Another Border Story

February 24th, 2020

Over a month ago, I sent an essay to the Catholic Herald (a local Catholic publication) about the conditions of migrants and asylum seekers on the U.S./Mexican border. I did not hear anything back from the paper, so I thought that my article had died a silent death.

Well, it did, sort of.

Karen Mahoney, a reporter from the paper, contacted me a couple weeks ago to do a story about the trip I took to El Paso/Ciudad Juarez last October. I really did not want her to write about me. I had hoped that she would interview more of the people who had participated in the immersion program at Annunciation House. I wanted the focus to be on the migrants. The reporter was not interested in doing that. I guess that she wanted to talk about the border through my experience. Oh well.

I look at it this way: a story that doesn’t match all of my expectations is better than no story at all. The point of me writing to the Herald was to promote awareness of the horrific situation at our border. I think that was accomplished.

The article is as follows:

 

 

Francis Pauc wasn’t sure what to expect when he reached the chilly U.S. border in El Paso, Texas, but reality was worse than he imagined and now he is unable to unsee those living on the other side of the border in impoverished conditions.

Traveling this past October with a group of 14 others from the newly formed Catholic Coalition for Migrants and Refugees group (CCMR), the member of Racine’s St. Rita Parish said he began to see and understand the amount of suffering going on at the border among the men, women and children seeking asylum in the United States.

“These people are living in tents, and many of these migrants and asylum-seekers are from Central America or southern Mexico; places where people have no experience at all with cold weather and many of them are women and children,” he said. “They have fled in terror from their homes and now they are stuck on the wrong side of the US/Mexico border. They can’t go forward and they can’t go back, so they sit and freeze.”

The group stayed for five days at a shelter run by Annunciation House in El Paso and participated in an immersion program that took them to places in El Paso and Juarez, Mexico. He saw the those who were suffering and struggling to survive.

“I tried to keep my eyes and ears open, along with my heart and mind. I became a witness,” Pauc said. “The main thing I learned is that people are suffering on the border unnecessarily. I also learned that we are not stopping the flow of drugs in any effective way. The cartels are still making money. The only people we are stopping are the poor and the desperate.”

According to Pauc, the solution for the immigration issues is for Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform package as the current system is not working. A couple of years ago, he took a 40-hour course on immigration law and through the class, he learned the current system is chaotic with more exceptions to the rules than rules themselves.

“Also, enforcement by itself is ineffective. The wall will achieve nothing,” he said. “Why are people walking all the way across Mexico to get out of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador? If citizens of these countries felt safe at home, they would stay where they are.”

While the migrants suffer extreme hardship, Pauc said much of it is beyond our control.

“However, some of the pain that these migrants currently feel is caused by the government of the United States. Our government is keeping these people in Mexico, despite the fact they are seeking asylum in our country,” he said. “Through a variety of ways, the current administration is punishing people who just want to live in safety. Our government is hurting those people who have already been hurt. We, as citizens of the United States, are actively working against the poor and the oppressed. That’s a fact.”

Though Pauc believes in immigration reform, he is not advocating that the United States allows open borders to anyone who wants to move here.

“Every nation has the right and responsibility to control its borders, but the question is how much each country does that. Back in 1980, I was stationed at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. I went to Nogales, Mexico, quite often. The border was open then and there was no problem,” he said. “Why do we have problems now? We can control the flow of people into the United States in a fair and rational way. We don’t have to militarize the whole thing.”

After seeing the wall being built between the U.S. and Mexico, Pauc said he found it physically ugly and morally hideous. When he served in the U.S. Army in Germany in 1982, he visited the Berlin Wall.

“The wall on the southern border brought back some dark memories,” he said. “We are Catholics and our job is to help those in need. These migrants on the border are desperately in need; that’s why CCMR was formed, to raise awareness of their plight and call for a more humane response to these ‘least among us,’ as Christ called them. We can start by looking at immigrants as assets rather than liabilities. We, as a nation, need to be welcoming. We need immigrants to keep the economy going.”

Without immigrants, Pauc said, the United States has a graying population and immigrants are needed to work in many available jobs. He said they are intelligent, work hard and want to contribute to their communities.

“Welcoming them to our country is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do,” he said.

Immigration issues are close to Pauc’s heart, as his wife, Karin, is an immigrant from Germany and is a green card holder. They couple has three adult children, Hans, Hannah and Stefan, and all support his volunteer work with the immigrants.

