Our vicar (priest) search committee went on a road trip last weekend to interview a potential candidate. The five of us piled into my minivan and headed south.
Around hour three, I was chatting with my co-pilot (my teammate Peter, not God; that particular bumper sticker never did much for me) and not paying too much attention to my speed. I was following the speed of traffic and figured I was safe as the last of three cars in the right hand lane.
Sadly, I was mistaken. Too late, I saw the state trooper in the median and quickly glanced down to read the incriminating number on my speedometer. He saw the same thing on his radar and pulled out to follow me and then pull me over.
I decided that the best course of action was a combination of truth, fact, and an emotional appeal. It turns out that (literally) nothing is sacred when it comes to getting out of a ticket.
One of Virginia's finest walked up and requested my license and registration.
"Certainly, officer," I replied, handing him my registration paper. "I'd also like to make sure you have all the necessary information to make your decision."
I put on my most honest face and prepared to go deep.
"We are a church committee on our way to interview a priest, so really, we are on our way to do God's work."
"Take a look," I said, waving my hand at my passengers.
The trooper peeked in. The nervous passengers sat up straight, with wide eyes and frozen smiles. One teammate stood stock still as he held up his Search binder with a prayer on the cover.
"That's it, Joe!" I said, "Show him the prayer book!"
The trooper appraised the group and the prayer book, then raised his eyebrow at me with a quizzical look. I sensed what could have been a glimpse of amusement underneath the gruff exterior, so I kept on.
"Here's my driver's license," I said, pulling out my wallet. "Also, here are photos of my kids. Here's my sweet little girl. Boy, I would hate to go home to her and have to explain that mommy is an outlaw."
"Right," the trooper replied. "And how would you afford their school uniforms?"
"Exactly!" I agreed, like he had just read
my mind. "I can't do that if I need to pay for a ticket."
I thought things were looking up, only to have my hopes quickly dashed.
"Unfortunately, we have a zero tolerance rule in effect in the state of Virginia," he said sternly. "Last week ten people were killed in Virginia due to driving like this."
"Also," he went on, "you should know that twenty over the speed limit qualifies as reckless driving."
"I wasn't doing eighty, was I???" I asked, clearly affronted and appalled.
"No," he said, but the guy in front of you was doing 76 and you were going faster than he was."
I decided that my only hope was to apologize and promise to mend my evil ways.
"I'm sorry about that, officer. I wasn't really paying attention to my speed and my consience was clear since I was dring the speed of traffic in the right-hand lane. I'm normally a very safe driver. I haven't had a ticket since 1995."
"You are doing the right thing by writing tickets," I continued, "and it's important work, but if you could give me a warning just this time, I promise I won't speed the rest of the way.
He sized me up, and I sensed that my fate could go either way.
"And did I mention that that 1995 ticket was the only one I've ever gotten?"
He had heard enough, and turned to walk back to his car. Before he walked away he paused and asked whether in my spare time I was a used car salesman. As he ran my plates I hoped desperately that he meant that as a complement.
When he returned he said he was letting me off with a warning, just because a pleaded a good case. He made me promise to slow down for the rest of the trip.
"Yes, sir," I vowed. "I absolutly will!"
"And remember," he said sternly, pointing skyward. "You're not just promising me." With that, and just a shadow of a smile, he walked away.