It took some effort, but I was finally able to arrange a weekend trip away with my two sons. Just us guys. No dogs, cats, babies or household chores. Planets aligned and schedules coincided so the three of us were free at the same time. We packed up my Dodge Nitro and headed for the White Mountains. What a great way to kick off Spring – visiting New Hampshire for a little fishing, hiking and father-son bonding. There is a big age difference between my sons, but now that my youngest turned twenty-one and my oldest is twenty-nine, they seem closer than ever. This was going to be a weekend made of family memories, I just knew it.
What I didn’t know is the memory that would get replayed over and over again was my run in with a New Hampshire state trooper on Route 93 North. The funny thing is, I insisted on driving so we wouldn’t get a speeding ticket. Instead, I got pulled over for “failure to move to left lane for an emergency vehicle” when a police car pulled over another driver for speeding. I knew people moved to the far lane in that situation as a courtesy. I didn’t know it was an enforceable law. And since I’m a slow, cautious driver, I thought slowing down to 40 mph as I passed the police car was enough. I was wrong.
After I passed the state trooper my sons reminded me of the traffic law. Then I saw the police cruiser in my rear view mirror. There were no flashing lights so I wasn’t too concerned. He can’t be pulling me over, I thought. When the blue lights blazed I knew they were meant for me. I made a gradual stop in the breakdown lane. I turned on my hazard lights. I was a little nervous because of all the things you hear in the media regarding incidents during routine traffic stops. I tried to maintain a sheepish, innocent smile as the officer approached my driver’s side window.
The state trooper looked skinny as a rail but tough as nails. His small frame was offset by his huge hat. He had no trace of a smile and barely made eye-contact when he spoke to me as he kept one eye on the vehicles speeding past us while he sternly reprimanded me.
“Do you know failure to move over for an emergency vehicle is a punishable offense?” he stated.
“My boys just reminded me of that when I passed you,” I said. I thought that would show him I was an upstanding, hard-working family man spending time with my kids.
“License and registration please,” was his no nonsense response. He walked back to his cruiser to run a check on my paperwork. I wanted so badly to say “I like your hat” but I decided the less I said the more chance I’d have of just getting away with a verbal warning.
A few minutes later the officer was at my window with paperwork in hand.
“You failed to move over for an emergency vehicle. Fair is fair. I’m issuing you a violation with a fine of $100. Please gather your belongings and get back on the road as quickly as possible. I’m on my way to another roadside situation.”
“Yes officer,” I replied. I’m sure he was on his way to pull over one of the many vehicles that flew past us and failed to change lanes while he was writing up my ticket.
I quickly put my paperwork away and entered the highway, happy to be on my way without too much hassle (except for the $100 fine that really put a damper on my weekend). My sons couldn’t believe their law-abiding, overly-cautious father was stopped by a New Hampshire state trooper. I learned a valuable lesson about the law and I will be changing lanes whenever I see an emergency vehicle stopped on the highway. With so many recent roadside accidents involving patrolmen, I understand the law is for everyone’s safety – police and civilians alike.
We still managed to have a good time on our father and son weekend. The weather wasn’t great, so hiking and fishing were replaced with eating and drinking. Our board game tournaments were fun. We played a ruthless no-holds-barred Monopoly game. Playing Scrabble has changed thanks to cell phone dictionaries and newly created words that are now acceptable. “Sith” from Star Wars is a legitimate word? Really?
I’m writing this on Sunday morning while my sons are asleep. I’m listening to the wind howl as the bare tree branches sway. The iron-colored mountains in the distance look as stone-faced as the state trooper who pulled me over. I’m looking forward to an uneventful drive home to Stoneham with my boys, who now have a few more memories to add to their collection.