I was in Tennessee cruising on route 45, going north to Chicago straight from Mississippi. It must have been 1 or 2 am. I had earlier dropped the kids to their mother in Tupelo, MS. I knew they had a good vacation time in Chicago with their dad. Now they were back home and I was on my way back to work and if I wanted rent and child support paid, I’d better haul ass and be at work the next morning in Chicago, hundreds of miles away from Dixie. So I was cruising north.
Then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, cops’ lights behind me. I knew Tennessee was a bitch with speed-traps but I was worried with work and I was only 10 or 15 miles away from the Kentucky border. See I’m French, I’ve watched the movies and I knew that once you crossed the State line, it becomes a Federal crime and the locals have to give it up.
I figured, what would the Feds care for a little fuck like me? What, the CIA would break loose, for a speeding ticket? I didn’t think so. So I popped open another beer from the pack meant to last all the way to Chicago, cranked up the radio because my heart was having a ball and I jammed the gas pedal. The car jumped.
It was beautiful. It was a crisp night. There was no one but me and the cops slashing full speed up and down the Tennesseans’ hills leading to Kentucky.
Sure enough, like a bat out of hell, I crossed the State line. ‘Welcome to KENTUCKY, the Blue Grass State’. That’s right and fuck you Tennesseans cops motherfuckers. Ha ha ha. And the radio blasting so cool. Yeah honk that tonk for me baby. See I’m from Europe. I’ve seen the movies. I was James Bond.
In my rearview mirror, I saw the fucking cops not missing a bit, crossing the State line fast and keeping up with the pursuit of me. Shit, shit, shit. I had to be at work the next morning yet I slowed down some. We were in Kentucky all right but those fucks were still on my trail.
They never made a move. Never tried to pass me or anything. They just stayed behind me. Not a soul anywhere to witness this great injustice. So, in the dearth of night, I eventually stopped and parked on the side of Route 45. I did that many times before, got a speeding ticket. But there I knew the Feds wouldn’t know any of this.
Sure enough, Kentucky cops showed up out of nowhere. First thing they said was ‘Thanks’ to their Tennesseans colleagues. “Yeah no problem, happy to help”, answered those before turning back on the highway and going home while my ass was being hauled to the closest Kentucky jail town.
I must say that while they were driving, those two Kentucky cops were more curious than mean. I mean, they were like: “What were you thinking?” When I told them about the movies and James Bond, they heard my accent and they knew right there and then that they’d have a good one to tell the wife once they go home.
“How was it Honey?” would say the sleepy wife. “You know I don’t like it when they call you like this in the middle of the night, the world is full of crazies and they all have guns.”
“Baby, you won’t believe it but tonight we got a French guy thinking he was James Bond, he ran through the State line as if it was an iron wall. We took him to jail.”
“Ok, whatever, but don’t work too hard and don’t scare the kids about it in the morning.”
Well, that night, two Kentucky and two Tennessee cops – four cops in all – were lucky enough. Not me.
I must say that the wardens, while they processed me in the middle of the night, were more curious than mean as well. I mean, they were like: “Where are you from?” “The ring in your ear, it means you’re a faggot?” “They’re all faggots in France?”
Then they gave me a prison suit. An orange one, with numbers in the back, like in the movies, and led me to my cell hollering to curious inmates “shut up you assholes and be happy, there comes a French faggot.” Everybody laughed. Once the guards were gone, I had to explain some.
Anyway I didn’t get much sleep and new guards were soon picking me up, putting shackles on me – arms and legs – and leading me away as fast as I could go. Shling, shling, shling sang the chains.
We drove a bit – it was a very small town – and they took me to the court house – a very small court – into a retention cell. There, I was the only one in an orange jump suit and the only one going shling shling shling and nobody could figure. Then cops took me out of the tank and led me, shling and all, into the court room.
I got in and – surprise! – the court was full, packed to the brim, with kids from local schools. The whole place was full with kids and teachers and I show up in chains, in an orange jump suit with numbers in the back and all the kids go ‘Woo’.
Shit, if I’m in Kentucky in the first place is because I just dropped my own kids to their mother in Mississippi. Mississippi! I mean I’m one of them! Them kids still got quite a look at the felon in chains and orange jump suit, just like in the movies.
Court started and I had to bade my time.
They brought the offenders, all in civilian clothes. First one raped his dog. Next one raped a donkey. Next one yet – reeking, he was in the retention room with me – raped his mother-in-law or something. Terrible stories one after another and they all WALK with a slap on the wrist. And here I am in CHAINS!
Then my French ass is called and the whole assembly of kids goes ‘Woo!’
So I clumber up to the court in my orange jump suit and the chains go “shaling shaling shaling.”
The judge, an older man, is sitting way up there, looking down at me while the kids hold their breath.
“So you were a speeding?” he says.
And I’m thinking, “Yes Sir, and I didn’t rape my car.”
The judge then turned to his assessor, seated below him.
“So what’s the cost?” asked the judge.
