Even by our work standards, it’s a spectacularly hard night. The section is huge, the computer system is glacial. Nine hours of newspaper hell. Of course, the paper eventually comes out, as papers always do. I walk out to the sound of bundles landing in the back of trucks. It’s a comforting sound. All is right in the world.
Walking out, I see the beckoning neon of the House of Rock, the bar across the street. Tonight is $2.50 Shiner night, a rare special for them. What sort of Texan wouldn’t support their local microbrewery?
The drive home is dark. A carnival has shut down the main road, so my route requires zigging and zagging through little side streets in a maze of temporary dark detours and stop signs. Including one I miss completely. Oops.
Seconds later, the Honda is illuminated by the flash of red lights. A cop has been watching for idiots who go through this stop sign. I am that idiot.
I go through the “be nice to your officer” drill. Interior light on, both hands on the steering wheel, window down.
Hello, he says. Hello, I reply. So far, so good. I stopped you because you went through a stop sign there, he says. Yes, I’m an idiot, I agree. I explain how this is a different route than I usually take because of the detour. I’m tired. I just missed it. I apologize.
Where are you coming from, he asks. I just got off work at the paper, I say. Long day. Going home. My eyes are bloodshot. My voice is slurred. But that’s the way I always am after work. Really.
OK, just wait in the car a minute, he says. He goes to run my license. I’m guessing he’s sitting in the car laughing at my license photo. Mo says it’s likely the funniest prison mug shot ever taken. My life flashes before me. Although Mo enjoys drawing horizontal stripes, I have no desire to wear them in jail. Besides, I’ve got a race this weekend. Priorities, you know.
In what is only a couple of minutes but seems like an hour, he comes back. OK, you’re fine. Just be sure to come to a complete stop at those signs, OK? Absolutely, I assure him. I almost mean it.
He didn’t smell alcohol, because there wasn’t any. I hadn’t gone to the bar. Mostly because I was just too damn tired. If I had, I’d be telling him, well, I only had two beers. And it was Shiner Night, dammit! Are you not from Texas? I’d be doing the little walk and falling over because I was tired and my knees don’t work that well even on a good day. I make a silent vow never to drink and drive. I pretend to mean it.
He tells me to have a good night. I assure him I will. Nice guy. Scary job.
I drive the last few blocks home singing along with an old Deep Purple song. I stop completely at every sign. Except the last one, which I accidentally coast through. Oops.
Because at the end of the day, I guess I’m just a desperado at heart. All is right in the world …