“Because I Didn’t Know You Were a Cop.”

When asked about my first vehicle, I usually tell people that my first vehicle was a 1989 Pontiac Sunbird.  In truth this was the first vehicle which I purchased, and was the first vehicle which I financed.  I viewed it at the time as a right of passage for me, a milestone, so to speak.  I loved that car, and when I finally traded it in for a new vehicle I was really reluctant.  You can imagine my dismay when I received a notice informing me that the car had been sold at auction to a dealership in Guadalajara, Mexico and that they had misplaced the title transfer.  “They sold my car to Mexico!?!” I exclaimed, giving up any hope of ever seeing my beloved Sunbird again!

In actuality, this was not the first vehicle I ever owned.  In one of his rare attempts to be worthy of a more glowing nickname, Dead Beat Dad, procured a car for me which he delivered to me a scant few days before the start of my Senior Year in High School.  I was participating in a school program that enabled me to skip my last two hours of class in favor of having a job, but I needed transportation in order to make that work.

Dead Beat Dad, had made a commitment at the end of my Junior year to make sure I’d have a vehicle to drive when Senior Year started.  This was before I learned not to rely on the commitments of Dead Beat Dad.  Things got kinda sticky as the summer progressed and there was still no sign of this mysterious vehicle.  Finally he arrived with my first vehicle, that which shall not be named…  Except for right now.  The vehicle he procured for me was a 1980 Plymouth Champ.  It was a five speed manual transmission (which I did not know how to drive) with major rust spots and a broken mirror.  It was an ugly piece of shit for which he’d paid a mere $400.00 but I didn’t care ’cause I finally had wheels.

The car lived about four months and then it went to the big parking lot in the sky.

It’s possible that I may have contributed to the demise of this vehicle a little bit.

On one particular evening, I was out with some friends (Bernardine and Aimee) and we stopped at the grocery store behind my house.  There was a shopping cart sitting out in the side lot of this store where there were no other cars.  The cart was straddling the short line between two parking spots.  I raced through the parking lot to that space and slammed on my breaks, effectively stopping in the parking space and sending the cart rolling to the opposite end of the lot in a shot.  Bernardine (Bernie) screamed and Aimee (ever the goody-goody) reacted with shock and disdain.  You know, the kind that is a thin veil for the amusement that really existed, despite her fear of letting it show.

I was emboldened.  Later that evening we went to a movie and when the movie was over, I drove us around to the backside of the movie theater.  This theater was on the end of a long shopping center that included, among other things a grocery store.  The area behind the grocery store had a large open lot to allow room for the delivery semi-trucks to maneuver.  There was also a section that was slanted fairly steeply toward a drain.

I had long since learned that this slanted area made an excellent ramp.  I decided I was going to freak out my friends, so I drove around to the back of the shopping center and punched it.  It was dark and there was a set of head-lights coming the other direction but there was plenty of room to avoid a collision so I went for it.

Forty-five miles per hour behind a shopping center, up and over the ramp and down with a crash!  Bernie screamed, “Woo hoooo!” and laughed.  Aimee gasped and then allowed herself a chuckle.

And then the lights.  There was red and blue flashing off the building on one side and field on the other.  I was just so surprised I couldn’t even get it together to be scared.  I stopped the car and rolled down the window to wait.  The officer walked up to my window with an ear to ear grin on his face.

Officer Shiflet: How’re we doing tonight?

Me: (red faced and probably glowing in the dark.)  Ok, sir.

Officer Shiflet: I noticed your little stunt back there.  What was that all about?

Me: Well, um…  I was just, uh… showing off… a little…  f-for my friends.  (I was sure I was going up the river)

Office Shiflet: (Grin growing slightly)  Why would you do that with me coming the other way?

Me: Well… I mean, um… I saw headlights and all, but um…  Well.  (And then I blurted it out.)  I didn’t know you were a cop!

Officer Shiflet doubled over in laughter.  With tears streaming down his face he said, “Let’s slow it down a bit shall we.  Now get outta here, you crazy kids!”

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