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For Children’s Sake, Drive Slowly


As I drove past Capshaw Elementary School, I glanced at the clock in my van:  2:14.  It wasn’t near 3:00, school dismissal time, so I wasn’t concerned about the lower speed limit that is enforced immediately before and the end of school days.

Children played on the playground and teachers gathered near a wooden bench.  As a former teacher, I have happy memories of those teacher conversations; recess is one of the few times during a school day that teachers can visit.  Four teachers stood in a circle, facing different directions to see the whole playground and monitor students, to be sure children were safe.  I recognized two friends.

            A city police car was parked in a street parking place, ready, I thought, for school dismissal. During my teacher days, I appreciated when police officers were present at the times when students were dropped off and picked up.  Just seeing a police car reminded drivers to slow down.  I waved to the policeman as I drove past.

            He waved back and turned on the blue lights on top of his car. I slowed for him to pass me, but he didn’t.  His car was on my bumper. 

            As I stopped in a parking place off the road, I wondered if there was something wrong with my van.  The policeman greeted me kindly, “Good afternoon, Ma’am. May I see your driver’s license?” 

            “Sure,” I said and handed it to him. “I hope your day is going well.”  He nodded and, holding my license, walked to his car.    

            I was surprised by his next words: “Mrs. Ray, you were going 28 in a school zone.  The posted limit is 15 MPH.”

            And then my experience as a teacher hit me.  Kindergarten students are dismissed at 2:00 p.m. so the school speed limit is enforced beginning at 1:45 p.m. My words rushed out.  “I’m so sorry.  I looked at my clock and because it wasn’t near 3:00, I didn’t think about the speed limit being lower now.  It’s because kindergarten students get out at 2:00, isn’t it?”

            The policemen repeated the posted speed limit, noted on a sign by a flashing yellow light, and he didn’t know about kindergarten students.  He looked stern.

             I knew exactly where that light was and I didn’t see it that day because I’d turned onto the street a half block after it. I wanted to whine, but I knew that wouldn’t help.  I said. “You know what makes this really embarrassing?  I taught at this school for more than twenty years.  I should’ve remembered.  I drive past here almost every day.  I’m so sorry I was going too fast and promise to be more careful.”

            I got no pity for being a teacher, but maybe it was my repeated regrets and promise that warranted only a verbal warning.  “Ma’am, you do that.  Be careful and slow down.”   

             Let my experience be you warning:  obey the speed limit and drive carefully. Especially near schools.


Driving Woes

A police car followed me on 10th Street from the intersection at Fisk Road and then south on Old Kentucky Road where the speed limit is 30 m.p.h. I made sure my speedometer stayed under 30.  I wondered what did I do and should I stop.  The road’s shoulder was narrow so I kept driving.

            Approaching the traffic light at Broad Street, I saw the police car’s blue lights.  At least, he didn’t turn on his siren, and I could easily stop in a church parking lot.  Determined to stay calm, I put on a mask and got out my driver’s license. 

            A Cookeville City Policeman wore a mask and stood several feet away.  I greeted him tentatively.  “Hello?” I said.  His first words calmed me: “Ma’am, you didn’t do anything wrong.”  I exhaled deeply.  “But your license plate expired June 2020,” he said.

            “Really?” I asked.  “Seven months ago?”

            His eyes smiled.  “Yes, really.  You are welcome to get out and look at the plate. I’ll show you the sticker.”

            To avoid being argumentative and explain my questions I said, “I believe you.  It’s just that my husband and I take care of things like that.  We stay on top of paperwork.”  Now, I laugh at my reply because obviously we didn’t.  I wondered how much the ticket would be and if the missing sticker was in my van glove compartment, an arm’s reach away. 

            “Well, the county court clerk’s office is open today so you can take care of it,” he said, and I realized that he wasn’t reaching for paper and pen or an electronic device as if to write a ticket.  

            I asked his name and then expressed appreciation to David for being considerate and understanding. I assured him that I’d have a new sticker that day, and I did. 

            Husband was as surprised as I was. There wasn’t a 2021 sticker in the van glove compartment, but paperwork for the June 2020 sticker, and years before, was there.  Although we found evidence of payment for his vehicle’s license renewal, there was none for mine.

            It’s still a mystery that we didn’t “take care of things like that.” It won’t happen again.  I wrote a note for June 2021 on all my calendars:  renew license plate.

            Five days later, I went to Sonic to purchase eight gift cards for our Grands for Valentine’s Day. After ten minutes, a server handed me two cards and apologized because my order would take a while since the card machine wasn’t working well.  I continued reading and relaxed.  After another thirty minutes, I had eight gift cards and pushed the van’s start button. 

            Instead of an engine purr, I heard the hiss and clank of a dead battery.  Husband came to my rescue and thankfully jumper cables reached from the battery of his vehicle to mine.

            Before leaving home now, I check my van’s tires and gas gauge, make sure the engine trouble light isn’t on, and adjust the mirrors.   Two unexpected driving experiences are enough.