“All three of them spent time in Germany and understand how it feels to be a stranger in a strange land,” he said. “When I went to the border, my wife was concerned about my safety; but then, so was I.”

To Learn More

Catholic Coalition for Migrants and Refugees has a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Catholic-Coalition-for-Migrants-and-Refugees-101884498070378/

For additional information or to get on the mailing list, contact:

CCMR Spokesperson

Mark Peters

Director of Justice, Peace and Reconciliation

Priests of the Sacred Heart, US Province

414-427-4273

Senator Johnson

February 20th, 2020

I can’t remember when I was last in the old Federal Building in downtown Milwaukee. I suspect it was back in 1976, when I was applying to go to West Point. Or maybe I went there back in the ’80s for something to do with Karin’s immigration status. In any case, it was a long time ago.

I went there on Thursday morning. I parked a couple blocks away on Van Buren. I filled the parking meter full of change and walked in the cold breeze to the Federal Building. The structure feels massive. It’s over four stories tall, and is made of large blocks of stone. The edifice loudly annouces its solidity and permanance. In a world where most things are transient, the Federal Building is meant to last.

I had to go through a security check as I entered the building. Emptying my pockets and going through a metal detector to enter a public building have become normal activities for me. They were not before 9/11. Twenty years ago people could go into court houses and other government offices without being scrutinized by rent-a-cops. Now, in the name of safety, public spaces are definitely unwelcoming.

After I successfully passed through the metal detector, a woman with a badge asked me where I was going. I told her that I was going to Senator Ron Johnson’s office.

She gave me a suspicious look, and asked, “Do you have an appointment?”

“Yes, I do.”

She relaxed a bit and said, “It’s on the fourth floor, all the way to the left.”

I thanked her, and then I found the elevator.

I got out on the fourth floor, and gazed over the edge of the balcony. I could see all the way down to the main floor. The Federal Building has an enormous open space in its center. It is a hall that extends up five stories to a vast set of skylights. There are balconies on each floor that surround this open area. The government offices are all on the outside facing the balconies. The decor is very old school: lots of heavy wooden doors and dark paneling. Everything looks like it was built in the 1930’s, or earlier.

I met some people on my way to the Senator’s office. They were, like me, from the Catholic Coalition for Migrants and Refugees. We were going to meet together as a group with one of Senator Johnson’s assistants.  At 9:30 we all filed into the office, and entered a tiny room that was barely big enough to hold us all.  We sat around a table. There was Tom, Johnson’s right-hand man, at one end of the table. All around were members of our group: Mark, Suzanne, Sister Reg, Father Tony, Twyla, and myself.

Mark ran things. He likes to come to these meetings prepared for anything. He is not terribly comfortable with surprises. Mark did much of the talking. The rest of us chimed in when we thought that we had something worthwhile to say. Father Tony said very little, but he always listened.

The main topic of our discussion with Tom was the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” program. The MPP keep asylum seekers lingering in Mexico until their immigration court date in the United States. The MPP are designed to deter migrants. They make it incredibly difficult for asylum seekers to get a fair shake. The MPP encourage migrants to give up and go home, even though they most likely have fled from a country in fear of their lives.

Tom is a good guy. That was my impression anyway. I believe that he has a heart and a conscience. His boss is a rightwing Republican, and a stalwart supporter of Preisdent Trump. Senator Johnson probably has a heart too, but he seems to be totally focused on the enforcement aspect of the immigration issue. He is interested in contolling the borders. Johnson sees that the number of illegal border crossings has diminished under the Trump administration, and therefore concludes that the problem is solved.

It isn’t.

People are still fleeing from violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. People are still fleeing to the United States from the cartels in Mexico. The difference between what is happening now and what occurred under earlier U.S. policies is that now we aren’t giving these migrants any hope at all. Our government is making it abundantly clear to any asylum seeker that their cause is doomed. The suffering is still there. We, as Americans, have simply decided that we don’t care about these people, and we just want them to go away.

They are going away. Some of them are going back to their homes to die.

We tried to express to Tom what we had learned from reports, and from what some of us had seen at the southern border. Tom was sympathetic, but he also made it clear that nothing was going to be changed this year. He told us that Congress had abdicated its duties with regard to immigration reform, and had essentially given Trump permission to do whatever he wants. There would be no action in Congress until after the elections and, even then, maybe there would be no new legislation. He told us that the Senator disliked the President using executive orders to make changes, but Johnson was satisfied with the results of Trump’s actions.

