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Rental Car Fugitve

The police cruiser had followed me from my hotel for several miles. When he grew tired of tailing me , perhaps a mile from my final destination , he turned on his lights.  This is where I committed my second mistake. Apparently my first was driving. Still oblivious to the storm that was approaching I immediately took a left and pulled over on a quiet side street. It was then that I saw the first indication that something was wrong with my little universe. Viewing the cruiser from my rear view mirror I noticed that he had a bicycle mounted on the back of his car. The cruiser door opened and out emerged the cop with full bike cop regalia including  black, perhaps too tight , bicycle shorts. The only thing missing was a bike helmet and the theme from Dragnet. I figured it wasn’t until recently that he decided the helmet was not required until he was actually on his bicycle.  It could have been worse I thought , at least he wasn’t on his bike when he pulled me over.  As  the officer approached my car I could  tell by his  twitching jaw muscles that  he was preparing to lecture me. I was still clueless as to why. Upon reaching my window he let loose with a tirade. Somewhere underlying his  diatribe was the claim that, in California when your were pulled over by the police you had to pull over immediately to the right. Now I had several thoughts at this point   Those were: 1) I was taught to pull over as soon as possible to an area that was safe; 2) I was in the left hand lane and pulling over to the right would have meant crossing a very busy right lane forcing the officer to get out of his vehicle in very heavy traffic. Hmm. Maybe I should rethink that and 3) The left hand turn lane which turned onto a quiet side street was immediately available.

I declined to share these with my lycra short clad friend. I believe he would not have been too receptive.  He then asked the million dollar question. “Would you like to know why I pulled you over?”. Now in the past, when I was young and naive and hey lets be honest, stupid, my witty repartee would have gotten me in trouble. But, much to the disbelief of my family,  I have grown wiser over the years and again I declined to share any  thoughts I had at the moment. “Yes sir, I would “. I answered. “Your ve-hicle is not registered” he replied tersely. Now at this point I knew two things that he did not. The first was that I was driving a rental. The second was that vehicle actually has three syllables and not two. I declined to point out the latter but politely replied “Im sorry officer but this car is a rental”.  Not missing a beat he all but shouted “ I do not believe a rental company would let an unregistered ve-hicle go off the lot”. How could I argue with that logic so I handed him my license and rental agreement. “What do you do for a living” , he asked. “ I am an engineer sir”. At that moment I noticed that all of the tenseness left his body. It was as if it was suddenly revealed to him that his wife had no clue he was cheating on her.  Of course a car thief would never claim to be an engineer.

He went back to his cruiser to perform what I can only assume to be “wants and warrants” on me. Hey , I catch a few cop shows every now and then. I am sure however that he was dragging out the process to make me sweat. It was working. While waiting I entertained several thoughts. The first being that his shorts were definitely too tight. The second being that perhaps his blood sugar lacked the crucial donut molecules and lastly  that I was driving a 300 with a Hemi and I could probably out run him. Lets show these California people what a high speed chase really looks like.  But as I mentioned before I have grown wiser over the years and I sat patiently while waiting for the verdict.

The officer stepped out of his cruiser this time looking a little disappointed and  his jaw muscles quite a bit more relaxed than before.  His voice had lost its coarse tone and had been replaced by something slightly more authoritative.  “You need to let your rental company know as soon as possible about this problem. Even though it is a rental it is your responsibility to make sure it is registered and I could write you a ticket but I am just going to let you off with an advisory”.  Apparently an “advisory” is a more stern version of a warning.  Although I could not believe what he had said I offered no reply.  Besides my eyebrows spoke for me . “Yeah Right”.  At this point my only recourse was to kill him with kindness. I thanked him, shook his hand and told him to be careful. The scowl on his face as he walked away was my reward.

I managed to make it back to my hotel that night without incident and from the safety of the hotel driveway I watched as the rental company towed away the old car and left me the replacement.  A Chrysler 300, this time with no Hemi. There would be no chance for a high speed chase this time.

Bring Plenty of Tortillas and Relax, Its Going to Be a Bumpy Ride.

California Highways are notorious for traffic but not known for the endless  entertainment they can provide. Now my California peeps will read this and think I am out of my mind or “…and he hasn’t been institutionalized yet? Imagine that”.I have spent a few years recently in Southern California but I also lived in  DC and Northern Virginia (NOVA) for fifteen years and I contend its traffic situation is worse. The NOVA traffic was nowhere near as predictable as Southern California and that is why it was more painful. Now if you have followed my adventures here you know that I was back in Southern California recently for the funeral services of loved ones. I won’t recount that here, please read “Family, Much Harder to Say Goodbye Than to Love” for the riveting details.  What I will reveal is just how entertaining a Southern California traffic jam (SCTJ) can be. No really, I am sober and my room has no padding. If you are a passenger and a people watcher then I highly recommend the SCTJ experience. It rivals LAX in people watching*.

“Floppy Hat Girl”. She was the first person of interest we spotted in our SCTJ experience from LA to San Diego on a holiday weekend. The traffic was expected, the entertainment value was not. I was alerted to Floppy Hat Girl when my sister had pointed her out by saying “how can that girl see where she is driving?”. Turning around I spotted her pulling up along side of  us. To this day I still have no idea what she looked like. If I was an eye witness to a crime she committed my only response in the interview would have been, “I think the perp” , too many cop shows, “ was a female. Her cheek bones gave me that impression. It was hard to tell . She had this blue floppy hat that obscured the rest of here features. Honestly I don’t know how she drove the get away car”.  Floppy Hat Girl provided us with some good moments along the drive. I even wrote a little song dedicated to “My Floppy Hat Girl”. I am working out the chords on my guitar. I will let you know when it drops.

Next up in the cavalcade of characters was the cliche Southern Californian. In this case a shoeless female looking totally chill in the parking lot of an SC traffic Jam. How do I know she was shoeless you ask? The bare foot propped up on the driver side window was a big clue. I figured as a fashion conscious California girl her shoes or lack thereof were matching.

The driver that made me laugh the most was one that I did not see first hand but was witnessed by my cousin-in-law in our caravan. Apparently this particular driver had gotten hungry during the drive , or the park in this case, and was spotted warming tortillas on his dash board. It appeared to my cousin-in-law that once warm he was eating it plain. This led to all sorts of speculation as to whether he preps his dashboard with any cooking spray or special spices and what types of dashboards make the best warmers. Does it only work for tortillas or can bread or buns be substituted?  You can take it from there I am sure.

The commute to San Diego from LA took over four hours and as experiences go I would not intentionally seek it out. But if you find your self in this position make sure you are a passenger and pay attention to those around you. It will make the experience a little more  bearable.  A package of tortillas and a can of Pam couldn’t hurt either.

* While flying out to LA on a weekly basis  few years back, I invented a game that I played with a business colleague called “Guess What They do for a Living”. I have played it in airports all over the country. LAX is the best place to play it , although no matter where its played it never fails to entertain.

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