Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Staying in the Fast Lane
The Judge had many wonderful characteristics, among those were compassion, warmth, and a caring soul. And there were those other traits some would have never associated with her. One was her propensity to drive an automobile at a high rate of speed.
All the federal judges were issued state tags for a car that read: "Federal Judge _" (and whatever number they were in order of seniority.) When she stepped down, her number was "1". She would never put that tag on her personal car. Her reason being, she never wanted to go flying by someone on the interstate, have them see that tag and comment about Federal Judges being above the law. For that reason, her Federal Judge tag was always assigned to her husband's hunting vehicle.
She had a succession of nice cars. One, I remember particularly, was a 700 series BMW. It was a smooth riding vehicle and its performance and potential were not lost on her. One day someone asked her how she liked it. In her slow southern drawl, she answered, "Oh, it's wonderful. Why I can go from zero to sixty just from my drive way to the gas company." I shuddered to think of this, considering the gas company she was speaking of was less than a quarter mile down the road from her house. Often I would remind her that her life was my job and if she lost her life, I lost my job and that I cared very much about keeping both (her life and my job) alive and doing well.
For her fiftieth birthday, the Judge bought herself a Porsche. This purchase was almost her undoing. Because the judges on the court came from South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland, the court sat in Richmond. And, one week a month, we moved chambers to the courthouse in Richmond for court. While the rest of us preferred to fly to avoid the six hour (at best) slog up I-95. She thrived on the drive. Neither the weather, the traffic delays, nor the constant construction seemed to deter her from wanting to drive back and forth to Richmond.
And drive she did. However, just over the North Carolina line in Virginia is this little hamlet known as Emporia. And, most folks know that they are quite serious in Emporia about their speed limit. Over the course of three months, the Judge got stopped for speeding there five or six times. (And two or three of those times were by the same officer.) This became as issue when she realized she had accumulated enough points to compromise her driver's license. Soon she found herself in drivers school.
When she finished her course and was supposedly reformed, I thought for sure, things would slow down. One day, I had her on the mobile phone with some questions as she was driving to an appointment on the interstate. She kept saying, "They're passing me." Finally I asked her if something was wrong. "No," she said. "Other drivers just keep passing me." "And?" I asked. "I'm driving the speed limit, but they are driving faster than I am. This is just killing me that I have to stay behind."
But, she never wanted anyone to know of her position. When someone stopped her, she never told them who she was, or showed them any ID that would give them any hint they had stopped a Federal Judge. One day she was on her way to court for a sitting in Charleston, As usual, she was running late (and driving fast). She was stopped for speeding just as she got into the city limits.
As she walked into the courthouse with the other judges, she was telling them about the nice young man who stopped her and how polite he was. One of the judges asked if she got a ticket. She laughed, "Of course I got a ticket. You know I was speeding." Overhearing the conversation, one of the security officers asked her if it was a motorcycle patrolman who had stopped her. She said yes and went on about what nice manners he had.
When the judges broke for lunch and got to the entrance of the court house, standing there, red faced, was the young patrolman who had stopped the Judge that morning. The security officer looked at the young man and said, "Now apologize to the Judge." Before the Judge could say anything, the young man bashfully said "Judge I am sorry I stopped you this morning. Honestly, I did not know you were a Federal Judge." The Judge was mortified at the situation. "Officer, you were doing your job and you did it well. I was speeding and I deserved to be stopped and ticketed." The security officer continued, "Mam, this is my nephew and he should not have stopped you. You are a federal judge." "He had no way of knowing that. And, even if he did, that should not have made any difference."
And, then in her typical style, not seeing a wedding ring, she asked the officer if he was married. When he said no, she said she had a young lady in town whom she thought he should call for a date. The patrolman was a little taken back, The other judges just chuckled. They expected no less from her.