“Why are you stopping the car?”
“There is a police car with blinking lights behind us….I think he has tailgated us for few minutes now!”
I thought my husband was joking. But I could see the highway patrol police officer striding towards the rented car that we were driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
All weird thoughts….. corrupt cops, being handcuffed by the walkie-talkie toting police officer à la Hollywood style, images of prisons…. crossed my mind in those few seconds that the officer took to reach the car.
I wondered where we had goofed up and was ready to kneel on road with “hands where I can see them” if ordered. My heart was in my mouth and I instantly developed a headache!
All day we had driven along the Pacific Coastal Highway skirting the immense blue ocean enjoying the spell-binding scenery. Beyond Morro Bay we turned inland driving along Cabrillo Highway. It was already evening and we were two hundred miles short of Los Angeles. We did not want to risk night travel in a new city. We were reveling in the leisure journey with no maddening traffic to bother us.
Lost in Rod Stewart’s version of ‘The way you look tonight’ playing on the radio, I missed the worried frown creasing my husband’s face and realized that something was amiss only when he pulled over.
The officer leaned in to inspect, from my side of the car and noted our daughter sleeping at rear seat without the seat belt. He started rattling off our offences. Apparently we were over-speeding and did not heed his signal to stop plus one of us was without seat-belt….three charges!!
At that point of time I was totally nervous, dreading the worst and faltering when answering the officer’s questions. The fun-filled day seemed history….
But he was nowhere like the rude policemen of the television shows. He patiently heard us out when we apologized for all the mistakes. The only excuse we had was the mesmerizing scenery and joy of holidaying in America. He checked our credentials, the car rental documents, hotel reservations and holiday itinerary.
At some moment he decided we were some over-enthusiastic harmless first-time tourists and then…. Just like that, with a warning, he let us off the hook wishing us an enjoyable stay and a happy vacation!!
Having learnt our lesson, we thanked our lady-luck for the issue not blowing into some major problem and diligently stuck to the permissible speed limits for rest of our vacation.
In retrospect, I am glad I spend so much of my time watching Hollywood movies and American sitcoms… Ha! At least we knew what a tailgating police vehicle meant! Had we kept on driving, we would have irked the officer more, landing ourselves in big trouble.
A first-time month-long vacation abroad, in itself, is a memorable experience but getting nearly arrested is definitely nothing to forget about.