had really turned it on, and I had made up enough time that, if I was very lucky, I would get to the ship with about thirty minutes to spare. So, I relaxed a little, but I didn't slow down. I just kept on driving fast, at the same time, something at the back of my head told me I was tempting fate.
And, as Luck would have it, not five minutes later, as I rounded a slow turn in the highway, I looked in my mirror and saw those Red and Blue lights flashing.
Yep, I had been caught speeding ..... Again!
Even though the police car was far behind me, I knew who the lights were for,!
So, I eased over onto the shoulder of the road, ready for my punishment. The Trooper pulled behind me, and sat there for a couple of minutes, just staring at my car, putting on his Smokey the Bear hat and gathering his clipboard and paperwork.
As Yogi Berra famously said; It was Deja Vu, all over again!
And then this is where I broke out into a serious sweat. I couldn't believe my bad luck! I could see that this was the same officer as the one who given me my other ticket on Friday.
Looking around, it was even worse than I imagined, because directly across the highway was the site where I had been pulled over to get my other ticket.
Yep, same place, and even though it was night, there was a full moon and I could recognize the lack of trees on one side of the road, the field on the other side, and the barn on the edge of the field.
I was definitely in some kind of serious, trouble.
I girded myself for the worst, as the Trooper walked up to my car and shining his flashlight into my face, politely asked for my license.
A micro-second after he took the license, I heard a too familiar voice speak as it started shaking and rising in pitch;
It's You! ..... Again!
Is this some type of game you are playing on me!
Are you crazy?
Didn't I just give you a ticket on Friday?
And right here on the same strip of road?
With his voice getting even higher in pitch, even in the moonlight, I could also see that his face had turned a very unhealthy shade of bright red.
Before I could even attempt to respond, he took a deep breath and lit off on me again.
With spittle flashing from his mouth in the glare of passing headlights, and both arms waving wildly, he yelled;
Get out of that car, Sailor!
No ..... You sit right there!
No .........Wait!
You wait right there! Dammit!
He almost ran back, towards his patrol car, and then he suddenly stopped, with his boots sliding a little on the roadside gravel. He pivoted, and stomped back to my car, and a little more under control this time, he said;
You stay in that Car and you follow me. I am taking you over to the J.P.
You need to be taught a lesson, boy, and I am going to see that it happens.
Follow me closely, and you had better stay right on my butt, cause if I think you're trying to run, I will see that you regret it. Do You understand me?
Well, I gave him about a hundred Yes Sir's as he stomped back to his car, and I carefully followed him down the highway for about three miles, where he pulled into a highway weigh station.
I was so nervous that I just sat there, shaking a little myself, to be honest, and waited. The officer did his police stuff with his clipboard, for a couple of minutes, and then he got out of his vehicle and came over to me, and said;
Shut that car down, get out slowly, lock it and hand me your keys, Boy!
Which I promptly did.
Then he surprised me.
When I handed him my keys, he grabbed my wrist, twisted me around and roughly ordered me to place my hands onto the top of my car.
He then proceeded to handcuff me.
And as he pushed me towards the building entrance, I though to myself;
Yep! Don, you have definitely gotten yourself into a mess this time.
 I was led into the building and then down a poorly lit hallway, to a small room.
Looking around, I noticed that it was laid out with a wide wooden table at one end and a very nice high-backed leather office chair behind the table. On each side of the chair was a US flag and another flag with the Seal of Virginia on it.
In front of the table, about six feet away were two rows of old wooden chairs, facing the table.
Damn! I was in a courtroom!
My mind ran wild with images from old movies!
I even pictured myself working on a chain gang, with a shovel and singing old songs of suffering along with my fellow criminals. My life was over!
The angry Trooper pushed me down into one of the chairs, and told me to sit there and not move until he got back. This was, of course followed by some very scary warnings about what was going to happen to me if I even stood up, much less tried to escape.
Duly chastised, I sat there, with my head tucked down, as he left the room.
He went through a door behind the table, and partially closed it. Then he started talking to another man, who I later found out was the local Justice of the Peace.
It sees that this whole weigh station and courtroom setup was designed to quickly and, as officially as possible, catch a combination of; Truckers with overweight loads, and unsuspecting speeders heading toward the Norfolk/Portsmouth area.
And once caught, the next step was to process as much money as possible from the offenders in as short a period of time as possible.
It was an official, legal, and well organized, small town highway Speed Trap. And everything there, including the official looking courtroom, was designed to impress the offender into relinquishing their money efficiently.
Where parts, or even all, of this money went can only be speculated on.
Anyway, then two of them started talking, and soon it was obvious that the trooper wanted to do some things to me that were scaring even the JP. Here are some snippets of what I heard;
Bill, You can't do that!
Bill, Calm Down!
Bill, he's just a kid who was speeding! He' s not a criminal!
Bill, he' s in the military. You can' t do that kind of thing to someone in the service.
Then I heard Bill respond, in a shaking voice;
I don't give a damn what he is, I want him in Jail! No, I want him under the Jail!
