“Whoo, whooo, whooo.” Flashing red light. That unmistakable sound of the imminent traffic ticket.
Was it really half a lifetime ago I wrote my first column for Reid Slaughter’s then-fledgling Park Cities People? It was innocuously dubbed “Carpool Capers” and was a very tongue-in-cheek piece about getting a ticket for a rolling stop at a sign while driving my 3-year-old daughter’s carpool home through Greenway Parks. A patrolman had secreted himself in a leading citizen’s driveway. Back then, as many little tykes as you could sandwich sitting Indian style in the back of a station wagon before the age of car seats and seat belts. After expressing annoyance to the officer and failing to get the hoped-for warning, I sweetly told the preschoolers we didn’t need to share everything with mommies. “Oh, my mom already got a ticket,” proclaimed a little voice in the back. At the first stop, my little charge shrieked to his mother at the doorway, “Mom, Mrs. Bourland just got stopped by a policeman!” Busted.
I had long forgotten that little incident until, while sporting my carpool number and helping out by ferrying my kindergarten granddaughter across town to her home, I heard that unmistakable “whooo, whooo, whoo” and saw a squad car on Mockingbird motioning me over. Somehow being pulled over is worse when it’s your grandchild. I was crawling in bumper-to-bumper traffic and she was all harnessed in. What?
Nonplussed, I looked at what seemed to me to be a blonde teenager with a ponytail in a uniform. How old could she be? She cheerfully noted that she had seen me with my cell phone in hand, a ticketable offense. I had been letting my 5-year-old use my iPad for games as a special treat. “Lolly, it’s not working,” she complained.
Knowing I couldn’t fix whatever the problem was, probably poor reception, I just reached in my purse and passed her my iPhone and told her to play with it. I politely introduced my grandchild to the patrolwoman’s surprised face and then explained to her body cam the miscommunication. After looking at my license and insurance we were on our way. I chirped to my progeny that police people were just extra safe, but it was nevertheless an annoying, non-ticketed 15-minute delay. “Nobody’s in trouble, sweetie. No need to worry anybody about this.” No sooner had I dropped her off than my son was on the phone laughing at me. An even more repressed memory came tumbling back when my pregnant daughter, now a mommy of her own two daughters, got the stomach bug when visiting with her family. She couldn’t get on the flight out with her husband and girls because she was so ill. The next day, after plying her with anti-nausea medication, I flew back with her to Kentucky to help with her crosstown move to her new home. She was still exhausted, a polar blast dropped the temperature to minus-zero, school was cancelled, and a pipe burst. But the movers forged on. It conjured up my own move 35 years earlier across states with two little-boy preschoolers, while she was a nursing infant with a horrible case of the chicken pox. It was 1980 and 114 degrees the day we moved from Dallas. My Samsonite luggage that was advertised as indestructible to a jumping gorilla or a speeding freight train melted in the back of the station wagon. Blessed are the amnesiacs.
During this recent move, my finest hour may have been when, after the cable guy didn’t show and there was no TV during this deep freeze, I sent my frustrated son-in-law to the store to buy a $15 antenna, the old bunny ears of my childhood. Then I rummaged through a box, found the aluminum foil, wrapped each tentacle, and voila! We had basketball and Sesame Street as we unpacked. Something we baby boomers remember well is how to fine-tune the snowy screens of local programming with a pair of bunny ears. Flat screens, HDTV, a hundred channels — all that progress, yet sometimes a little tin foil is just the ticket.
Len Bourland can be reached at email@example.com.