Driving Award

About sixty miles outside of Cleveland, Studley and i were singing “Moon Over Parma”*. i was cruising along at a good clip as we made our way to western New York State for a ski weekend with friends.

Cresting a ridge, i saw movement in the lane ahead of me. A man in my lane. Wearing a hat. Motioning me to pull over.

Shit. Johnny Law.

Slowing,  clipping the turn signal, and making a controlled stop on the left shoulder, i flipped on the hazard lights and put the car in park.  Snagged the registration from behind the passenger sun visor**, and quickly dug my driver’s license and insurance card from my wallet.

Zipped down the window, and held all documents in my left hand. Both hands visible on the steering wheel as the state trooper approached my car.

This is how you do a traffic stop.  i have rather extensive experience with this…

John Law: Good Morning. Ma’am, I had you going 81 in a 65 mile per hour zone.

daisyfae: Yeah. Sorry. i was singing…

He went back to write the ticket***, and i swore a little. “Damn. Should have seen him. It’s been a few years since i got a ticket… Probably because i haven’t had a car that doesn’t shake apart at high-speed.”

Had the ticket in hand within about five minutes, and continued on our way.  Cranky, a bit less cash in the wallet, but none the worse for wear.  This triggered a few recollections regarding prior traffic incidents.

Hauling The Girl and three of her pre-teen friends in the back of a station wagon, i was pulled over for speeding.  Since the girls were approaching driving age, i used the ‘teachable moment’ to instruct them in proper technique for traffic stops.  Emphasis on keeping your hands on the wheel, with the car window open, as the officer approaches the car “because you got a guy with a gun jacked up on adrenaline – you don’t want to make him any jumpier than he already is”.

As i pulled the car back onto the road after the stop, Lindsay said “Man, you didn’t even get nervous!  My mom gets tickets all the time and she cries her head off!”

Another lesson:  making excuses is pretty pointless.  Either you’re guilty or you’re not.  Either he’s going to give you the ticket or he won’t.  Trying to explain is pretty lame…

Back in the 90’s, i’d gotten a second speeding ticket within a month of the first – requiring an appearance in traffic court.  Giving myself some time to get oriented, i showed up early to watch the operations and get a feel for the process.

The referee, a tired-looking man, sat at the dias.  The clerk would call out a name, and the violator would stand before the referee.  He would barely look up from the paperwork in front of him and say “You are charged with [Violation X].  How do you plead?”

Without exception, the violator said “No Contest”, or “Guilty, but…”.  The referee would then ask in a deadpan voice “Do you have anything to tell the court?”

“I was rushin’ to pick up my grandbabies so my daughter could get to work on time…”, “This dude had passed me really close, and I was chasing him down to get his license plate number” and on and on and on…

The referee would then declare guilt, levy a fine and move to the next stack of paperwork.

My turn.

Referee:  You are charged with doing 51 in a 40 mile per hour zone.  How do you plead?

daisyfae:  Guilty as hell, Sir.

referee [looking up from stacks of paperwork]:  Do you have anything to tell the court?

daisyfae:  No, Sir.

Referee:  Fined $45.  Suspend court costs.  Next case.

* The opening song from “The Drew Carey Show”. Not as cool as “Cleveland Rocks” used in the first few seasons, but a good car song nonetheless…

** Don’t keep your registration in the glove box.  If the officer sees you digging there, it’s pretty easy for him to request a search of your vehicle if he sees anything he can call “suspicious”.

*** i’m pretty laid back about this.  Heart rate barely goes up when i see the lights.  But i am smart enough to NOT say “Can you write the ticket quick, buddy?  i’m in a hurry…”

Functional Strength: Revised Definition

My week of business travel at a swishy resort ended with a bit of a hairpin curve.  But there are lessons to be extracted from any adventure – good or bad.  i learned a few on Saturday.

My flight was scheduled for 2:00 pm, so i planned a leisurely morning at the gym, poolside brunch, then the short jaunt to the airport.  Up with the sunrise at 6:00 am, i scratched and made a cup of coffee to slurp on the balcony while listening to the crashing surf one last time…

Around 6:30, the lights flickered and went out.  i put on my workout gear and headed down the 18 flights of stairs to the fitness center.  Walking through the lobby?  Quiet chaos as the early-risers tried to check out, corner a bellman for a luggage assist or just bark at the helpless staff.

In the fitness center, the lights flickered occasionally, but i was able to get in a 30 minute session on the elliptical and 30 minutes with weights.  The hotel had back up power – the ellipticals kept working but the poor bastards trying to use the treadmills were periodically lurched onto the carpet when the power quit.  Pretty entertaining… caught myself anticipating the next power glitch just to watch them fly!

Talking with a woman on the adjacent machine i learned there had been a fire in my tower, and that she had been roused from her room by a knock at the door and a request to evacuate the building.  She was in the same tower as me, one floor up.  They must have paid more for their room.  No knock on my door… Bad time for staff to respect a ‘do not disturb’ sign.

Finished up, wandered back through the lobby – where there were now a large number of cranky people assembled.  Free breakfast pastries and orange juice were offered, as none of the restaurants or shops were open.  i snagged a bagel and headed out to the pool. 

After an hour of baking in the morning sun, i munched over potential options for getting my two suitcases down from the 18th floor – while sorting through other potential obstacles for getting to the airport on time. 

It was 10:00 am.  i needed to be checked out and headed to the airport by noon.  Hotel staff had told me that the power should be back on in an hour.  Right.  They had also assured me that i would be able to get bellmen to assist with luggage.  Sure…  “Check is in the mail”, “I’ll respect you in the morning” and “I’m from your government and I’m here to help you”.

Hoofed it up 18 flights of stairs, lit only by glow sticks.  By then, the emergency lights had shriveled.  i encountered a few souls hauling large suitcases down the stairs.  i mentioned to one woman that she might have been able to get assistance, she laughed and said “From what I’ve been told, they’ve all vaporized!”

In my room, i finished packing.  Hauled the first 50 pound suitcase full of scuba gear on a long trek down a dark stairwell.  Good times.  As i got to the ground floor, and attempted to navigate the warren of dark hallways to find the lobby, i took a wrong turn.

Popping around a corner, into a service garage area, i stumbled into a nest of bell staff.  About 15 of them, smoking cigarettes and looking guilty.  They were startled by my arrival, and seemed ready to scatter.  Smoke billowed out of their heads in relief as i turned and wheeled my bag back to the lobby. 

Checked my bag at the desk and headed back up the stairs for my final trip.  On the way up, i heard an awful racket above me.  Stepping into an alcove, i dodged a bellman ‘sledding’ two large bags down the flights of stairs – and realized i was far better off hauling my own gear.  Grabbed my second suitcase, attached a glow stick to the front for better visibility and headed down again.

Other than initial failure to locate my rental car company*, and the masses of “cruise-nozzles” in the airport, the rest of the trip was uneventful. 

Managed the entire morning without panic, or assistance.  Had i not been doing 30 minutes of interval training 6 days a week, and lifting weights since January, i might not have had the strength and stamina to pull this off.  There’s still a long way to go, but this body shall not rot. 

Functional strength** – being able to do whatever is needed, whenever it needs doing.  By yourself.

* If you are ever completely unable to locate your rental car return venue?  My favorite trick – learned while trying to get to an off-off-terminal rental car shack in East LA at 10:00 PM on a Friday night.  Drive through the airport “arrivals” lanes.  Find the right rental car shuttle.  Tail them aggressively – they always go home… Has saved me far too many times.

** Earlier this year, i wrote of my approach to fitness:  Functional Strength.  i have a much better idea of what that means now…