Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Speeding Tickets

Now that I'm closing in on a hundred, I am a more careful driver, but there was a period of a few years when you might easily catch me driving too fast, roughly in my twenties and early thirties.

  • In 1964 a Texas state trooper lit me up for doing 85 in a 75 zone, on the way from Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio to the Texas State Fair in Dallas. He gave me a ticket on which he identified the offense and showed me a series of items on the ticket, a checklist from which I could choose several options. I was to check one and submit the ticket by mail.

    One of the items was to pay the fine and end the matter. I could send the ticket and check to Waco County Justice of the Peace Joe N. Brown. Making payment being by far the simplest option, I searched the ticket for the amount I should pay and found . . . nothing.

    I wrote to Mr. Brown explaining the situation and promised that if he would only tell me what the amount of the fine was for doing 85 in a 75 zone I would send him a check.

    After a period of silence, I assumed that the mills of the Texas justice system must grind very slowly and that eventually someone would let me know. Ha!

    Several months later I got a call from the Orderly Room (company headquarters) informing me that there was a state trooper there with a warrant for my arrest and ordering me to report immediately. By then the ticket had disappeared from my thoughts and I had no idea what this was all about.

    Well, the state had issued the warrant, and it was for non-payment of the ticket. I was flabbergasted. I explained to the trooper that the ticket had no amount information and I had written to the JP, yada yada yada. He laughed and said "This happens all the time. The JP's do not get any postage money from the state and when they get a letter like yours they just pitch it." (A first class stamp was five cents in 1964. However, with Texas declining to provide ticket amounts, I can imagine that JP's might have received a *lot* of letters like mine.)

    On my promise to mail payment immediately, the trooper informed me of the amount, tucked the warrant in his pocket, and departed.

  • In 1967, on returning from Vietnam, I drove from Corpus Christi, Texas, to New England for a 30 day leave. With me was my bridge playing friend Dolly, and we took her car. I had to drop her off in the D.C. area, and we drove across the bottom of the country and then up the east coast.

    In South Carolina a state trooper jumped right out of my trunk and stopped me for doing 80 in a 70 zone. Really, I have no idea where he came from I didn't see him as we approached wherever he was and I didn't see him get on the highway behind me. He was just *there*, suddenly.

    He asked for my license and the car's registration, which I provided. He frowned, looked at me, and asked, "What's this 'APO' in the address area?"

    I explained that it stood for "Army Post Office," that I had returned from Vietnam a couple of days earlier, and that I would change it in about a month, when I got to my next post, in Arizona.

    But *this* trooper wasn't saluting any flags, and as he handed me my ticket he said, "Mr. Hendricks, you were safer in Vietnam than you are out here doing 80 miles per hour on our highways."

  • In 1975 I got a break from a state trooper, not in the form of forgiveness, but in the form of breaking procedure. Driving north at night on I-95 in South Carolina (again!) I was stopped for speeding. I have no idea now what the limit was or what my speed was. The trooper told me to follow him and we drove to the home of a Justice of the Peace.

    We pulled up to the house, the trooper walked up to the front door, and I waited in my car. After a minute the trooper approached me and said, "He's not home. Now what I'm *supposed* to do is drive you to the jail and keep you until the JP gets home. But if you'll tell me that you will pay this fine then I'll give you a ticket and you can mail it in."

    I did, he did, and I did, you betchum, Red Ryder.

  • Several years later - I can't place it exactly - I got the only speeding ticket I didn't pay. I was driving south on I-95 in Maryland, on the way to visit my brother, when I got pulled over for speeding. I don't remember the numbers but my offense was not particularly egregious, as I was not in the passing lane and was just doing whatever the traffic was doing.

    Parked at the side of the road was a string of cars and several cruisers. All the cars had plates from states other than Maryland. I'd been caught in a speed trap set for out of state drivers only, and those with Maryland plates were allowed to drive at speeds for which we were stopped and ticketed.

    I accepted the ticket silently and held on to it for a week or so, until I had returned to Massachusetts. At that point I just tore it up.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I Wish I'd Said That

The advent of the internet, with blogs and such sites as Google and Wikipedia, has been destructive regarding the historical record, nowhere more so than in the realm of reported quotes. Some people apparently feel that *they* can make a quote better, snappier, funnier, whatever, if they modify it juuuuuust a bit. Usually, the result provided by the vandal is not as good, not as snappy, not as funny. Always, the quote becomes historically inaccurate.

So . . . I've researched the quotes that follow, but they may not be precisely accurate, not word for word matches with the original spoken versions. The versions I chose were those that I first heard closest in time to their being said, or those that I found at sites I consider more likely to be reliable than others. In any event, it is the flavor that counts here.
  • Just prior to the US assault on Baghdad, a news reporter asked Marine Major General John F. Kelly whether he had contemplated defeat. You may recall that those opposed to the war had predicted dire consequences - door-to-door fighting and very high casualty rates.

    "We are Marines. The Marines took Iwo Jima. Baghdad ain't shit."

  • William F. Buckley Jr., during a debate at Harvard University: "I would sooner be governed by the first hundred names in the Boston telephone directory than by the faculty of Harvard."

  • This crossed my mind when Nancy Pelosi told reporters that the health care bill had to be passed so we could find out what's in it.

    H. L. Mencken: "Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats."

  • In 2006, a bail skipper was pulled over for speeding by a Polk County (Florida) deputy. The driver ran into the woods, was followed by the deputy and a backup deputy and police dog. The driver shot the dog and the second deputy, wounding him six times. He then approached the deputy and finished him off with two bullets to the head. He subsequently wounded the first deputy, who called for help.

