Friday, November 5, 2010

SWEENEY AND ME - PART 2

Things were going pretty good for me the summer between my junior and senior years of high school.  I had met and was dating the girl I would eventually marry.  I had a job that was a career job in drafting instead of flipping burgers as most of my friends were doing.  I was working full time during the summer and would be able to graduate from high school in December and pick up working full time for good in January.

My future father in law was a good man with a good sense of humor and most importantly, he liked me. Harry was a car mechanic for Chevy dealers and he loved cars.  He had some fairly nice cars in the past and continued not settling for average cars.  In 1972 he had bought a demo car from the dealership where he worked.  It was an absolutely beautiful 1971 Nova Super Sport with a large 350 cubic inch v8 engine powering it.  It was painted dark metallic brown.  It was a powerful little car that was fun to drive.  It had such power on pickup that it was almost worthless in snow as the tires would spin too fast with the lightest bit of pressure on the accelerator pedal.  With that power it became a very fast car and when you are a young man of seventeen, there is nothing quite as intriguing as a sharp looking, smooth riding car that could knock off a hundred miles per hour with ease.

As luck would have it, he loaned this sweet little Nova to my future wife for her to drive around in.  He would later give it to her and it would become part my car but for now it was considered a loan for her to drive where she needed to go.  At this time I did not have a car of my own, so we ended up taking the Nova on our dates, to church, and wherever else we may find ourselves going.  Eventually my future bride allowed me to drive the Nova on our dates because that was the more proper thing to do.  I truly loved that car and thinking back, I am not sure I stayed with my girl because of her or the car I got to drive as long as I dated her.

It was a summer night when the car came to cause me one of my most terrifying evenings I had during that part of my life.  Today if you drive down Blue Ridge Boulevard  from 95th street to 107th Street you have a stop light at 99th street, a major freeway at about 102nd Street which places four stop lights in your path before you can advance on down to the next stop light at 107th Street.  Back in the days that I was dating the Nova, there was not any stop lights between 95th Street and 107th Street and the traffic kept fairly light on Blue Ridge.  It was a teenage drag racer's dream.

On this particular summer night we had been dining at McDonald's on 87th Street when I began talking to one of my friends from school about our cars and how fast they could go.  We decided to find out who's car was faster so we drove out onto Blue Ridge and drove up to the stop light at 87th Street.  The light turned green and both cars jumped and flew down to the stop light at 95th Street.  It was a pretty close race so with an acknowledgment by nodding our heads, we decided to take a second race from 95th Street all the way to 107th Street.  This was going to be special because on that long a stretch of road you could really get the cars speed built up.

The light turned green and off we went.  Door to door, the cars going faster on a consistent rate until we passed the church at 102nd Street.  There in the parking lot was a police officer running a radar gun as we sped towards him in the darkness, As soon as we passed him he pulled out with lights flashing and siren going.  Thankfully we were going so fast he was quite a ways behind us.  I pulled the car over while my competition kept going.  I sat there watching his tail lights fade into the distance and then glanced in the rear view mirror where I saw the police lights closing in.

As the car stopped racing, my mind and heart began to race.  Her dad could not find out I have even been driving this car, much less racing it.  I decided there was only one thing to do and that was to switch places with Barb and I suggested that very idea to her.  She did not think it was a very good idea for her to get a mark against her driving record for speeding when she had tried her best to talk me out of the race.  I poured more logic on her and received the same answer.  I tried one last time and she finally agreed to switch places with me in the car.  I slid under and she slid over as we began to swap positions in the car and were right i the middle of the procedure when i saw the shadows from the policeman's spot light shine in the car.  We had been caught not only speeding, but now trying to switch places in the car.  There was nothing to do but to get out and explain it to the hopefully understanding officer.

As I got out of the car I was ordered to stop and to raise my hands.  I looked and saw the officer squatting behind his open door with his gun raised and pointing straight me. It did not take a lot of thinking to make the decision to do as he said.  He walked over to me, turned me around and after slamming me up against the car proceeded to frisk me for any weapons that I did not have.  He then lectured me on how police officers think, when they see people swapping places in a car then one gets out, he did not know if I was armed or what I was planning.  I told him I was planning on explain to him why he had caught us in that position and he decided to talk it out at the police station, which at that time was just down the road at 107th and Blue Ridge.  He took my license and I followed him down the street to his office while all the time the lecture was starting to come from Barb about how she told me not to race, that we were in big trouble now and so on.

When we got to the police station he had us sit at his desk and explain the whole situation over again, which I did in explicit detail, not forgetting to mention that at least I stopped while my competition had continued on down the road.  He listened closely then took both of our drivers license and walk out of the room, leaving us to begin the sweating process.  He returned shortly and again asked me to explain the situation, which I dutifully did.  He then asked for my future father in law's phone number and left the room again.  This time the sweating was like an internal water hose had been turned on.  If he called Barb's dad and told him the story, he could add at least a domestic disturbance call to his night, maybe even a murder call.  This was not going well.  He continued to make us sweat by asking questions, checking to be sure he had the right phone number and leaving the office between each round of questions for the next two hours.

Finally he came in and sat leaning back in his chair and said he had decided not to call Harry, and both Barb and I started to breathe once again.  He said he was going to give me a ticket though and I had better show up and pay the fine.  I agreed quickly to his terms.  As he finished writing the ticket I asked him how fast he had clocked me at.  He half smiled and said that he had turned the radar gun off when it hit fifty five miles per hour, only ten over the speed limit.  He handed me the ticket and I looked it over.  Under Officer he had signed his name simply "Sweeney".  He then told us to get out of there and never let him catching us racing again.

Me and Barb left knowing we had dodged a big one.  She lectured me a few more times but things worked out as I took care of the ticket in a timely manner.

Barb's dad, Harry, up to the day he died, never did find out about the racing incident in his beloved 1971 Nova Super Sport with the 350 v8 engine.

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