West Texas

May 25th, 2017

“If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell.” – Philip Henry Sheridan

The flashing blue lights behind me caught my attention. I wasn’t actually surprised to see them. I had seen the Texas Highway Patrol car pull off the median and follow us just when I had passed him at eighty miles an hour. I had hoped for a brief moment that maybe, just maybe, he was looking for somebody else. Not.

I pulled off to the shoulder of US290, just east of Johnson City. The highway patrolman pulled in right behind me.

Karin asked, “Why are we getting off the road?”

“Cop.”

“Are we going to get a ticket?”

I rested my forehead on the steering wheel. “Don’t know.”

Karin went back to her knitting.

Officer Ruiz walked over to the passenger side of the car. Karin cranked down the window. Behind his reflector shades, Ruiz was clean cut and unfailingly polite.

“Sir, could I see your driver’s license and your proof of insurance?”

I dug my license out of my wallet, and Karin fished the insurance paperwork from the glove compartment. Officer Ruiz took both items and later returned to his patrol car.

“Where are y’all coming from?” the cop asked.

“College Station.”

“Where are you headed?”

“Las Cruces.”

“Oh, that is a long way.”

I had time to think. Karin was in no mood for conversation at this point. My mind wandered into dark and paranoid places. I wondered if, perchance, the cop’s computer system interacted with that of Nevada, and would he know of my recent arrest in Vegas? I promptly discarded this notion. My experience is that Texans have almost no interest in the problems of the other, lesser, forty-nine states of the Union. Texas is a world of its own, and Officer Ruiz would most likely only be concerned with what happened in the Lone Star State.

Time dragged. The advantages of speeding soon became immaterial. Whatever time I had gained, was now lost. Cops know this. That’s why it takes so long for them to process the information. They want to make you wait, and wait.

I think sometimes about the advice of Hunter S. Thompson in this sort of situation. He remarks:

“Few people understand the psychology of dealing with a highway traffic cop. Your normal speeder will panic and immediately pull over to the side when he sees the big red light behind him…and then we will start apologizing, begging for mercy.

This is wrong. It arouses contempt in the cop-heart. The thing to do-when running along at about a hundred or so and you suddenly find a red-flashing CHP-tracker on your trail- what you want to do is accelerate. Never pull over with the first siren howl. Mash it down and make the bastard chase you at speeds up to 120 all the way to the next exit. He will follow. But he won’t know what to make of your blinker-signal that says you’re about to turn right.”

Oh, that is soooo tempting. However, it is clearly advice for the single man. For the married man this is akin to suicide. It just doesn’t work.

Officer Ruiz returned to Karin’s window.  He gave us back our paperwork.

“Sir, I am issuing you a warning. I would advise you to following ALL the posted speed limits.”

“Yes. Always“, I replied.

“Have a safe trip.”

Officer Ruiz went back to his vehicle.

I pulled off the shoulder slowly and safely. I merged smoothly with the traffic on US290.

We stopped at a gas station in Johnson City. I bought a map. I filled the tank. We both went to the bathroom.

Karin told me, “You know, the speed limit here is 35. You were doing forty.”

Yeah. I expected to hear this sort of talk for at least the rest of the day.

Las Cruces was at least ten hours away. We had a lot of West Texas to see.

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