One Thursday night this summer, after Trivia Night at The Front Page Deli, some of the team I sometimes played with was on the move to Old Towne Tavern where the pool tables are free. I was tired from staying up too late too many times, and from not eating dinner for 3 or 4 nights due to a spell of stress-induced appetite loss, forgetfulness and who knows what all else. That night, dinner was cheese fries at the Deli with my beer during trivia, which may have been an improvement over Monday night’s banana and Wednesday night’s ice water. FYI – potatoes were introduced to Europe by the Spaniards – a tidbit I learned that night at trivia, but the history scholars on my team knew it already.
In front of Austin Peay, the light at College Street and University Avenue turned yellow with enough time for me to stop before it turned red. A police cruiser came from University Ave to my right and made a u-turn in the intersection with the college logo that looks a lot like the mark used by Associated Press – a traffic move which I happen to know is an illegal maneuver in Clarksville. The next thing I knew, it was behind me with the blue lights flashing in my rear view mirror. And I’m thinking, “awwwww, fudge.” Except it wasn’t fudge. When the light turned green, I crossed the intersection with my right turn blinker on, obediently pulled over to the side of the road, hit the flashers, and stopped.
The giant spotlight came on, blinding me in my side view mirror with nearly enough eyeball splitting force to trigger a migraine. And the officer was standing at my window, which I had already rolled down. “Ma’am, you don’t have your headlights on.” Errr… crap on a stick. “Really? Oops.” Easy enough to miss – that stretch of road is as bright as day with forever long stretch of lights from the car dealerships. He asked if I’d been drinking and where I was coming from. “Umm… I’m coming from Trivia night at the Deli and I had a beer and some cheese fries.” I did not share my new knowledge about potatoes with the officer.
He asked for my license, which I produced with my insurance card in about one second from my highly organized wallet. He asked for my registration, which is supposed to be in the white folder in the glove box. He shined his flashlight into the back seat, where my raincoat was casually tossed on the back seat and my camera bag had been on the floor with my tripod for a couple weeks.
I dug through the white folder – no registration. And I stared at the glove box crammed with papers representing five years worth of service records, five years of registration renewals and who knows how many paychecks for the lumberjacks who felled the trees to make all that paper. (Hey, they gotta eat, too.)
There are times when being a packrat pays off. This was not one of them. Every piece of paper I pulled out had two names on it – mine and X-Man’s, except that this past March when I renewed my tags, his name was taken off, which at least made it easier to identify the old stuff. The cop was still standing there with his flashlight. “Just keep looking, Ma’am, I’ll be right back.” Back at the cruiser, he did whatever it is they do back there, while I rifled through my colossal stack of junk, chucking the old papers into a growing pile on the passenger seat to either file or discard when I got home, unless of course I was detoured to jail for not having my paperwork. And I was thinking, “Be calm. Be calm,” while wearing a shirt with ‘Jagermeister’ emblazoned across the chest, which probably didn’t look good at that particular moment.
I finally found the precious piece of paper, and remembered yet again at another supremely inconvenient time that the duplicate title ordered through the DMV back in March had never arrived. The cop was back at the window, asking me again how much I’d had to drink and inviting me to step out of the car to join him on the sidewalk so he could check my eyes. In an agonizing exercise that felt like it took forever, he had me follow his finger with my eyes. To my left, to my right, stop in the middle, back to the left, the right, the middle, up, up, up, down, down, down. Cripes. Then he decided to let me go on my way, with a warning to be careful, because he “could see I’d had a little to drink, and if I got pulled over again…” I thanked him and asked if he had given me my license, which he had not – it was still clipped to his chest pocket. Maybe that was part of his test.
I drove my paranoid, now hyper-alert self home, thankful for having called it an early night. This time, though, I turned the headlights on. By the light of the next day, I finally cleaned out the danged glove box and purging the rest of the papers in there. It was long past the time for some cleanup.