Mark asked Tom flat out, “Why should we keep coming to meet with you when we all know that nothing will get done?’

Tom commented that he had been working for the Senator since 2011, and that people were still meeting with him about issues that they had discussed with him nine years ago. Tom told us that, with the political polarization and the advent of divided government, Washington was broken. This year’s elections might resolve some of the gridlock. Tom suggested that there was still value in meeting with him, because it would be important to have a standing relationship when conditions were finally suitable for bipartisan legislation.

In short, let’s stay in touch, but don’t hold your breath.

Did we waste our time speaking with Tom? I don’t know. We are in this for the long haul. Johnson will continue to one of Wisconsin’s senators until 2023. We have to deal with him. Actually, we have to deal with Tom, because we will probably never meet with the Senator himself. Is it worthwhile to have a positive, yet prehaps utterly fruitless political relationship? Once again, I don’t know.

If we keep in contact with Tom, we probably won’t get any positive answers from the Senator. If we cut Tom off, I know that we won’t get any results.

We might as well keep talking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something in Common

February 20th, 2020

We only talk in the car. I don’t know why that is, but it is. We might casually greet each other at home, but we only have conversations when we are driving somewhere. Actually, we have these conversations when I am driving. The young woman does not currently have a license, so I am her chauffeur. I take her many places: to see her parole officer, to see her therapist, to attend 12 step meetings, to go to the gym. We are together in my old Ford Focus qute often.

Usually, she plays her music. I don’t know many of the bands. It doesn’t really matter. Her tastes tend toward the dark and moody, as do mine. We talked about that.

She was shocked by one of my selections.

She asked me, “When did you start listening to Five Finger Death Punch?”

“You don’t like it?”

“Well, yeah, I do, but…”

“But what?”

“Never mind.”

Then she played the “Bartender Song” by Rehab. It’s a wickedly funny (and disturbing) country song about some redneck who violates his parole.

She said, “I’m pretty sure that this guy has been in prison.”

“Uh yeah, it sounds very authentic.”

She smiled.

I told her, “I always liked John Lennon’s work. He was often angry. I think that he was real. McCartney, well, he was always cotton candy.”

The young woman, dead serious, looked at me and said,

“Sometimes you need to have both.”

I thought for a moment. I told her,

“You’re right. Lennon and McCartney balanced each other out.”

She nodded.

Later, we were driving home from one of her visits with her therapist.

I asked her how it went.

She was evasive and obscure in her answers, as she should be. It’s none of my business to know how her therapist appointments went. That’s totally her thing.

Suddenly she said, “She’s good, but not what I expected. She is short, fat, and has long grey hair. She is not somebody that would have picked for a therapist. She doesn’t look professional.”

I replied, “Looking professional is overrated.”

She nodded.

I asked her, “Is she smart?”

“Oh yeah, she’s smart. She understands my mother.” The young woman said this with conviction, although she never looked at me.

I was waiting for the light to change. I asked her,

“So, does your therapist understand your father?”

The young woman did not miss a beat.

She said, “He also has signs of borderline personality disorder.”

She left it hanging there.

I made a left hand turn. I laughed softly, and I told her,

“Well,  we have something in common.”

She did not respond.

We both struggle.

We both survive.

We both love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was Worth a Shot

February 14th, 2020

Sometimes I grow weary of writing. Well, I don’t mind the act of writing itself. I have to write. It’s part of who I am. If I stop writing, then I might as well stop breathing.

What bothers me is the need to promote my writing. I hate that. Maybe it is just my stubborn pride. It bothers me to ask somebody to use my words, even when it is for a good cause. I try not to get my written words all wrapped around my ego, but it happens anyway. It is possible that I might reach more readers if I begged somebody to print/post my essays. I won’t/can’t do that. I am not strong enough to beg, even if it might help somebody who has no voice, even when I may be their only voice.

A month ago I sent an essay to our local Catholic news source. I wrote to them about the crisis at the U.S./Mexican border. They have not responded since then. I am not surprised. The Catholic Herald is a creature of the archdiocese, and as such, seldom prints any articles more controversial than reports about upcoming Lenten fish fries. I think that Catholic publications should be prophetic voices, at least some of the time. The Catholic Herald generally is not. It is just a Catholic version of Pravda. It’s all propaganda, and in truth, the Catholic Church invented that term.

