I got busted by the Georgia State Patrol on New Year’s Day. It was entirely my fault, so I have no reason to complain. Earlier that afternoon I had decided to vacuum the spider webs from under our garage. I moved some items from the top of a corner shelf and found a five-inch piece of wood shaped much like the number eight. It took me a while to remember where it came from.
I recalled my father having one of these on the dash of his pickup truck. He died in 2007 and the purpose of the peculiar item had long since escaped my memory bank. From the dusty files of my recollection department the answer finally surfaced.
A column from August of 2017, “The Casket Man,” was about Mr. O. T. Spradley, Jr. When I visited with Mr. Junior in his woodworking shop, he held up one of these mystery pieces and asked if I knew what it was. “Daddy had one,” I said, “but I don’t remember what it was for.”
“It’s a twiddler,” explained Mr. Junior. “It’s for twiddling your thumbs when you don’t have anything else to do.” He put a thumb through each hole to make sure I understood the concept, then he gave me a hand-carved twiddler to take home. I was glad to find it on New Year’s Day, and I’ll be glad when somewhere in the future I’ll probably find it again.
With the spider webs down I was tempted to do some serious twiddling, but I remembered what my late cousin, Rooney Bowen, had told me about New Year’s Day. He said, “Whatever you do on the first day of the year is what you’ll be doing all year long.” The scientific evidence on that premise is sketchy, but I didn’t want to take a chance. A man can only twiddle for so long and enjoy it. So, I put the twiddler down and went to the Pilot station at Exit 109 in my old farm truck.
After filling three cans with gas for the lawnmower, I headed toward home. The traffic light at the overpass turned yellow as I approached. Rather than scooting on through, I stopped, then eased slowly ahead when the green light was fully illuminated. With untethered gas cans and a ladder sticking out the back of my truck, I gradually accelerated until I hit 25 miles per hour.
That’s when the blue flashing lights filled my rearview mirror. I moved toward the side of the highway to let the trooper pass, assuming there must be an emergency down the road. But he stayed behind me as revolving beams highlighted a windshield whose cleaning was six months in arrears.
I pulled into an empty parking lot, thinking I must have been picked for one of those programs where surprised drivers get rewarded with thank-you citations for following the rules. I hoped I would be given a Georgia On My Mind tee-shirt or a Get Out of Jail Free card for later use.
The young man was polite and professional, qualities which are common among the law enforcement officers of Middle Georgia. “I pulled you over for a seatbelt violation Mr. Joiner. Is there any particular reason you’re not wearing yours today?”
“I don’t know of one,“ I said, “but my thinking is sort of foggy right now. Will I have to take a sobriety test?” That response, I should clarify, was not made audibly. Sometimes clever thoughts are best left unspoken.
The situation reminded me of a fellow from long ago I’ll call Sam. He was a good man but had a checkered record with the patrol. They had a difference of opinion about drinking and driving.
Sam was involved in a one vehicle accident. He was dazed by the collision and stretched out on the ground while waiting for an ambulance. The patrolman asked to see his license. “Y’all are supposed to already have it,” said Sam. “I sure hope you haven’t lost it.”
I was pleasantly surprised to learn from an online search that the penalty for a seatbelt violation is a manageable 15 dollars. I don’t know how many hours of community service it will take for me to work that off, but it’s a small price to encourage a simple practice that’s proven to help keep us safe. From now on I’ll protect my ticker by being a clicker. I hope you will too.
I cleaned the garage, twiddled my thumbs, and got busted by the law on New Year’s Day. If Rooney was right, it’s going to be an interesting year. I’m a little concerned about one of those things in particular. Jane is threatening to hide my twiddler