The following week, my wife and I were driving up to Kentucky with our son’s clothing and dorm furnishings for the semester. We were looking forward to seeing him one more time before school started. Most of the drive was on I-75, a pretty straight shot except through Knoxville, where I-75 and I-40 split. To stay on I-75, you have to get in the right lane and take the ramp to another section of the interstate.
On my initial trip, I hadn’t noticed anything unusual around Knoxville. I was cruising along, not really listening to the female voice from the GPS. I mean, really, how many men pay attention to a female voice telling them when and where to change lanes or take an exit? We know where we’re going. But all of a sudden, I realized I was in the far left lane, the “fast” lane, and I had to get across to the far right lane to take the exit ramp. There were several trucks in the way, so I got to play one of my favorite driving games … accelerate past the trucks while moving across four or five lanes on the freeway. I was successful in making the exit, and only had to hit 75 mph, which was well within my perceived tolerance level of the posted speed limit of 65. But then, I saw flashing blue lights behind me.
In my youth, let’s say through my 20’s, or maybe 30’s, I received my fair share of speeding tickets. I thought, “Well, it’s been awhile, but it shouldn’t be too bad.” I was nervous though when the officer approached my window. He asked me where we were going, and I explained that we were taking our son’s stuff to him for his freshman year of college. He then informed me that I was in a construction zone, and the speed limit was 45. I had no idea it was a construction zone! There were no workers and I had been so intent on getting past the trucks, I hadn’t seen the signs. He had clocked me at about 70, and I knew that was bad news. He asked for my license and registration. My wife had already pulled the registration from the glove box, and I nervously gave him a card out of my wallet. He handed it back to me and told me he needed my license, not my American Express card. I laughed and stifled a comment about bribing an officer, and with my hands shaking, handed my license to him.
He went back to his patrol car for several minutes. When he returned, he told me that excessive speeding in a construction zone carried a minimum fine of $500 and suspension of my driver’s license. At that, I thought I was going to need a pair of Depends! But then, for some reason, he handed my license and registration to me, and told me he wouldn’t write a ticket. He told me to slow down and have a safe trip the rest of the way, and then he followed us for a couple of miles as we drove away.
We stopped for dinner and recovered from shock, thankful for his kindness and for God’s protection. We had a good laugh about handing the officer my American Express card that I had pulled out of my wallet out of habit. I guess Knoxville doesn’t accept American Express!