Episode 14

If you believe that you are responsible for everything that happens to you, and I do, and that your life is the perfect reflection of your thoughts, again I do, then I am not sure what I was thinking when I was pulled over for speeding, apparently doing 64mph in a 45mph zone. Easy to do I might add, on these roads. Looking back at the series of events that occurred moments earlier, I now know why it happened and I should have known.

I was driving Hayley’s car, a black thing, much like my Honda at home. We had collected Jake from Steve and Kathy’s house. They had been looking after him whilst Jo and I did some gallivanting around Gulf Shores. We had taken the day out to visit FloraBama, a pub on the border of Florida and Alabama. A rather splendid establishment bedecked with bras and bikini top’s donated by willing customers, I presume. We did stay for a drink and I make the observation that we were not there long enough to witness the number of ladies attire increase. Or if it did, I must have been looking out to sea, across the wide expanse of beach, bathed in beautiful sunshine. The guy playing live on stage, to a limited number of audience, I hold responsible for our early departure. Even my lean knowledge of music enticed me away. The potential sight of a bra donation could not keep me in my seat any longer. One final long slurp of the ice-cold “bushwhacker” and we were gone. Next stop Alabama Point, a long strip of sand dunes and beach-head with the intention of it being host to our backs  for a spell of sun worship. To arrive at any beach, it seems, having parked the car, is along a boardwalk. Most meander their way across dunes, reeds and possible swamp to the desired soft and fluffy sandy beaches. Life is made easy to go to the beach. Some of these beach board walks have foot showers, full showers and even changing rooms and “bathrooms”. This current boardwalk, didn’t. It was just boards and we were walking. We found a flat spot OF sand near the water’s edge. Unfurled our Chelsea blanket, made from about 12 Chelsea flags, and nestled into the peace of the environment. And it was peaceful. Despite quite a few “others” the space was enough to accommodate at least a million more people. The gentle rhythm of the sea became mesmerising. I put my head down for tanning and mind work, mildly cursing the failed muso at the pub for clashing with our visit! All news is good news.

Laying in the sun is not, perhaps, a recommended pastime.  The benefits of vitamin D, however, are undoubtedly recognised, and this was an ideal opportunity to indulge in a little of what is good for you. My regulation factor 50 for forehead and nose was applied, whilst my torso and limbs quite happy with factor 15. The gentle breeze, the lapping of the waves, the warmth of nature enveloped me. I was at peace, both physically and more importantly, mentally.

Time has a tendency to be still on such hedonistic moments. The minutes passed with some ease and the enjoyment lingered through until it was snack time. A homemade sandwich of cheese, turkey and salad accompanied by some very tasty Chex Mix, all washed down with a bottle of the most recent Evian, a classic vintage option for lunch in the sun.

After a tad more post snack sun worship, the time had arrived for us to vacate our temporary heaven. Collecting our beach-clobber together we found our way towards the meandering boardwalk. En route, in an unpopulated area of beach, we found ourselves being unofficial witnesses to a beach wedding. The bride and groom stood side by side, in beach apparel, facing their chosen, just as casually dressed, “pastor”. He stood in front of a small table which was home to three jars, two filled with sand and one without. Flanking the table were two large lanterns. Not showing any signs of flame-life. Well it was mid afternoon on a blisteringly hot day on a beach covered with a cloudless blue sky. The lanterns were decorative. Not so their 9 year-old son who was in attendance, but busy playing in the sand at their feet. No guests. No-one else but us Brits…oh and the female photgrapher.

In reverence to the moment, we stopped and put our junk down and became involved in the romance of the occasion. We could not hear the words clearly but the actions of rings to fingers and the symbolic pouring of the two measures of sand into one told us what was happening. They kissed. We spontaneously applauded and cheered. It was indeed very special. We entered their ceremonial space and congratulated them, explained how romantic it was and how privileged we felt to be unexpectedly a part of their, what turned out to be, elopement. We wished them well and would love to find them on Facebook in due course.

Our smiles were as long as the beach. The sand-walk was made so much easier to the boardwalk. We were still smiling, 30 minutes later, as we arrived at Steve and Kathy’s house to collect Jake before heading home to Fairhope.

We naturally retold the story of the wedding ceremony before we loaded the boy into the car seat for the trip home. Chatting to Steve prior to departure, he asked how I found the roads and the driving. I explained how easy I found the transition and I felt “just like a local”. It was this phrase that determined the next passage of approximately 10 minutes. That very thought. That single thought, steeped in emotion of confidence, wrapped with the emotion of joy previously evoked by the wedding, dictated the next 10 minutes of my life.

Believe me, if you don’t think that your thoughts determine your destiny, change your thinking, because they do. Short and long-term.

There was a sense of urgency as I crossed the freeway at the lights, needing to be home before Jake woke up. I was being a local. I felt like a local. I was enjoying the feeling of being a local as I saw, on the other side of the road, a police patrol car travelling towards me. I didn’t think to check my speed, but as we passed each other, in the rear view mirror I saw him, I assumed it was a him, turn on the intimidating red and blue flashing lights as he swung the “black and white” around in the road to be on my side. He was now travelling towards us. Gaining on us. My immediate thought was, as I slowed down, that he had a call to attend a local incident, and he would sail by me and the sirens would make that change of sound noise as they pass. No. I was wrong. He was tailing me. This was a real life scene from some American TV series. It is rather strange that without any verbal communication, just the sight of a police car behind you, with its lights flashing and quick single whirrr of the siren is enough to halt you at the next convenient spot on the road. In this case, just past one of the many churches that litter this area. No help there, I thought!

I was parked, engine running, eyes focussed on the shadowy figure in the police car behind me. He hadn’t moved. Eerie. Threatening. Running checks? I stayed in the veeHicle, as one is supposed to do, according to Hollywood. He’ll like me. I’ll use my best and proper English accent, just enough to let him know that I am English, rather than Australian, which is a popular guess around these parts, and not too much to insult him.

It seemed ages. Time does not have the tendency to be still on these far from hedonistic moments. He finally made his move. His door swung open. He had found out what he needed to find out. He had the advantage. The knowledge. His steps were slow and deliberate. He moved to the passenger side of Hayley’s car. I fumbled for the swtich to send the window down. It went with the sound and speed of tension. And there he stood, sideways on, gun holster away from the car, right hand ready to move for it, left hand leaning on the door, straight armed.

“Did you know this was a 45 mph road, sir, and you were doing 64 mph?”

“I had absolutely no idea officer, I am so sorry.”

He then requested driving licence and insurance. With those in hand he returned to his car for another endless few minutes. During that time the air was rich with different scenarios about what would happen next. Instant on-the-spot fine? A warning? Ignorance can fuel imagination. Had we done enough to play the English card or was it a spell in Shawshank?

The square-shaped, powerfully built, black police officer, strode back to the passenger window, still open, engine running, keeping the AC blasting with cool, cool air, in this hottest of moments. Some papers flapped in his hands.

He assumed his previous position against the car. I noticed his name badge, Officer Martyn Nicely. He spoke again, clear and informative, with no room for discussion.

“Sir, I’m gonna let you off this time. Please read this before you set off. Enjoy the rest of your journey. Have a good one.”

He strode back to his patrol car. I watched him sink into his seat as I returned the window to up, putting a close to this event.

Martyn, nicely done. I salute you.

 

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