CORRECTION: A reporter from the Catholic Herald just sent me an email. She wants to a story about the border experience story. I take back a few of the mean things I said about the newspaper. Somehow, I’m not completely surprised by this latest development. It is the law of karma with a twist. God has a strange sense of humor.

All right. The following is the essay that I sent to the Herald.

Please use it. Somehow. Somewhere. Some time.

If you want.

 

“It’s cold in El Paso. Compared to the weather in Wisconsin, it doesn’t seem that bad, but the temperatures are still hovering around freezing. For the migrants who are stranded right across the border in Ciudad Juarez, this level of cold is a real problem. These people are living in tents, and many of these migrants and asylum-seekers are from Central America or southern Mexico; places where people have no experience at all with cold weather. Many of them are women and children. They have fled in terror from their homes, and now they are stuck on the wrong side of the U.S./Mexico border. They can’t go forward and they can’t go back. So, they sit and freeze.

How do I know all this?

I went to the border. I went there with a group of fourteen people from the Catholic Coalition for Migrants and Refugees, a group that has just formed in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, in order to find out about the circumstances of these migrants. We learned that their conditions are wretched. I, along with the other people in our little band, slowly came to understand how much suffering goes on at our southern border. It was a worthwhile learning experience, albeit not a pleasant one.

Our group stayed for five days at a shelter run by Annunciation House on El Paso. We participated in a five-day immersion program that took us to places in El Paso, and across the border in Juarez. It was intense. We saw some things that were very ugly, and we also saw things that were hopeful. We were with people who were suffering, and we were with people who were trying their best to alleviate that suffering. We saw injustice. We saw poverty. We saw people struggling just to survive. Those five days changed how we see our world. Those days changed us.

The extreme hardship that we saw has many causes. Much of it is beyond our control. However, some of the pain that these migrants currently feel is caused by the government of the United States. Our government is keeping these people in Mexico, despite the fact they are seeking asylum in our country. Through a variety of ways, the current administration is punishing people who just want to live in safety. Our government is hurting those people who have already been hurt. We, as citizens of the United States, are actively working against the poor and the oppressed. That’s a fact.

The Catholic Church recognizes that nations have the right and responsibility to control their borders. The Church also says that people have the right to migrate. There is a tension between these two rights. Immigration laws need to be both just and compassionate. Our current laws in the United States are neither.

We are Catholics. Our job to help those in need. These migrants on the border are desperately in need. That’s why CCMR was formed, to raise awareness of their plight and call for a more humane response to these “least among us,” as Christ called them.

While we were in El Paso, we met the head of Annunciation House, Ruben Garcia. He told us quite clearly that our ministry was not at the border. Our work is back home in Wisconsin. He told us to take the lessons we had learned and use them in our own neighborhoods. The same fear and anguish that we witnessed on the southern border is here, within a few miles of where we work and live.

We can help migrants already here, right in our midst, but we must also try to help those in Juarez. To do that, we must become advocates, and we can do that more powerfully together than alone. That is what CCMR is about. Please join us. Call 414-427-4273 to learn more.”

Birthday

February 12th, 2020

“Live a life of friction. Let yourself be disturbed as much as possible, but observe.”
― G.I. Gurdjieff

Our girl turned twenty-nine on Monday. Karin baked her a cake. It was a German sort of cake: lots of nuts and heavy whipping cream. The three of us sat together at the dining room table to celebrate the girl’s birthday. We actually sang. The young woman tried some of the cake, frowned, and said,

“I don’t like the cream. It kind of tastes like alcohol.”

Karin was a bit flustered by that. She replied,

“I used an Amaretto flavoring, like in the recipe. There is no alcohol in it. None at all.”

The girl slowly finished her slice of cake, perhaps only out of politeness.

Karin asked her gently , “Would you like some more?”

The young woman said nothing, but shook her head.

I looked across the table at the girl. I looked at her hard.

She was wearing a necklace with the AA symbol on it: a triangle encompassed by a circle. For most people the pendant is innocuous and forgettable. For anybody who has at any point in their lives been part of a 12-step group, the symbol is numinous. It means something, and that something may be good or bad, or both.

