Manassas Journal Messenger | Sometimes going slow takes effort

Unless you’re enormously wealthy and have really good genes, life is not fair. For yours truly it was even less fair than usual this week, but fear not – somehow I shall endure.

It began the other day at the supermarket – where the advertising slogan should be, “Watch how long we can grow the Express checkout line during peak hours, shoppers.” I waited with my typical patience for several minutes until I noticed that the line was not moving. No doubt a can of green peas was missing its scanning label and several employees were summoned to fetch the price while 27 customers waited, frozen in time, for the final verdict.

Meanwhile, I glanced over my shoulder at another nearby Express line and shook my head in sympathy for those who were even further away than I was from the tabloids and gum racks. Suddenly, without warning, through the corner of my eye came an ominous movement. I could not tell immediately what it was, but I knew it wasn’t good. A motion, a flicker, a hand gesture off beyond the flashing pole that told the world that another checkout lane was being secretly, surreptitiously opened without fair warning. I hesitated for a split second, which of course proved to be my downfall.

As I began to contemplate the cruel unfairness of it all, those once-pathetic souls in the longer line began to charge en masse to form the new line, grunting and scraping their hooves like deranged wildebeests. Suddenly those who were at the back of one line were at the front of a new one, close enough now to touch the checkout girl if they wished (if such a thing were legal, of course). I looked at the dazed shopper behind me and we shook our heads in dismay.

I probably would have let this blatant case of injustice pass unmentioned had it not been for the activities of the following morning, when again, I made the rookie mistake of getting out of the bed. I was driving along minding my own business, thinking happy thoughts, on Smoketown Road well beyond the houses of Lynnwood – well beyond Stop Sign School where they have signs every seven feet just in case you missed the last one seven feet back – when I spot this guy standing in the middle of the road with a gun!

The good news is it turned out to be a Prince William police officer. The bad news (well, good in a way) was that his weapon was a radar gun. The really bad news was that he was pointing it at me, as he was signaling me to pull over. I quickly glanced down at my speedometer and I think the number “38” flashed in my mind. I could be wrong. It could have been “25.”

The officer peered down at me like Mrs. Madison used to in the 6th grade. “Sir, I clocked you at 38 miles per hour. This is 25 mile-per-hour zone, sir.” (My God! I thought. Thirty-eight miles an hour? Talk about a crazed speed demon!) “Were you aware you were going that fast?” he asked, as though the terms “fast” and “38 MPH” are always used in the same thought. I contemplated a response for a moment and went with the somewhat safe “uh, no, really?” I glanced back over the four-lane road, without a front yard in sight, and nearly said, “Are you certain the speed limit is only 25 here?”

And then I nearly continued, “Do you know how hard it is, officer, to actually go only 25 miles an hour anywhere, much less on a wide road leading into a major intersection? Do you know I can walk faster than 25 miles an hour? Do you know in order to maintain a speed of 25 miles an hour – you have to constantly pump your breaks because most cars IDLE faster than 25 miles per hour! Do you have any clue what I’m talking about, because in 40 years of driving I have yet to ever see a police car go as slow as 25 miles per hour!”

This is what I nearly said, but alas, being both prudent and a coward (not necessarily in that order), I wait for the officer to return to my car with my license and my ticket. “Drive carefully out there, sir,” he said as he walked away. This is where I, again, nearly said, “Drive carefully? I’m sorry, is that what you said? Drive carefully? I was going 38 miles an hour. Not 60. Not 80. Not 105 miles an hour! 38! How can you NOT drive carefully when you’re going only 38 miles an hour!”

This is really what I should have said, and in fact I did, but he probably could not hear my whispering from 40 feet away. Yes, life this week has not been exactly fair. Thanks for involuntarily attending my pity party. I feel better now.

John Merli has been a Prince William County resident since 1984, and a Potomac News columnist since 1985. He has worked in the media for more than 30 years. E-mail him at: [email protected]

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