Tahlequah Daily Press

May 29, 2012

‘Zero tolerance’ may have some unexpected perks

Managing Editor

TAHLEQUAH — I knew it would happen someday, but I thought it would involve a toddler fathered by my son: Someone called me “grandma,” without any biological or adoptive right to do so.

The heckler was a young whippersnapper lead-footing south on the bypass. I was doing the speed limit –not a single mile over, because of the no-tolerance zone we’ve warned you about. That was too slow for the youngster, who varoomed around me on the left, buzzed down his passenger window, and yelled, “Get off the road, grandma!”

At first, I was taken aback. I’m 52, and to the 20-something kid, I’m sure appeared old enough to be his granny. In fact, in these parts, I might have been a great-grandmother, though not his. But I wasn’t driving under the speed limit, nor was I wearing spectacles or a bun – traits I’ve always associated with grandmothers.

I have to admit I’m not too thrilled about the “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to accidental speeders – folks who notch it up about 3 mph over the limit before they look at the speedometer and back off. Sometimes it’s difficult to maintain the posted speed. Anyone who’s traversed Bluff Avenue will understand. You can’t get from Downing to First without tapping the brakes at least a dozen times.

I forewarned my son, who returns from OU this weekend. I told him if he picks up a moving violation, he’ll have to dig up his old Razor scooter to get around. He seemed unfazed, and didn’t ask the question I’ve heard often since news about the “safety zone” broke: “Where does it start, and where does it end?” My husband asked me: “Now where is that intolerance zone?” He seemed confused when I told him it was not on just one highway, but pretty much all of them. It’s because of our bad driving habits, I explained. I can’t argue the point, because I’ve printed too many stories that back up the claim.

But if I’m ambivalent about the policy for light speeders, I’m all for zero tolerance when it comes to extreme speeders, careless drivers, and those who get behind the wheel after too many snorts from a bottle, a straw, or a hooka. Go sleep it off somewhere, for cryin’ out loud.

We live on Highway 10, and I’m pretty sure that will be a hotbed of citations. There are plenty of major infractions to keep officers so busy, it will be a miracle if they have time to mess with folks driving 57 mph.I’ll bet the first rattle out of the box will be a driver of a semi. Folks along our patch of asphalt know when they hear the roar of jake-brakes, several small animals are about to meet their doom. The carcasses always land right in front of our driveway, and with the state’s austerity measures that cut down on highway workers trundling by to scrape up roadkill, the deceased are likely to stay in place until the buzzards risk their own lives for a meal.

Dead animals aren’t the only things that wind up in our driveway, and I’m hoping the zero-tolerance will apply to other acts that don’t necessarily constitute moving violations.

When the clunker vehicles of the “river rats” go belly-up in the summer, it always seems to be on our property. It’s also a popular turn-around spot for those who are headed home when they suddenly realize they left their bong on a picnic table. Their squalling tires as they try to extricate themselves from the boggy field, and the ensuing expletives, can be heard up and down the valley. After they’ve mired their vehicles in muck and have to call a tow truck, they always blame us for their misfortune: “Them people up-arr on the hill, I’ma gwanna SUE ‘em for roonin’ my car, or I’ma gwanna have ‘em KILT!”

Once many years ago, a guy wandered up after midnight. My husband was away on a National Guard drill, and my son was small. The guy kept beating on the door, so I had to summon my inner redneck and get the .38. I went to the door and asked what he wanted; he said his car had broken down and he needed to call someone. I offered to call the sheriff, and then went into the kitchen to do so. When I came back, I noticed the doorknob slowly turning. In hindsight, I realize he was probably “leaning” on the outer handle, but at the time, I took the proper stance, aimed, and said, “Step away from the door; I’ve got a gun.” He said, “Woah, s**t, lady, I just wanted to use the phone!”

On another occasion, a car pulled quietly over about 10 p.m. The car windows were open, so we could hear the occupants. A man said, “Gimme that hitter!” The passenger door opened, then closed. For a time we observed the intermittent glow of something that looked like a cigarette, only it wasn’t. A bit later, we heard some shuffling, followed by what sounded like a moan of pain, only it wasn’t. Suddenly, the door popped open, the light came on, and we were treated to the sight of a man’s bare bottom.

I’m awaiting the first wave of tolerance-free citations. I have a feeling I’ll have to save a pretty big newshole. I just hope I’m not on the list.

Kim Poindexter is managing editor of the Tahlequah Daily Press.