In my 22 years as a Trooper, I have never run into anyone with such a blatant disregard for the Law. And, by God, I want him punished!
There was a loud bang, like a chair being turned over, and then the J.P., again;
Dammit, Bill, Sit your Ass down, and listen to me.
Here is what you are going to do, or I will throw you in jail.
You old fool, get yourself under control.
First, you are going to sit here and calm down before you have a heart attack. Remember, you've had one already, and your doctor has warned you about losing control of that temper of yours.
Then, you are going in there, and take those handcuffs off of that poor boy.
And, Bill, listen to me now. You are going to take them off of him, calmly and with a nice friendly smile on your face.
Then, you are going to go over and stand by my chair.
And you can wait there, for me, and you can look as official as you want, but I do not want you to say a word to that young man, while you are waiting.
 I'm serious, Bill. You have gone too far with this thing, and I have to salvage the situation as best I can.
You fool, don't you realize that we can end up with the US Navy, FBI, or God knows who else, up here investigating us, if this Sailor decides to complain when he gets back to his Ship.
Arresting and handcuffing a Sailor? Damn, Bill!
Then it got real quiet for several minutes, and finally, out walks Bill. With a bright red face, and sweet streaming down his brow, He walked out, with the phoniest smile on his face that I think I have ever seen.
He walked over and motioned for me to stand up and turn around, which I quickly did.
He removed my handcuffs, and then motioned me back at my chair, so I sat down.
At this point, I'm thinking to myself that I might possibly survive this strange ordeal, after all, if I just follow the script that I had heard behind that door.
Bill just stood there, his face slowly turned a more natural color, and then the J.P. came into the room and sat down at the table.
He looked at me, and then over at Bill, and then said;
Young man, this is not a Court of Law. I am a Justice of the Peace, and I have the authority, under the Laws of the State of Virginia, to levy fines, write writs, summons', warrants and such, if I deem necessary.
I am here, at this time, to do such, with people who have broken the laws of our great State.
I am working here at this weigh station, tonight, because of it's convenience to a section of the highway where we have been experiencing an inordinate number of people who think it is OK to break our laws by speeding and others who think it is OK to carry loads on their trucks that are over the legal limit.
You, young man, have been caught speeding, and I must write you up for this, and fine you.
Now, I understand from the officer here that you were also caught speeding, by him, on Friday, for the same offense.
The officer was rightfully distressed over your contempt for the laws of our state. But, in reality, and legally, because this previous offense is not recorded in our states records, as of yet, I am legally obligated to ignore this other offense, and treat you differently than you should be, as a multiple offender.
 With this in mind, first, I apologize for my friends loss of control of his temper. That done, I hereby fine you $80 for your offense.
Do you have the money?
I quickly responded that I did, and he told me to walk up and pay the fine.
I pulled out most of the remainder of my months pay from my wallet, and handed to the J.P. As he took the money and placed it into a small metal box, he said;
Son, the State of Virginia will eventually get your other transgressions into their system, and they will be taking your drivers license, for at least three months.
So, you didn't get away with anything here tonight.
And, when it does, just remember, whenever you drive through our great state, that you now have a record, and it will be there for consideration if you ever break the law again.
Then he lowered his voice, leaned over close to my ear, whispering;
I will deny I ever said this to you, but in this county, you are persona non grata. Drive through here in the future at your own risk, Boy. Bill here is a good man, and he didn't need to have to deal with some young punk like you, tonight or any other time.
Then he straightened up, banged a gavel on the table and spouted off several official sounding sentences about the state, the law, and then "session adjourned".
I turned to get out of there, and took several steps when I had to stop suddenly.
I really didn't t know how to handle the situation, but ..........
You see .......... Trooper Bill had my car keys.
I thought for a moment, and then I decided to just jump in.
I looked over and Bill and the J.P. were just standing there, talking to each other, when I said;
Sorry gentlemen, but could I please have my car keys?
Well, I made it back to my ship that morning, late, but all I got was a warning from a more kindly OOD. And we pulled out to sea two weeks later, for Sea Trials in the Caribbean.
This lasted for several months, and when I got back, and eventually went back to my home in Lynchburg, Mom had a letter for me from the State of Virginia.
As predicted, the state had removed my privilege to drive for three months, and looking at a calendar, I started laughing. I only had three more weeks before I could get permission to drive again. I had been at Sea for most of my penalty period.
It had cost me some money and I had learned a few lessons, but, from my perspective as a young single sailor with a car and no real cares, I had come out of this whole situation pretty good.
Oh Yeah, when I asked for the keys? Old Trooper Bill totally lost it. He lunged at me while going into a high pitched rant that was so distorted that whatever he was saying, neither the J.P. nor I could understand him.
I did catch some words like; Punk, SOB, Chain Gang, Shooting, and such, but I just stood there , with a smile on my face while the J.P. wrestled my car keys from Bill, threw them to me, and ordered me to leave the building, the county and the state, immediately.
I wonder if it was the Smile?


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