About one month ago, I was driving on Chapman Highway toward Sevierville. You know that bit where the speed limit goes from 55 to 45 to 35 in less than a mile?
That’s where I was when I noticed blue lights in my rearview mirror.
In no particular order, I felt nervous, embarrassed, ashamed and frustrated. How did I get here? The last five minutes of my life flashed before me.
My mom sat in the front telling me an intricate story from her nine years in Spain. My children sat in the back, singing to a tape. Ah, the tape! That was the culprit.
First off, my kids were arguing which song they should listen to next. Secondly, I usually do not use the tape player in my car, as I mostly listen to CDs or the radio.
Thirdly, as I rewinded to a particular song requested by the kids, I learned that if I press the REW button twice, the number 2 appears on my screen and it goes back two songs. What a great trick! We didn’t have that in the ’80s when we listened to cassette tapes. In the process, I missed the speed limit signs.
For the record, since 2005, when I moved to Sevier County, I have never been pulled over by an officer. I am a safe driver. I wasn’t sure what to expect.
The police officer treated me with professionalism and respect. Also, with understanding. I was thankful he did not give me a ticket. He said I should go to the courthouse in three weeks, pay $40.50 in court fees and appear before the judge, who will more than likely dismiss it, while putting me on probation for 60 days.
He also told me 716 people lost their lives in Tennessee since the beginning of the year. And to slow down and take care of Gatlinburg.
My son reminds me now and then, “The officer said we should take care of Gatlinburg, mommy.”
When “D-Day” came, it happened the way the police officer predicted. About 50 other people went through that procedure with me.
The whole process seemed like one big game where some knew the rules and others learned them as things unfolded. Everybody kept a straight face, but I felt like the court employees were relaxed and ready to crack a joke at any moment.
For instance, as the court officer gave me a white form to fill out, he asked for my pink slip — the one the police officer had given me. I said I did not have it. He said facetiously, “You forgot your pink slip?” and smiled.
My suspicion was that my 2-year-old daughter, who is obsessed with anything pink, had taken it. But I did not think he had time to listen to that story. I simply said, “I misplaced it.” He moved on.
When the judge called my name, I walked up to the podium and answered his two questions. That was it. Everything happened so fast, it was over before I could thank the judge. So thank you, Judge Stokes!
In conclusion, let us all slow down and be more careful in traffic. You may have seen the electronic sign on I-40 on the way to Knoxville which lists the number of fatalities in Tennessee. It is well over 850 at the time of this writing.
As the sign says, “Please don’t be next.”
— Adriana Zoder, who was born in Romania, is an American citizen living with her husband and two children in Gatlinburg. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org.