Ada and I were looking for 99 south on our way home . We had spent the night in Klamath Falls , Oregon , on our way down from Portland . The hotel in K.F. was lousy , by the way . We made a hasty bad choice. Like a bunker , it was , with only one small window . But it had a pool and jacuzzi so we made our decision to stay . And they served a full breakfast . When we went into the jacuzzi we discovered that the power was off so that the water just sat there . We just sat there in the stillness for a few minutes wondering why the desk clerk hadn’t mentioned the fact that it wasn’t working . Not to complain too much , but the breakfast was lousy , too : rubbery scrambled eggs , cold greasy sausage…….
It seemed an easy thing to get back to the 99 the next morning . There’s only one main drag through the town . We had exited the 99 and come straight down the main street . So , we go straight back up the main street and get back onto the 99 . Right ? Somehow I got lost and we wandered into a run-down residential district . We asked somebody directions to 99 . I noticed a cop , lights flashing , writing some poor slob a ticket farther down the road we were told to follow .
Next thing I know the cop is behind me flashing red lights . I’m going five or six miles over the 20mph speed limit . He got me , I figure .
He sits in his cruiser for a few minutes , as cops do , before he approaches my car . I rolled down my window and put both of my hands up on the door so that he could see them so that he wouldn’t be wondering if I had a gun . He wouldn’t have to shoot me for going five mph over the speed limit . “Good morning officer !” I said .
” Is there a reason that you didn’t come to a complete stop at the stop sign , sir ? ”
How does one answer a question like that ?
” Well , Officer , you’ve noticed that I’m from California and in California we don’t make complete stops at stop signs . It’s called the California rolling stop . Probably you’ve heard of it .”
or ( the truth ) :
” Just trying to get the hell out of this god-forsken town fast as I can .”
But I said , ” I guess I wasn’t paying attention .”
I wasn’t paying attention ? What , is it third grade and Mrs. Regan is reprimanding me for goofing around instead of doing my work and paying attention ?
The cop didn’t respond . ” License , please ,” he said ,” and registration and proof of insurance .”
I handed him my license and asked Ada to find the registration and insurance card . No problem with the registration . She handed me an insurance card from 21st Century Insurance Company . We had dropped them last year . I realized this during the same moment that I was passing it off to the cop.
” This is expired ,” he said , ” in December of 2011 .”
” We changed insurance companies recently ,” I said .
” To Farmer’s ,” Ada said .
” No. To State Farm ,” I said . She dug a little deeper into the mess of my glove compartment. Luckily she found a State Farm card .
He looked at it . ” This is expired February 2012 ,” he said .
” We’re getting closer ,” I joked . No reaction from the cop .
” I’m not calling you a liar ,” he said , ” but is this vehicle insured ? ”
” Absolutely .” I sounded assertive , I thought . He would believe me . It was the truth , after all .
Ada looked again through the glove box mess but came up with nothing . ” It’s a crime not to have proof of insurance in the vehicle ,” the cop said . ” O.K. , hold tight ,” he said and he walked back to his car .
” What did he say ? ” Ada asked .
” He said he’s going to write us some tickets . He says we’re screwed . He said it’s almost the end of the month and he needs to fill his quota . ”
In a few minutes he walked back and handed me my documents . ” I’m going to cut you a break on the stop sign violation . Save you ________ dollars .” I didn’t pay attention to the dollar amount he was saving me . Was it $150 ? Was it $250 ? It didn’t matter . It might as well have been $9000 . I wasn’t going to have to pay it . I wasn’t paying attention to that amount because I was waiting for the other shoe to drop . Wait for it ! Here it comes !
” I’m writing you a citation for no proof of insurance . If you have insurance you can probably take it to court and the judge will dismiss it , ” he said . And he handed me a ticket for $260 .
” We’re not going to be here to take it to court ,” Ada said to me when the cop left .
” Read it and see what other options there are ,” I said . ” Meanwhile , let’s find the 99 and say good-bye to Klamath Falls . ”
” You should have asked the cop how to get to 99 ,” Ada said . I should have asked him what’s the fastest way out of town . I should have assured him that we’d never ever come back to Klamath Falls if I could help it . I should have told him I’d be sure to spread the word about Klamath Falls . Have a nice day !
” Thank you , Officer ,” I had said . I was thanking him for not writing a mess of tickets , for not standing out there in the sun all morning finding more violations , for writing only one , one that possibly could be dismissed . Thanks for the break , pal ! Keep keeping the city safe !
I considered going back to see if there had even been a stop sign , one possibly hidden in tree branches . Maybe I was lucky that when the speed limit on that little deserted stretch of road had suddenly dropped from 35mph to 20mph he didn’t write me a ticket for speeding . I was going 25 after all .
It had been my crime spree morning . We eventually found the 99 south and blew town like Bonny and Clyde .