The woman is both old and young. That is a paradox, and is hard to explain. Our common struggle has lasted for more than ten years. At the beginning, the girl was just a girl. Now, she has the signs of age. She is healthy and fit, and for the most part, she is beautiful. However, I notice things. I see the sharp edges of her cheek bones. I see the dark circles under her dark eyes; the rings that never quite go away. I see her furrowed brow, the sign of her intense concentration on things that she cannot quite remember. The young woman has ADD, and she is always on the edge of remembering, or forgetting. In truth, am her memory. am her calendar. I don’t mind this. It has to be this way. It just is.

As we ate our cake, the girl talked about the AA “dance” on Saturday evening. She told us that she “has to be there”. We asked her about this event.

The young woman smiled ironically, and said,

“It’s what AA people do. They have a dance, but nobody actually dances.”

That sounds about right.

Karin and the girl bought her a dress for the ball. It came from the Salvation Army or from Goodwill. It doesn’t matter. It is a red prom dress. Karin, being a seamstress, did some magic so that it fits the girl. It looks good on her. She will be noticed at the dance.

I take the girl to an AA meeting nearly every day. I never go inside. I don’t belong in there, and the young woman would be embarrassed by my presence in any case. I just observe from the fringes.

I notice things. Most of the people who attend these meetings light up a cigarette immediately upon leaving the place. They have given up one addiction while they eagerly embrace others. It is interesting to me that AA meetings there is always coffee and doughnuts. There is always caffeine and a sugar high. It’s like: “We are going to remain sober, but we have no problem killing ourselves in other ways”.

If the young woman’s immersion in AA saves her life, I am good with that. I can be very pragmatic. Do whatever works.

I just want this woman to live, and maybe to prosper. That is good enough.

She has survived for twenty-nine years.

That is amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working Class

February 10th, 2020

“When they’ve tortured and scared you for twenty-odd years
Then they expect you to pick a career
When you can’t really function you’re so full of fear
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be”

John Lennon

At a certain point in life, a person starts to recognize patterns. There are recurring themes, like in a piece of classical music. It is just necessary to hang around this world long enough to notice the designs. Early on, events may seem chaotic and haphazard, but later a person might say, “Oh, so that’s what all this is all about.”

Many years ago, I went to study at West Point. My father pushed me hard to go there. West Point was/is in many ways an elite school. It is almost Ivy League. It is also somehow egaliterian, because it is not essential to have money in order to go there. The academy is a ruthlessly competitive meritocracy. When I was there, the emphasis was always on performance and loyalty to the institution, not on family background or wealth. However, the school had a rigid class system that prepared the cadet (student) for an equally rigid military class system in the U.S. Army.

I remember coming home once on leave, and talking to my family about life at West Point. My father, a lifelong union man, got angry with me and said,

“I suppose you think you’re better than us now! You’ve forgotten your roots!”

Well, maybe I did. My father, in his relentless efforts to get me a college degree, had thrust me into a world that was not working class. Once I was in that world, he somehow regretted his decision. He wanted incompatible things: he wanted me to move up and beyond his economic and educational status in life, but he also wanted me to retain his attitudes and views of his world. That didn’t work very well for any of us.

Yesterday was Stefan’s birthday. He is twenty-six now. Stefan, like his older brother, did not want to go to college. He wanted to work with his hands, and he early on decided to join the trades. After working a variety of different jobs: auto mechanic, body shop technician, press operator at a newspaper, and furniture restorer, he went to a tech school and became a welder. He has been a welder ever since then. He got into the Iron Workers Union as an apprentice. He is still an apprentice, but soon he will be a journeyman. He makes $30 an hour straight time. He is making more than most of his contemporaries who spent four years in college, and who now have massive student debt.

Stefan has a deep aversion to college graduates. So does his older sibling, Hans. Hans pours concrete for a living. Both of them feel utter contempt for the rich kids whose parents pay for their educations; educations that may not translate into good paying jobs. Stefan and Hans work hard. Their jobs require great technical skill, and they also require intense physical exertion. Their jobs are often dangerous. Hans and Stefan are outside almost all the time, building things in a very physical way. They take pride in that, and they also feel that the hipsters (the college kids) have no concept of what real work entails.

The boys are totally working class.

I know many parents whose children have gone to colleges and universities. Their young people are often quite intelligent and very pleasant. However, they sometimes can’t understand the experiences of my kids, or the experiences of anybody else who is struggling. There lies the class divide. Hans, who served in the Army like me, and who fought in a war (unlike me), has been through a lot in order to become who he is now. He knows what it is to be homeless and jobless and scared. Some of the college kids don’t know what that is like, and they can’t know it. Stefan has worked a number of jobs and has been in all sorts of crazy situations. He has taken great risks, and he has little repsect for those who, in his eyes, have had it easy in life.

