It certainly wasn’t currently in the budget, but I knew we had to get home and visit my family. It had been six months since I’d seen them and we’d, you know, gotten married since then. It was time. And also, I had a shoot there. So duh, of course we’ll drive for two days on fumes and adrenaline.
I did not have evidence or faith before we set off to go to Oklahoma we could actually pay for February’s rent when we returned.
I was so worried sick about money, I made us leave at 2am in the morning, thinking we could make the 24 hour drive without stopping the night and paying for a hotel. In fact, when we stopped at a fast food joint around 9am that morning to take a nap, I was so tired I left the headlights on. This killed the battery in James’ PT Cruiser, Lily, and was Sign Number One I needed to chill the fart out and slow down. Fortunately, I’ve been a AAA member for six years now, because I am the most boring 20 something on Earth. The friendly tow-guy steered us clear from the rip-off border-town mechanics. Then I got roadside Indian food and we pressed on.
The drive started fine. James hates going through New Mexico where it’s flat and straight as the eye can see, but I love it. I’m a very nervous person by nature, and for some reason the only two places that really bring me peace are in the heart of a big city and in the middle of the desert. My logic in both places is: why worry when you are such a small thing in such a big place?
I drove until we got to Texas, and James took over. We were about an hour away from Oklahoma. And then there was a cop car behind us.
The speed limit was 70, and James was going exactly 73 miles per hour, thanks to cruise control. The cop car stayed behind us. So he bumped it down to 71 miles per hour. And then he bumped it down to 69 miles per hour. And then the cop car started driving in our blind spot. We got down to 61 before he finally pulled us over.
I was busy playing solitaire on my phone and wasn’t worried too much. “What has he got on us?” I told a shaking James. When James nervously finally got the window to roll down, we saw a Texan cop to put the Duke to shame. Giant ten gallon hat, visible firearm. And cranky.
He told us we were going a little fast, and then had James step out of the car. I immediately started composing a pithy tweet hinting at my feelings for Texas, but was interrupted by the cop, once again knocking at my door.
“Ma’am,” said the Texan cop, “Your husband has given us permission to search your vehicle.”
I didn’t argue, though I tried to throw my Okie accent back on and politely ask what we’d done wrong. His exact words were, “When folks look as nervous as you two do, it’s often times a lot worse than speeding: criminal behavior.”
I stepped out of the car and noticed a second cop had pulled over. No one else was around for miles.
And poor James was being cornered by the second cop. And then I started laughing, because I realized they thought we were drug traffickers. In a PT Cruiser. The cop’s eyes drifted down to my hip pocket: my cellphone. He told me to leave it in the car. It was still a funny situation, but a little frightening that somewhere in Texas there is a cop that probably still thinks I’m a drug dealer.
They searched and searched our car, and I could see in their eyes irritation when they realized the vehicle was full of road trip comforts, packed to the gills with blankets and snacks and a bunch of books I would dutifully ignore once home. Then they got very serious. They pulled a long, narrow box from my car and tore into it like toddlers on Christmas morning. James and I looked at each other and started laughing, knowing they found an empty plastic bag inside; it was the packaging from my monopod.
I stared out at the biggest sky in the country and wondered how I’d gotten myself into this ridiculous situation.
Insert pretentious cliche bag in the wind photo.
They eventually let us go and we drove on, stopping once again for a cup of coffee to calm our nerves.
I almost made James turn around, thinking it was a sign of a bad vacation to come. Going home is always loaded with fears of being judged. When your family doesn’t see you for six months? Weight gained, the width of your smile compared to last time, all these things are more obvious.
But James patted my leg and looked at me without ever needing to say, “You’re nuts. We’re three hours away. No one is going to judge you for getting pulled over by a crazy Texan.” But he said it anyway, because that’s how he rolls.
And before I knew it we rolled into my dad’s driveway.
Next on Tuesday, Part 4: Home on the Range, Sort Of.