    A SWAT team was called in and located the murderer the next morning, hiding under a fallen tree. He raised a hand containing a gun, the SWAT team opened fire, and he was hit and killed by 68 bullets.

    Asked why the killer was shot 68 times, the Sheriff replied, "That's all the bullets we had."

  • Attributed to various generals: ""When you men get home and face an anti-war protester, look him in the eyes and shake his hand. Then, wink at his girlfriend, because she knows she's dating a pussy."

  • Josef Stalin, prior to WWII, disussing the usefulness of acquiring Pope Pius XI as an ally: "The Pope? How many divisions does he have?" When he heard of this later, the Pope said, "Tell my son Josef that he will meet my divisions in eternity."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Choose Your Audience Carefully

My father once told me about watching a garage mechanic deal with a dent in a bumper. Dad had taken his car to Bunnell's Garage (in Nottingham, New Hampshire) because the car had begun to have a little shimmy.

Bunnell: "It sounds like you need your wheels aligned."

Dad: "Well, I had them aligned several months ago at (here he named a national chain)."

Bunnell: "Ha! All that means is that when you stop for a red light your front wheels won't fall off."

Bunnell was holding a rubber mallet and told Dad, "I'll be with you in just a minute."

He walked over to a car with a dent in the rear bumper. This was in the early 1960's when bumpers were made of sterner stuff.

The dent was about a third of the way in from one end, and Dad watched as Bunnell bent down and looked at the dent, put his hand behind the bumper at the dent's location and felt around, walked to one end of the bumper, walked to the other end of the bumper, and then gave that end a thump with the mallet. The dent popped right out. Bunnell looked up at my father and said, "That is the principle of lever and fid."

He and Dad had known each other for years, and Dad told him, "It happens that I know what a fid is, you old fraud."

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Addie Meets Captain Underpants

One summer day I was invited to lunch at the house of some friends. While Mom was preparing the lunch, daughter Haley and I read Junie B. Jones and Her Big Fat Mouth. We were perhaps a third of the way through the book when lunch arrived, and I thought I might be done with Junie B. Jones forever.

Soon thereafter, a woman I had met, an eBay bookseller, suffered a house fire, leaving her, five children, a dog, and a cat homeless.

I paid them a visit to see what I could do, at which time I met Addie, among others. Addie was the youngest, six years old, I think, and the most obviously affected by the trauma. She wasn't frantic, but no matter what else was happening she always looked a little worried.

At some point her mom assigned me the job of distracting Addie, getting her mind off the fire and the house. I saw that some salvaged books included Addie's copies of the Junie B. Jones series, and told Addie how I'd had to abandon the Big Fat Mouth book right in the middle. She sympathized and I weaseled my way into listening to her read some of the book to me. She also said that she had read *all* the Junie B. Jones books and was now hoping to read the Captain Underpants series, but she had none of the books yet.

This was a lot of fun because Addie was a good reader *and* was missing her upper front teeth, which made for some strange pronunciations. She read for a few minutes and I could see she was getting restless - this book was old news to her - and suggested that we take a break. She wandered a few feet away and I heard her ask her two older sisters "Why am I so ugly?"

The children, two boys and three girls, were the closest group of siblings I have ever met, and the sisters explained gently that she was *not* ugly, she was just in a transition period and losing her baby teeth, and that they had *all* gone through that.

Neighbors each had offered to take one or two family members in temporarily, and the whole family had shelter. Mom decided that she and Addie would drive to Chicago (from New Jersey), where some booksellers were gathering, to get Addie away from the scene of the fire. I followed them during the drive.

Whenever we stopped anywhere, mainly for meals, I did my best to entertain Addie, less for the purpose of distracting her than because one of my responsibilities in life is to entertain children. That gene is from my father.

At a lunch stop, when lunch had pretty much been disposed of, Mom and Addie headed for the rest rooms, and Mom asked me to order some chocolate ice cream for Addie. Alas, there was only vanilla, and so I ordered that. When Mom and Addie returned, I explained to Addie that they didn't have chocolate, only vanilla. Can you believe that? I asked about strawberry, blueberry, coffee, ketchup, rainwater, and vinegar, but all they had was vanilla! Addie had only the tiniest of smiles as she listened, but her eyes were twinkling at full speed.

We made it to Chicago and split up, Mom and Addie continuing to the home of some friends who would put them up during their stay. The next night, the friends, Mom and Addie, some other Chicago booksellers, and I all got together for dinner a few blocks from the house. Before going there, I bought a copy of The Adventures of Captain Underpants for Addie, and at the dinner I gave it to her and received in return a copy of Junie B. Junes and Her Big Fat Mouth. We were both very pleased.

After dinner, some walked back to the house and some went in their cars. Addie was to walk with me, holding my hand all the way, but she *really* couldn't wait to get into her book, so I let her have both hands for that and I kept one hand on her shoulder. She decided to share her new book with me, reading aloud.

The uniform for Captain Underpants was just underpants over his clothing. At one point, some kids are talking about him and one says "I wonder where he gets all the underpants," and Captain Underpants thinks to himself, "What underpants?"

When she read that aloud, Addie looked at me, eyes twinkling again, to see if I understood and enjoyed it as much as I was *supposed* to.

That was the last time I saw Addie, but I have my Junie B. Jones book still, and she has my heart nailed to her bedroom wall. She must be in her late teens now, and I imagine there are many more hearts on that wall.

A few days later, Mom posted in the chat room that Addie had said I was the silliest man she had ever met. I replied that she should tell Addie that "I'm not the least bit silly. Oh, and ask her if she thinks I should change my eBay ID to Donnie_Underpants."