It happened three or four years ago, on a warm March afternoon, as I was cruising up the Northway. I was rocketing past a line of cautious squares puttering their pathetic way into the North Country, dominating the left-hand lane as if it were Gaul circa the first-century B.C. and I were Julius Caesar, when a state-police cruiser whipped out of its hiding spot, lights flashing.
My first thought was that an axe-wielding lunatic was hiding under a blanket on my backseat. Perhaps the police officer had detected the madman's presence and was trying to warn me. This theory fell apart when I remembered kicking the axe-wielding lunatic who'd been hiding under a blanket on my backseat out of the car at a rest stop an hour earlier.
My second thought was that my illness - my Speed Limit Intolerance - had finally caught up with me. Intellectually, I understood that I was in trouble - that I might very well spend the next few years in Dannemora - but, on a more visceral level, I couldn't quite accept it. I'd been driving at excessive speeds for years and I'd never had to answer for it. I'd bought into my own mystique: I fancied myself a regular Sammy Hagar, capable of going however fast I wanted and rocking my way out of any grief the law might give me.
Growing numb with terror, I pulled over and unbuckled my seatbelt so that I could get my registration out of the glove compartment more easily. When the cop arrived at my window, he went through the standard spiel. Did I know why he'd pulled me over? I admitted I'd been speeding. Did I have any idea how fast I'd been going? In the hopes of convincing him I had a faulty speedometer, I claimed I'd been driving no faster than 70.