The assessor went tchikachick tchikachick on his machine and spelled it:
-“$130 for the speeding ticket, $87,70 for the patrol intervention, $158,30 for the room in jail, $12 for breakfast – $12 for breakfast, for Christ sake and sorry sloppy eggs??? – $48,46 for court fee… tchikachick tchikachick… A grand total of $436,46,” concluded the assessor with the air of someone who just got a job well done.
“Well, do you have $436,46, no check?” asked me the judge, looming over.
“Well, I said in my orange jump suit and all, not quite at the moment. But if you let me get to a cash station somewhere, I’ll bring the cash to the court.”
“Ok, take him to a cash station,” said the judge to an old cop that was there looking over me.
I said: “Can I get my clothes back? My cash station card is with my stuff confiscated last night.”
“Give him his clothes,” said the judge to the cop, “and take him to a cash station.” I could tell the kids were puzzled.
The old cop went and came back with my clothes. he saw me put my ring in my ear, asked me if I was a faggot and then drove me around town to a ‘cash station’.
He was just curious. “So, that’s how they do it in Chicago? They just drive to a cash station and get cash?” he asked me, looking over my shoulder.
“Yes,” I said, nicely. Then he drove me back and again showed me around town on the way.
I paid the judge. The machine went tchikachick tchikachick and the assessor nodded. I was free.
“Hey, I told the judge, how do I get my car back?” The judge told the same old cop to take me to the pound so I could get my car. I said “Thank you Sir.” My case was over and the old cop asked me to wait, he had things to do first.
So I was waiting for him in front of the court house, smoking cigarettes, when the kids came filing out.
They did recognize me. I was in street clothes but they remembered me in chains. They filed out of the building wide away from me. I was thinking Oh God! It was a pretty day in Kentucky, not too hot yet. The teachers were bemused, they went wide nonetheless.
Then the old cop showed up and I climbed in the car, in the front seat this time. No siren, he was in no hurry. So we went cruising again. Only this time we rode out of the city and went on into the country, BACK TO TENNESSEE! ‘Welcome to the Volunteer State’. Back to TN. Shit awemighty! And driving in for MILES!
Meanwhile, the old man was talking. “So, in Chicago, they have a lot of them cash stations?” he was asking. “Well, Sir, where are we going?” I dared ask. I knew then for sure that another judge was just waiting for me in TN. That was their turn.
“To the pound,” the old cop said. “Don’t worry.” “’Bout them girls in Chicago?” he asked.
He later had me understand that this was an Open Day at the Court House for local schools and that the powers that be were not unhappy to have found, right off the highway, a character like me to show the kids. A French guy, from Chicago! But now, not to worry, the show was over.
We were talking about Michael Jordan when, sure enough, fifty or sixty miles down south in TN, I was at the pound. The cop waived me good bye and drove off to tell his wife about them Chicago girls. I was in the middle of nowhere, not a soul in sight, in front of a junkyard and it was getting hot.
I walked into the office and stated my case. Yes, they had my Hyundai. Yes, the pound fee was paid for. The tow wasn’t.
Let’s see. Towing a car off the road, at Police order, from so and so place in Kentucky, off route 45, to so and so place in Tennessee… That is more than 60 miles and that came to a round $200.
It was by now really hot in the shack they called ‘office’. Afar in the yard, some guy was driving a machine, carrying carcasses of soul less cars and piling them up. “Credit card or cash?” I asked meekly, worried where in hell would I find a cash station in bumfuck here.
“Credit will do,” the guy said. No kidding.
So again, I guess, I supported the local school system.
Thus another dude brought me, on a forklift, my little Korean car and dumped it at my feet. As far as these assholes were concerned, I was a joke.
Still, they didn’t know what to make of me. Who and what was this French fuck doing here? Was he a faggot? They would have killed me all the same but they already had something to tell the wife.
The car started right off – you have to give it to Hyundai – and I was outta there.
Well, not exactly. I had sixty miles in TN in front of me before Kentucky. I could wait for food. Right there, on the passenger’s floor, last night’s beer-pack left over. Nobody took it. One can went pschiiittttt, the beer was hot but it was like having tea for breakfast.
I drove easy like a mother, not minding those assholes passing me in their pick-up trucks with TN licenses plates – Monroe count y! – and I saw the sign: ‘Welcome to KENTUCKY, the Blue Grass State’. Hadn’t change from last night.
I figured I’d take it easy in Kentucky too.
So I checked the names of the exits. Still, I never could figure out where I had spent the night. I crossed the next Kentucky border cheering on beer tea. There I was, in Illinois, Lincoln’s state. Welcome.
Somewhere near Metropolis, IL, home of Superman, I knew that there were still 450 miles of great plains in front of me. I stopped for gas. Went to eat something and, I swear, I liked the southern Illinois drawl better than any Kentucky or Tennessee drawl.
It was evening by now, I was going north and I could tell it was not so hot anymore. This had already been a very very expensive Monday – I’d better be at work tomorrow morning. So I got a cold 6-pack, got into my Korean car, popped one, blasted the radio, and stepped on the gas. The car jumped and I headed on to Chicago.