Do my sons have a good reason to resent their contemporaries who have pursued more education? Maybe, maybe not. There is a tendency among people to assume that the fact that they have a degree (or degrees) makes them smarter than those who do not. A university degree is not a measure of intelligence. It is a measure of how much bullshit a person is willing to tolerate.

We live in a culture which puts great stock in degrees and titles. I have a college degree. So what? I had a title (I was a captain). So what?

I went to a four year school. I don’t regret it. However, I have learned that academia does not always have a direct connection with real life. I am convinced that my kids have learned more about the world than I ever did.

The working class understands what is real.

 

 

 

Chauffeur

February 9th, 2020

I have been doing a lot of driving during the last month. I have not necessarily been going places that are of interest to me. I have been acting as a chauffeur for a young lady who often needs a ride.

The young woman does not have a drivers license. I don’t expect that she will get one in the near future. She has four drunk driving convictions, and even in the State of Wisconsin, where drinking beer is considered a sport, four OWI’s is a bit excessive. The girl is going to have to jump through a number of hoops before she can legally get behind the wheel again. In the meantime, I drive.

Generally, I don’t mind taking her places. Most of the trips are necessary. She needs to attend twelve step meetings, therapy sessions, and doctor appointments. She goes to the gym almost every day. She wants to buy art supplies for her new projects. These journeys are worthwhile.

She likes to play music in the car as I drive. Her ADD kicks in, and she rapidly goes from song to song. Sometimes the young woamn switches stations after only a few seconds. I find that to be distracting at times.

We don’t often talk in the car. She, like most members of her generation, tends to be obsessed with the information on her smart phone. Occasionally, we talk about music or movies. She is a big fan of Chris Farley and Carrie Fisher. She understands them pretty well.

Most of the time, our travels are without incident. But not always. Two weeks ago we drove to central Wisconsin to visit my younger brother, Mike. It’s almost a three hour drive from our house, and I have made it many times in the past. After so many iterations, the journey gets boring. When I get bored, I tend to drive faster.

Uusually, I try to find that sweet spot that is above the posted speeds limit, but still keeps me in the general flow of traffic. The speed limit on the highway heading toward Amherst is 65 mph. However, everybody is going seventy-five. As I drove through Waupaca, I nudged our car up to eighty.

Oops.

That’s when I saw the state trooper. I looked at him, and he looked at me. I imagined briefly that he hadn’t noticed my excessive speed. I was nearly a quarter mile part him before he pulled away from the median. There was already another car between myself and him. He sped up, pulled in front the vehicle behind me, and turned on his flashing lights.

Busted.

I pulled over to the side of the road. The trooper stopped behind me.

The young wman asked me, “Were you speeding?”

“Yeah.”

She gave me the faintest of smiles.

The cop tapped on the window. I rolled it down. He spoke,

“Sir, I clocked you three times. You were going at 80 mph each time. That’s way too fast. Is there any place you need to be in such a hurry?”

I shook my head, “No”.

“Sir, can I see you drivers license?”

I handed it to him.

“Do you have proof of insurance?”

I handed it to him.

He said, “I will check on all this, and determine what I need to do next.” He left.

I said nothing.

The young woman asked me, “So, should I call my mom about this?”

“If you want.”

The minutes crawled.

The trooper returned to our car.

“Sir, I checked. Your record shows ZERO violations. That’s what I like to see. I noticed also that you did slow down for me when you saw me coming behind you. I appreciate that. I am issuing you two warnings. One is for your excessive speed. The other is for the sticker on your license plate. You may not be aware of it, but state law requires you to have the year sticker in the lower right corner of your plate. You have it in the middle. When you get a chance, go to the DMV and get another sticker to place on your license plate. Now, get moving, and drive safely.”

I waited for the trooper to leave, and then I pulled back into traffic.

I asked the young woman, “So, are you still going to call?”

She seemed oddly disappointed. She said, “There is no reason to now. You just got a warning. If I had been driving, I’d be in handcuffs now.”

“That’s true.”

She asked, “Are you going to take care of that sticker right away?’

“Absolutlely.”

She just stared at me.