We were 30 miles from the border, heading down Interstate 94 to the Mini-Apple, maroon lurking on the median. I kept my eyes on the horizon, just in case.
I checked my speed; we were making good time, and there’s nothing a man wants more in life than to make good time. Your wife could give birth in the back seat and your first words to the hospital admittance clerk would be, “Made good time getting here.”
“Back in the day,” I said to Daughter, “if you did 4 over the double nickels, Smokey would pull you over. So I’m just going to use these cars passing us for bear meat.”
Of course, she had no idea what I was ranting about, so I explained it: In the days of the 55 mile-per-hour limit, truckers were a renegade breed, outwitting the State Patrol while trading slangy messages with their brethren on CB radios. “Bear meat” meant letting someone speed ahead of you so they’d get picked up.
I wanted to cup my hand and say “breaker, breaker,” but the whole CB craze has died down a bit. I think.
We’d rose at dawn to make the trip from Fargo to The Cities in time for Daughter’s shift at the cafe, and that meant the interstate, where a man can open ’er up. But around Fergus Falls, I’d caught sight of a suspicious vehicle. It was an ordinary black sedan, but it could have been a cloaked police car, the sort of car you pass, only to find lights in your rearview mirror.
When we got close I saw the plates: PD and two numbers, with a picture of an eagle. PD could only mean Police Department, right? I matched his speed with cruise control and let cars pass us. Bear meat.
As the other cars passed, I waited for PD to show his hand. The last one was a dusty old van with New York plates, and I thought: That’s suspicious. Heading east, plates from the coast — probably hauling contraband. THC gummies. Maybe even plastic straws.
No lights. So he wasn’t Smokey after all. Ten miles later, though, a State Patrol car swooped down a ramp and lit up the New York van. Whoa: PD had called him in.
I lost the Secret Smokey somewhere in the scrum; after St. Cloud, everyone’s doing 75 with an inch between the vehicles — 2 inches, if you’re one of those super-cautious safety nuts. When I got home, I googled the PD-two-number license plate. There’s no such thing.
Whether or not he was the Man or the Fuzz or a Fuzzy Man, I can’t say. But all the State Patrol has to do to slow everyone’s roll is send out black cars that look like they could be the law and have the driver wear mirrored sunglasses. It kept me honest.
But you know what? I made good time, anyway.