You think you know what it’s like to be pulled over by a Georgia State Trooper? With New York plates? You have no idea.
We had crossed the Georgia border about four minutes earlier. The flashing lights in my rearview were so aggressively redblue-redblue-redblue-redblue that they would have prompted an epileptic fit if I were given to seizures. Which I was about to. Seize, I mean.
I pulled our new, bright red Kia Soul to the side of Interstate 95, and looked into the rearview. This time I noticed more than the lights. I saw a large car with ominous bars in front of a chillingly grinning grill. I saw the metallic face of an automotive carnivore, ready to devour a New Yorker’s life.
Had I been speeding? Impossible. It had been a decade and a half since my wife and I had bought a new car. I generally drive a ‘97 Volvo that shudders from side to side when it goes over 58 miles per hour; I hadn’t figured that a Kia shaped like a toaster could actually go 75.
Apparently it could.
I looked in the rearview to see the archetypal central-casting Southern trooper. Big, wide-brimmed hat, and protuberant belly., beneath which were a belt with all sorts of ordnance: the Swiss Army knife of trooper belts.
I was surprisingly cool, since I couldn’t remember the last time I’d gotten a ticket — at least a decade — so, what the hell. Pulled out the license, rolled down the window, looked up, and, i swear, flashed on James Dickey playing the suspicious trooper in Deliverance.
“Awful far from New York, arentcha?”
“I guess we are,” I said, humbly, meekly. I tried to look as little as possible like someone who was Jewish because while I myself am not Jewish, although I’ve always wished I were, I am frequently told that I look Jewish, and I had this idea that people in Georgia, who generally aren’t Jewish, judging by the number of churches which seem to outweigh the number of actual homes in the state by 2-to-1, are not particularly fond of having Jewish people in the rural areas of the Peach State.
“What’s yer destination?”
I mentioned an old fishing village down on the southern coast of Georgia, where we’d rented a cottage for Christmas week. Charming, unknown little town with a nice coffee shop, a nice wine store and marshland full of birds.
“I know Darien, he said. “Great place. Where you from in New York?”
“Dutchess County,” I said. “North of the city.”
“I know where it is,” he said.
“How?” I said. By now he’d lightened up, and we were just having a conversation, which I was intent on extending before we got to the heavy stuff.
“I was a marine,” he said. “Spent a lot of time in New York.”
“My dad was a marine,” I said.
“Yeah?” He was looking at my license now. “You know you were goin ‘75?”
“No, I didn’t,” I said. “We just got this car, and it kind of drives itself.”
Now he actually smiled. “I think it probably needed some help from your foot on that pedal.”
I have no idea why I had to stretch the boundaries here, but he seemed to be encouraging me. “No,” I said. “You haven’t heard about these new cars? They actually do drive themselves.”
At this he looked at me and laughed. “Now, that’s one I haven’t heard.”
I was about to ask my wife to get the registration and insurance card, but he cut me off, and handed me back my license. “Have a good time in Darien,” he said, “and slow down.” Then he walked back to his car and drove away.
We’ve decided to return to Georgia next Christmas.