Thinking Outside The Box

As you already know, I grew up in the beautiful state of Michigan.  Back in my mid-twenties, I found myself one evening driving from Lansing to the Detroit area for a business meeting.  The meeting was to be early evening, but being well into autumn, it was already dark outside as I traveled east on I-96.

As you also already know from previous conversations, I didn’t sway much from being a quiet, law-abiding young adult (I say “much” because of incidents like the bottle rocket story), so you can guess what kind of a driver I was.  Don’t misunderstand that; I love to drive fast!  But I also know the law I should abide by, so for the most part, I drive no more than five miles over the speed limit (as irritating as that can be sometimes).

So I drive to the Detroit area, have my meeting and am now on my way back to Lansing.  I’m tootin’ along, minding my own business, about half-way home.  It’s later in the evening–probably around 9:00 or so–and no one else is around me.  As I’m checking my mirrors, I notice in my rear-view mirror that a pair of headlights is coming up on me and fast.  I already know I’m in the traveling lane, so you can guess what I’m anticipating (you’ve probably seen it yourself):  whoever’s in that car is driving so fast that a casual swerve over into the passing lane will get them around me before either one of us has the time to think about it.  But no.  The car comes right up on my tail and stays there.  Of course, my first thought is to check my speed, so I glance down and see nothing unusual ( I was probably at my typical five-miles-over-the-speed-limit speed, but certainly nothing to be pulled over for).  Since I see no red flags there, I look back into my mirror for any hint of a light bar on the top of the car to indicate that it’s a police cruiser.  I don’t see one, but the headlights just “have that look” like that’s exactly what it is and the car is still sticking to me like glue.

A minute goes by and I’m starting to sweat a little, because I not only have let off the gas a little to force the car to pass, but now I am back up to my normal speed and the car hasn’t moved from my backside.  (This was in the days before cell phones were everywhere, so there was no call to 911 to report a potential situation unfolding on the highway should this not be a police cruiser.  And yet, strangely enough, the thought that it might be a cruiser brought no sense of relief or comfort whatsoever.  So that left me with just gutting it out and praying–a lot.)  Then I notice in my mirror that another set of headlights is coming up on me in the passing lane and doing so just as fast the car behind me had done.  As it approaches the two of us, it starts to slow a bit.  The car gets side-by-side with me and I see right away that it’s a full-blown police cruiser–and now he’s matching my speed!  I’m boxed in!

Up to this point, I’m trying to act casual and relaxed, but after I see that, all hope of remaining calm, cool and collected is totally shot.  My heart is rattling inside my rib cage like buckshot as I wipe my sweaty palms on my pants and try to maintain my speed like nothing is wrong.  In reality, I’m just waiting for these police cars to “light’em up” and pull me over.  (I could just imagine pulling over to the side of the highway and hearing a voice on the intercom from the car behind me:  “Driver, step out of the car nice and slow.  Now walk backwards to my voice.  Stop.  On your knees with your hands on your head.”  An officer walks up behind me, cuffs me and says to me, “You’re under arrest for driving too close to the speed limit.  You have the right to remain silent.  You have the right to an attorney….”)

Then, to make matters worse, I see two other sets of headlights, one in each lane, and they’re flying up to where we were all cruising along!  They pull right up behind the two cars already with me and begin cruising along with us, anxious to join in the fun.  Now I’m more than boxed in!  I’m thinking, What is this?!  More cops??  WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS KIND OF TREATMENT??  Just tell me what I’m doing wrong and I’ll stop doing it!!!  Oh, the pressure!  The stress!  I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m–suddenly the cruiser that has been matching my speed in the passing lane takes off and flies on ahead to the next car which is about a hundred yards ahead of me.  As soon as he takes off, an unmarked cruiser that was behind him does the same.  Then the other set of headlights behind the car that started this whole fiasco pulls into the passing lane, guns it and flies by me (turns out that one was another unmarked cruiser).  Finally, the car that had been behind me the whole time pulls into the passing lane and joins his buddies on up ahead of him (turns out it was a police cruiser the whole time).

Oh, the relief I felt!!  And it was somewhat gratifying to watch them do the same thing to the car in front of me.  (I’m thinking, Buddy, I know how you feel!  I wish I had a change of underwear for you, but I’ve got my own mess to clean up here.)  This whole event unfolded in about  three or four minutes, so those officers (it was a combination of local police and sheriff) took about the same amount of time to get past the guy in front of me.  Then it happened!  Once they all got passed the car in front of me, I watched them all converge on the car in front of him.  They all hit their lights at the same time, and there was red and blue lights flashing everywhere!  It was a glorious sight!  As I drove passed them, I saw that they had this car completely surrounded–a perfectly executed box maneuver that I had the privilege of witnessing first-hand.  It was worth having a mess to clean up afterwards–not to mention needing to buy new underwear–to see something like that unfold before me.

A thank you to the police and sheriff officers who forced me to be a part of their plan.  Glad to help!