Number 35
When we left home at 4:40PM on Friday, Memorial Day Weekend, I was excited. As recent Virginians, we were no longer separated by a long eight-hour car drive from New Jersey to get to Grandma and Grandpa’s house with the kids, and we were looking forward to a swift, under three-hour drive (a mini-trip, really), that wouldn’t even involve much driving on I-95 or other interstates as we scooted into North Carolina where my parents live.

In my excitement, unfortunately, I had forgotten that when in Virginia and North Carolina, the alternative to the Interstate is a series of backwoods, middle-of-nowhere back roads where the only thing separating the peanut fields and trailers are a short stretch every twenty minutes of something that resembles a town. All of which is fine, and normally I wouldn’t disparage the quaint countryside, but I was heading through these towns at the start of the holiday weekend in my minivan packed with roof rack, four bikes on the back hitch and, most importantly, my out-of-town plates. And not just any out-of-town plates mind you, but my Jersey Yankee plates. Even though we’d moved to Virginia two months ago, I hadn’t yet gotten around to updating my license and vehicle tag.

Against this backdrop, as you can probably predict, I was the victim of a dastardly speed trap while passing through the tiny town of Waverly, Virginia. The kind of place where the Hardees is a major landmark in the town, and the speed limit suddenly downshifts from 55 – 45 – 35 and back up again within nearly the length of a football field. And right in the middle of the “trap” sits a cop in his souped-up (New Jersey­-ticket-payer-funded) Dodge Charger patrol car, waiting for an unsuspecting driver to be within spitting distance of the 55 mph sign so that the driver begins (allegedly) accelerating and gets nabbed. Needless to say, I looked in the rearview mirror and saw the over-eager officer that had been spinning his wheels in the gravel SuperFresh parking lot roaring up behind me. I felt like I was in an episode of the Dukes of Hazzard.

As this whole drama unfolded before my eyes and my blood pressure began to rise, my three boys were sitting innocently in the back of our van, their eyes glued to Ice Age playing on the movie screen. When the ride got a little bumpy as I pulled off into the edge of a corn field, they looked up and asked what was happening.

“We got pulled over,” Mommy answered.

“What? No, really,” they replied as they looked around for the joke and tried to interpret the new words that Daddy was muttering.

“Seriously?” they asked, incredulous as to how this could be happening. “For going too fast or too slow? Is Daddy going to have to go to jail?” That used to be their comment every time we saw someone pulled over or they thought I might be driving too fast, that I was going to be hauled off to the big house.

My two year old, who recently discovered that he can yap with the best of his brothers, started rattling off all his new one-liners that he knows makes us laugh. Most of the trip, this tended to consist of: “MOOM” and “DAAD”, and increasingly followed by “Rocko – Bama!” (you know, the president…don’t ask…it’s bizarre, but trust me, you know you’ve seen it all when your little boy starts yelling ‘Barack Obama’ ten times in a row – video coming soon).

“Just sit quietly,” I barked, annoyed at the situation.

Now before I come off looking too bad here, I should point out the novelty of the situation to the boys. This is evidence that I do not have regular run-ins with the law. (They will tell you that Mommy was given a warning once on the way home from preschool, but that’s another story…). I tried to give them a brief explanation about speed traps and greedy small towns and trickery, but I’m not sure that they bought it.

Hopefully, my ace in the hole with this situation will be the fact that I am actually not an out-of-towner from New Jersey passing through on his way to the beach who will never be back to contest the ticket in court. As a true Virginia resident in disguise, I have every intention of surprising them by making the hour drive back down to good old Waverly and challenging their Memorial Day Weekend charade. And then I will bring my (hopefully) exonerated self back home and explain to the boys how it was all just a mistake and Daddy is still everything that they thought he was. Tonight on the way back home as we headed back on the road, my oldest yelled up from the back row and asked whether I was going to get another ticket. Which was followed by the latest iteration of his little brother’s near-Turets yelling, “Rocko-Bama-Rocko-Bama-Rocko-Bama…did…it. DAAAD.” It’s going to be a long drive.

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