Friday, April 11, 2008

A View From Inside the Back of a Police Car: Michelle's Road Adventures Continue

It's usually not good to start a road trip on only 4 hours of sleep--especially if it's the 5th nigtht in a row of only 4 hours of sleep. The last time I only had four hours of sleep before a road trip, I pumped diesel instead of gas into my Toyota Camry, which my family will not let me live down. It's about a month after the diesel experience, so it would only be fitting that today would give me fodder for yet another humourous story.

I spoke at Varsity Lakes Middle School today for their "Extra, Extra Read All About It!" event designed to encourage kids to read. It's about 43.28 miles away from my house (MapQuest is the greatest invention known to man!!!), and I woke up at 6:30 to complete my Final Cut in Movies news updates. I made the drive without coffee, following MapQuest exactly, and I turned down a road with a big sign that said Varsity Lakes Middle School.

The problem? Two other buildings are on that road--unmarked. One is a library, which looks like a small school, and the other is a high school. I got a little nervous because I couldn't tell if the library was Varsity Lakes Middle School or the high school was Varsity Lakes Middle School, but middle schools don't have Tennis teams, so I was thinking of turning around and heading back to the library buildings. As I turned my head, looking for signs, my car veered--ever so slightly--to the edge of the road...

...which happened to be the only edge of asphalt on the entire street with a pothole. My tire fell off the road, and the sharp edges of the pothole ripped a 2-by-4 inch hole into the tire. (I'm not making it up!)

The air left my tire immediately. I'm told I'm lucky I wasn't driving fast.

I pulled over and called the school. The receptionist first told me that there were no other buildings on the road until I described one to her and she said, "Oh, that's the high school." Then, she told me I was about quarter-of-a-mile away from Varsity Lakes Middle School. (Do I need to go further, or have I made my point about Lee County signage?) I grabbed a copy of A Prophecy Forgotten and some pamplets out of the car and proceeded to walk toward Varsity Lakes. Of course, they didn't have a sidewalk, so my heels were sinking into the sand that we Floridians pretend is dirt. It was probably a very funny picture, come to think about it.

Before I go on, please understand two things. First, I'm a goal-oriented individual. If I really want to get something done, I don't let much stop me. Second, getting somewhere on time is very important to me. It's professional, it shows the person you are meeting that you care about his/her schedule, and it's just the right thing to do. As I was walking, I began to worry about getting to the school on time. Now that we are all on the same page, what I did next will not seem so insanely stupid.

A random truck driving away from the school stopped next to me, and the driver asked if I needed a ride. Please understand, he was clean cut and the truck was brand new (I think it was a Ford 350 or something like that) and spotless. So I did what any respectable author on a schedule would do. I said yes and hopped in.

(I know. I know. Twice in a week now, I've put myself in an incredibly dangerous situation. I know. If any teenage young ladies are reading this, don't ever get into the car of a complete stranger. It's insanely stupid.)

The nice man dropped me off in front of the office, and I arrived on time. (Yay!) I spoke to the kids and managed to make it so I didn't have to read from my book (you know how nervous I was about that). Then I returned to the Media Center where I met the school's deputy named Andrew Penny (I hope I got that right). (We actually met before the event, but I didn't have time to go into that in the blog.) Officer Penny just happens to be a science fiction/fantasy fan, and we had some great conversations about how the 300 actually wore armor and other really cool things. He volunteered to help me change my tire, and he said he'd drive me to my car.

My mystery-genre-loving heart skipped a beat. My moment had arrived. I had, in my hands, the chance to fulfill the dream of every author who has ever wanted to write adventure or detective stories.

"Can I sit in the back of the car????" I asked. (I have a lot of weird things that I really want to do. For instance, I want Roger Clemons hit me in the ribs with one of his fastballs, just to see what it would feel like, but I don't think he'd go for it. It's because I believe Major League Baseball should let pitchers retaliate, but I want to know what it feels like before I--never mind the baseball tangent. On with the story.)

Officer Penny said yes, and I got to ride in the back of the police car! (I'm easily entertained.) During the ride, the poor guy had to endure all of my questions:

  • "What's the plexiglass in front of your head for?"
  • "Is it bullet proof?"
  • "What happened to the seat belts?"
  • "So have you ever done a 'brake test'?"
  • "If the car falls in the river, I can't get out, can I?"

I also tried shaking all the bars to see if I could get out (I couldn't.), and I pretended I was in handcuffs to see if I could flip my arms under my legs and bring my hands forward. (I couldn't.) Come to think of it, the deputy probably wished he had a hyperactive 7-year-old named Tommy in the back seat instead of me high on two cups of coffee...

Another deputy, a sergeant, arrived as Officer Penny was starting to change my tire, and I started asking him questions.

  • "What sidearm do you use?"
  • "Why do you have a shotgun in the back of your car?"
  • "Would you rather use a shotgun or your sidearm?" (A stupid question. The shotgun, but I wanted confirmation.)
  • "What's the hardest thing about being a cop?"
  • "Can I go an hour on this tire once it's on?"

When I got back to Naples, my husband met me at Sears so they could put four new tires on the car. (Two of them were almost bald--I have no idea how I made it alive to Alabama and back.) So there you have it. Michelle's costly mistake for this month *sigh* --except that the car needed new tires, so it was kind of okay.

I would like to give special thanks to:

  • the nice guy who took me to the school and introduced himself but I forgot his name because I was kind of nervous
  • Officer Andrew Penny, who changed my tire so I didn't have to call AAA. And who let me ride in the back of his cop car!

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