Waking Up in Wyoming

Many experiences in life can wake us up to our responsibilities, one such sobering event happened to me the first time I traveled alone. Two thousand miles was a long way for a computer nerd to travel in a car that received the same nurturing as a mangy dog left tied up in the backyard. I wanted to get the journey over with as soon as possible. I needed to get back home to my safety zone. The trip waged minor battles against me, but I overcame it on every front. I was a man against the odds and I felt like I was winning. But this was a small town in Wyoming, the middle of nowhere, and at two in the morning those flashing red and blue lights looked very ominous. I was sure I was going to be pulled over and lose my war in a crushing defeat.

I had been on my journey for a day and a half with only four hours of sleep right in the middle. In most of the states on my journey the main highway goes around the city and a business road goes through it. In Wyoming things are the other way around; the main road goes through town and a bypass goes around it. These semantics were very easy to miss on a road sign at 80 miles an hour. I found myself in this tiny town right after the bars closed down. I was in a panic. I was not able to tell which direction or how fast I was supposed to be going. All I wanted was to get back on the interstate before anybody had a chance to discover that I was an uninsured driver.

When I finally reached the edge of town and could see my route back to freedom the sky lit up like a patriotic lightening storm. I felt my heart plunge down out of my body and onto the floor. Sure enough, there was a police car a quarter mile behind me and heading my way. I thought, for only a split second, that he would cruise on past me. Then I was struck with the undeniable realization that I was his target. I pulled over and tried really hard to look innocent, which is very hard to do even if it is true, but in this case it was not. The thought of going to jail made me wilt like a piece of lettuce left out all day at a potluck.

I knew I was going to get into trouble, so I did the only thing that I felt a reasonable person faced with my situation could do—I lied. In hindsight I know I set myself up for it, but I was caught under a cat’s paw like a mouse who may never see its calm, quiet hole in the wall again. He asked for my license and registration and I was playing out lies as fast as my brain could deal them to me. “It’s in my post office box and I don’t have anyone to check my mail and forward it to me. I have insurance, Officer, but unfortunately I can’t prove it.” I told him that I had just visited my sister for a month and was not at home in Oregon when my new insurance card came in.

He sized me up and then looked at his watch. It was then that I found my first glimmer of hope. With a calm graciousness bubbling out beneath his words he said that there was no way to prove my story at this time of night. He penned out a ticket and said that he was not going to take me in. All I had to do was fax a copy of my insurance back to his station when I got home and my record would be cleared. I could feel my heart finding its rightful place back in my chest. We said our farewells and carefully parted ways.

I drove off to find a place to park and sleep for the night. After an incident like that I yearned for the kind of fresh start that only a new day dawning could make. I had a lot to reflect on that night, but I still found the will to slip off into unconsciousness.

I got away with my lies and lawlessness and did not have any more problems the rest of the trip. Being pulled over without insurance was a frightful experience and taught me an important lesson. Keep my insurance up to date and I will not be forced relive those feelings. Since then I have religiously paid my insurance and have built up a great relationship with my agent. On a different note, however, I don’t plan on driving through Wyoming ever again—or at least not for seven years.

Written September 2, 2004
copyright 2004 Bradley S. Owens

This story is factually true, but my writing was a little over the top. This was written for the only college writing class that I ever took.

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