All Photographs + Text Copyright 2012 Christopher Keeley

Roads Not Safe

I was contemplating my good fortune of not receiving any speeding tickets in quite a long time. However, I have been plagued by two instances of road rage recently. Normally, I allow obnoxious fast tailgating drivers enough room to pass me. I do this so I can use them later as decoys. I then follow them after they pass me, especially watching for sudden red taillights when they approach waiting State Troopers. By being the observant reformed, rehabilitated, assimilated while remorseful petty criminal that I was, I am now later able to see several decoys I have allowed to pass me actually being stopped by police cars and receiving tickets.

The Steve McQueen in me suddenly became my persona, just like in the movie Bullitt, or better yet Paul Newman speeding fearlessly in a drag race. Vanishing Point comes to mind, a movie that influenced me negatively as a child. A rebel to the bone. However, my mania and deep hatred for tailgating SUVs has resulted in my dueling with them at least twice, at great dangerous adrenaline mainlining speeds. The other drivers had no chance of beating me, because of my sudden burst of complete insanity by speeding past them successfully, at extreme speeds. These two instances of certifiably crazy actions, caused by an insane streak left in me, my on-going recovery from addiction, pre-disposed juvenile delinquency, and my anti-social conduct disordered mind, had me drag racing and winning the self-imposed race.

My advantage was clear, that only a madman would succeed in driving at such speeds. With great hindsight I have now noticed my shortcoming and am going to make every effort at not getting caught up in the challenge again, because I completely value my life and othersŐ lives today.

I escape the city and drive up to the Catskill Mountains after work on a frequent Friday, for any and every day up there, in the serenity of the unspoiled woods, is paradise. Just as I was thinking how fortunate I was in never getting caught for driving over the limit, I cross the route that intersects route 434 looking both ways. I turn right and an immediate left that fishtails around continuing on 434, because the road is broken up by a small gap. As I make my turn, a car suddenly appears, flying with its headlights on, something that everyone does up there but me. I have plenty of time to avoid the car and make my left turn. I catch a glimpse confirming that it is a State Trooper of some kind traveling in the opposite direction at a very fast speed. I put my car on cruise control for the 45 mph speed limit. Most New Yorkers travel this road at 65 mph.

On this leg of the journey I may have seen only three cars. I see a car in my rear view mirror. Most cars speed up and tailgate so they have an easier time navigating the winding roads. Some cars pass you but most stick right on your tail. This car is staying way back as if it's a stalker. I say to myself it's got to be that Sheriff, who now has made a u-turn to catch me on his boring night in paradise. It follows me for about two miles, and I put my signal on to make a right turn onto another route, which connects with Route 55. I am half a mile from the bridge that crosses over a river separating Pennsylvania from New York State. The Sheriff puts on his siren and flashing lights, and speeds up right behind me, as I am making the right turn heading out of his jurisdiction. I am 288 miles from Washington DC and itŐs 10:38 p.m.

My criminal mind is thinking I could crush the cop between my car and his cruiser, if he steps behind the vehicle, or better yet back up and smash his right front end into his front tire, disabling the cruiser from moving anywhere. Like the kind of training the Government gives to C.I.A officers to disable unfriendly people, AKA terrorists, who are about to kidnap them. This is all just a fantasy in my mind because I have no intention of doing life without parole at Rikers Island or in Sing Sing for that matter.

After about three minutes the Sheriff AKA Pennsylvania State Trooper approaches my driverŐs side window. I have already taken out my driver's license and registration. And I say right off Good Evening Officer before he asks for my car registration and driver's license. I am prepared and I reply with Yes Sir.

He asks where I am coming from (like a bar maybe), and I reply I am coming from Washington DC, I have been driving for a long time. He asks me if I have had anything to drink tonight and my reply is that I haven't had a drink in 22 years. He says That's Good and goes back to his cruiser to check me out.

A few minutes later he comes back and asks for my car insurance verification. I say I will retrieve it out of the glove compartment, so that he doesn't think I am reaching for a gun. I shuffle through the glove compartmentŐs contents. I know I have placed the thing there just for this purpose, recalling a terrible experience in New Mexico.

