The reason I stopped you | Front Porch | Indy Week

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The reason I stopped you

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My once-brilliant Saturday was veering off track as I crossed from rural Orange County into suburban Durham, and the flashing blue lights in the rearview were not a good sign.

Just an hour ago, I coveted a typically ambitious weekend morning to-do list, so I'd left the house to mow. The chickens were demanding greens, and the coop floor needed some fresh cover. With 20 minutes of mowing, I could fill a few bushel baskets, and they'd be happy again. But it was not to be.

The gas cans were empty, so I headed to the closest self-serve. Focused on the task at hand, I took no notice of the truck's lazy cranking. The next time I tried to turn the key in the ignition, there was only silence. I needed a jump at the station. I glanced under the hood to check the cables and belts, and everything seemed in order. I'd risk it and drive straight to town to get the electrical system checked out. The truck and I had a whole weekend of projects planned, after all, and the garage closed at noon.

I rejoined the parade of Saturday morning drivers on the road, knowing that if I stopped my truck anywhere, it would stay there the rest of the weekend. The electrical gauges on the dashboard fluttered like butterflies. I revved the engine to build up whatever charge I could. My mission was simple—get to the garage. I had the jumper cables, even extra gas, but I did not want to be that guy on the side of the road with his hood up, his day done. So what if I was going a few miles over the speed limit? This was a quest for Saturday survival.

The trooper's flashing lights set me back.

He pulled up behind me at a familiar intersection, but I did not want to cut off my engine. I'd never get it started, but he was waiting for me to turn the truck off. I tried to break the stalemate by signaling him, but I could not really express the complexity of the situation with hand gestures through the window. My right foot continued to goose the gas pedal as a line of traffic built behind us. No one wanted to pull around us—the situation looked too confusing, and possibly dangerous. At the least, it was a very un-Pleasant Valley Saturday morning.

The officer slowly got out of his car and started walking toward me, checking out the bumper of the truck. We both started talking at once. I explained that I was not a flight risk. I simply needed to keep my foot on the gas so I could get it to the garage, which now seemed 100 miles and a time zone away. I did not expect him to offer me a push or a jump. He, too, had plenty of better things to do—or so I thought.

"The reason I stopped you," he spoke slowly, with a thin smile. "The reason I stopped you was because when you drove by me, I couldn't read your license plate. You have a dirty license plate, you need to clean it."

And so, another item was added, fast-tracked to number two. The officer let me go with that promise, and we each continued with our Saturday.

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