Suddenly Shannon dived across the driving wheel, grabbing the switch for the Explorer’s high beams. The oncoming Lincoln Towncar and its senior pilot, soaring down the highway nearly ten miles below the speed limit, were well-warned of the speed trap on the far side of the reservoir. My brother seemed pleased with his stealth attack — despite the fact that I nearly lost control of the car. He had won. I had lost.
“We’re thirty feet from the cop car, dude,” I screamed. “A red and blue flashing atop hill, visible for half-a-mile. Why flash my own lights? It’s like pointing out the obvious.”
“You’re missing the point, Murph. Flashing your high beams not only warns your fellow drivers about the oncoming speed traps. It’s a shibboleth, an open testament to these most sacred vows of the rogue road warrior: protection and fellowship among the commuting public and their never-ending war against the insidious Fuzz. Alone we are small, but together, banded as brothers, we are legion.”
“Impressive, huh? Who knew I could be all poetic and shit.”
“Who knew you could use ‘shibboleth’ in a complete sentence.”
“Kev had a vocab quiz last week,” he smiled proudly. “Picked up a few additions to the ol’ lexicon. Been lavishing my online COD matches with copious chatter, ample parts inane and astute, to mark me as a neophyte with some fetish for pedantry. I allow the noob abecedarians their discomfiture just before pwnage, depositing the whole of my clip into their upper colons. Abject ignominy, beyotch!”
Shannon is a modern-day incarnation of a Viking berserker, genetically mismatched with the will of a Spartan and the DNA of a velociraptor. He often incites battles over the most inconsequential topics: contending for half-a-day that ‘stroking a cat’ was synonymous with ‘petting a cat,’ and lately wasting half-an-hour before dinner arguing about whether in fact we were in the midst of an argument. Last Saturday a two-hour car ride evolved into a discourse on the world’s most neurotic cereal icon (Trix rabbit for the win). As Katie pointedly asserts, “the boy has issues.”
Nevertheless, the boy has a point with this whole commuter thing. Despite the well-worded accusations earlier, I often do warn on-coming traffic of impending speed traps. If anything it’s a sign of unity; regardless of race, religion, or registration, we’re willing to help each other out . . . most of the time. Like a modern despot, I’m choosy in who I save and who I throw to the lions, as it were. Muscle cars and motocross bikers buzzing our side mirrors, weaving on one wheel in and out of traffic: May God have mercy on your souls. Because the rest of us won’t.
Yet wielding this power is not without its risks.
As Murphy reminds us: “No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.”
A former boyfriend of Katie’s had once received a hefty fine for accidentally alerting an oncoming patrol car of his brothers lying in wait a mile down the road. The stupid git actually aggravated the situation by yelling at the cop. “I am well within my rights,” he admitted, “to warn other cars of your presence.” The cop translation: “I will actively hinder the cessation of criminal activity.”
Nick. That guy was a goober.
If you can’t stand to lose, don’t play the game. After all, most drivers routinely exceed the suggested speed limit by at least five or ten miles per hour. Fifty feet from our homes or office, we’re already wanted criminals. Guilt and fear compel us to flash our lights at one another, buy expensive radar detectors, or dangle CDs from the rear-view mirror to stymie radar guns. On one of our road trips, Dasad once warned me to never isolate myself in the fast lane: “Always keep a car or two behind you, dude. You’ll never get pulled over if you keep a healthy buffer.” (This is in fact true. Much like zebras, squad cars have difficulty focusing on a single target when their prey travels in herds.).
Again Murphy’s Law: The buddy system is essential to your survival; it gives the enemy somebody else to shoot at.
Yet in most cases, good instincts and the proper demeanor will suffice. There’s no need to cheat. Sure, I appreciate the warnings, the signals, the flashing high beams and occasional horn, but the game’s no fun if you make it too easy. A sudden slowing of traffic, an extra mirror or antennae on the adjacent GM, a suspicious vehicle left ‘abandoned’ on the median: the clues are there. And if you happen to get caught, well good-cheer and congratulations to the hunters.
Frankly, I’m always surprised how belligerent drivers can be toward traffic cops. Where’s the strategy in that? My father once got pulled over by the same cop two days in a row within a mile from school. The two men swapped dirty jokes and stories about their families while the cop wrote him up.
“What could I do,” Dad said to us afterwards. “Forty-five in a thirty zone. No point in being an asshole about it. Guy caught me fair and square.”
More often than not if you can make the officer smile, you’ll get off with only a warning. The trick is to avoid degenerating into an ass, or — if you can’t help it — make yourself out to be a charming one. Who knows what’ll come of it? One of my Dad’s closest friends found his wife through such an encounter. She even let him keep the handcuffs.
Still with all the cameras and electronic eyes on the highway nowadays, perhaps it is time to improve the odds some. Recently unmanned robots near DC photograph speeding drivers as they weave along the beltway; the state mails a report a week later consisting of time, day and a black-and-white photo of the driver picking his nose. From what I’ve experienced of DC area traffic, the driver should be awarded a monetary prize for even managing to exceed 55mph. Purely money-making schemes in my opinion; although, advocates profess the technology exists purely for the safety of the American commuter. Bubble-wrapping the planet might advance the same cause and improve morale in third-world nations. After all, who doesn’t love bubble wrap? It unites us all . . . *snap* . . .
Considering all this, I suppose that I owe Shannon an apology . . .
“Grouse not, pion, lest I defenestrate your digital corpse from the battlements!”
. . . right after he leaves the Xbox.
Murphy’s Law: In a family argument, if it turns out you are right, apologize at once.