HereŐs what happened on that occasion. I arrived in Albuquerque after 10:00 p.m. and there was no local transportation to Santa Fe 100 miles away. It was like a Third World country with everything shutting down at 11:00 p.m. No buses or any means of transportation to get to Santa Fe other than a very expensive cab ride. So I hitchhiked with some students going back to college after Spring Break. The driver was speeding through the airport past a cop and she got pulled over. She had no verification of car insurance and the policeman tried to call her insurance company on a Sunday night, getting only voicemail. We were detained for over an hour and the poor college student had to appear in court a week later and pay a $200 fine. So I learned to a have a copy of my car insurance coverage in the glove compartment just for this purpose.

Back in Pennsylvania, I tear out the insurance document from its sealed envelope and give it to the Sheriff AKA State Trooper, saying possibly it's my automobile insurance policy. He heads back to his car to check me out further. He asks me where I am going. I say to my house in Claryville, New York. He comes back and looks at my sunroof half open and says are you sure you haven't been taking any drugs? He actually does a sniff sniff to pick up a scent of Marijuana, crack Cocaine, crystal Meth, or Opium for that matter. My sunroof is open because I love looking at the stars I can't see in the city, and it also fills the car with fresh mountain air that really exhilarates a person who isn't used to so much fresh oxygen and starry nights.

He asks what I do for work and I reply I am a social worker, a social worker supervisor, handing the officer my government I.D., as he is asking for evidence of gainful employment. I now truly think this is my ticket to freedom, one civil servant to another. I am proud of my Government I.D. It has on it three red stars with three stripes, the Washington DC flag. I am sure the trooper has no idea what Taxation Without Representation emblazoned on my license plates signifies. He then asks if there is anything in the car I should tell him about. I say what? No, nothing is in the car. Answering this question incorrectly is going to save me from a lighter jail sentence before I am read my Miranda rights? Or does it give him probable cause and permission to search the vehicle looking for weapons of massive inebriation. Good thing I wasn't wearing a turban, or a Palestinian headscarf, or I would have been done in by Homeland Security. Yes, officer, I have a Hookah in my back seat.

I don't actually say this, as I am behaving like an angelic Seventh Day Adventist on a Friday night. I once confused a Seventh Day Adventist with a Jehovah's Witness. I asked my friend Wilma from work (the hurricane storm was named after her), a Seventh Day worshiper, if she went from house to house proselytizing. She replied, Oh we are often confused with Jehovah's Witnesses. I said but both of you are anxiously awaiting the Second Coming of Christ and the Great Apocalypse. Wilma corrected me and said the Rapture.

Wilma gave me a DVD of the independent film her son directed, filmed, and produced called Among Thieves. I was surprised that such a gruesome, violent and bloody film could come out of a child with that secure sacred kind of upbringing, but then Foreign Service brats like myself are totally messed up. We never fit in anywhere and adopted every culture like chameleons. We always said the missionary kids were the worst of all, having the double whammy of living overseas and then the spiritual religious upbringing forced upon them. We were miserably rebellious Third World delinquents, totally spoiled souls with privileges that someone could only dream of.

The Sheriff says one more time, you sure you haven't been drinking any alcoholic beverages? I reply that's what I said, I have not had a drink for 22 years, I help people get off drugs, and I am a social worker.

Trooper AKA Sheriff asks me do I know why he has stopped me, and I reply no, I was driving 45 miles an hour, the speed limit. He says I failed to put on my turn signal on route 434. I reply I guess so, I failed to put on my turn signal, it was hard to see, I looked both ways, itŐs hard to see from this side. I now know why you pulled me over. The trooper replies consider this your lucky night, and hands me back my documents. I say thank you. In my mind I am thinking, shit it's my lucky day because I am not tanked. Passed out in the gutter somewhere, with a hangover and a blackout, wondering what crimes or embarrassments may have occurred from my being completely and constantly inebriated, an out of control party animal for so many years. I'd be doing life without parole. Lucky? I now can only call it Grace.

Driving away a few miles down the road after crossing the bridge into New York State, a deer jumps in front of the car. Had it been a few seconds later we would have collided, with severe damage done. I was grateful I was driving slowly, enjoying the beauty of the mountains, laughing to myself about the encounter with the Sheriff.

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