Image by aphasiafilms
The year before this photo was taken, Ted and I were driving through Virginia on the way to Austin, Texas. It was about 10 or so hours into the nearly 30 hour drive. We kept seeing these empty blue signs along the highway (waiting to be filled with promise of gas stations and rest areas…) and thought it would be cool to photograph one, but could never slow down enough to snap them in time.
A little past Christiansburg, I had to take a whiz real bad. I hadn’t seen a place to go in a while, and didn’t know when the next rest area or gas station would be. Not to mention it was around 11 pm – who knew what would be open. I’m not a very good just-hold-it-in guy. I especially hate driving when agitated like that, because if you know you’ve got to go, you should go, in case you get stuck in traffic on a bridge (has happened to me plenty of times) or need to focus because of the weather or something. And I really had to pee. My legs were shaking. I was trying to scratch an itch on my shoulder with my ear. My hands tapped the steering wheel uncontrollably and I couldn’t grasp it any longer, much less clench my fists. Where was the next rest area? We hadn’t seen one in so long! And then I saw the damn sign – the empty blue sign, with no rest area and no gas station. That was all I could take. So I did what my parents always did when I was young and couldn’t hold it any longer… I pulled the car over, hit the hazards, hopped out and relieved myself. Ted did the same.
Not 40 seconds after getting out of the car and makin’ rainbows do we hear sirens and see lights.
We were getting pulled over… sort of.
I walk over to the cop, all friendly like, take off my cowboy hat (bein’ the respectful well mannered young man I can sometimes pretend to be), and say "Hi!"
"Are you the driver of this vehicle?"
"I am. Can I help you with something?"
"Sir, could you have a seat in the passenger side of my vehicle please." (This was not a question.)
So, I did, and tried to chat with him, make nice. Told him we were coming down from New York on our way to Texas, just passin’ through, had to stay up all night, so we drank a lot of coffee. I apologized for urinating on the side of the road. He waved it off. So, why did he "pull me over"? If not for my uncouth public urination?
"You’re not allowed to pull over in the break-down lane unless it’s an emergency."
"Well… it kind of was an emergency…"
"You realize that the longer you stay in the break-down lane, the more of a Danger you are to yourself and everyone driving by? You could get plowed right into." I looked back over my shoulder at the steady stream of 80+ mile an hour semi’s flicking by.
"There was a rest area just two miles up the road there."
"Oh… I didn’t know that; see, that sign’s blank."
"Sir there’s another sign posted up just a mile ahead." I was tired of arguing with him. He wanted to nail me for my out of state plates. I couldn’t win this one.
Then a peculiar call came over the radio. "Bzzzt – We have a [police code number - can't remember which one] on a 5 foot 10 gentleman, brown hair, traveling in an SUV, coming from New York, repeat, that’s a [police code number]" Wait a second… I’ve got an SUV… and I’m coming from New York… And I’ve got brown hair… I put my cowboy hat back on.
The cop is suddenly completely still. For like, twenty seconds. Twenty long seconds. I could hear him breathing.
I’m about to say something, make a joke or something, when he slowly starts reaching for the radio. "Uh.. can.. I get a license check on [my license number - spoken very slowly.. with a little twinge in his voice]"
This guy was scared! Scared of ME! AWESOME! It was kind of satisfying to see him quake in fear of me, for whatever evil I may have done to warrant that particular police-code number. Eventually, they radio’d back with an ‘all-clear.’ He gave me my ticket, and I was on my way. Do you know how long I sat there in his car? Twenty minutes. That’s twenty minutes we were a danger to ourselves and anyone else passing by, sitting ducks for someone to plow into us. And the ticket was 30 stupid dollars, with 45 stupid dollar processing fee. He told me he let me off easy – he could have ‘given me points on my license.’
For having to go to the bathroom.
So as it turns out, Ted had tried to take a picture of that blue sign while waiting for me, but his camera battery died (and it’s one of those Kodak digital cam’s that leaves the lense out when the battery dies. What a pain. We drove on, and laughed about it.
Exactly a year later (almost… it was light out this time), on another Austin trip, we drove by the very same spot. Ted slowed down, I leaned out the window and got this shot.
Oh, highway patrol… I had to pee.