Wednesday, February 17, 2010

An Unusual Experience:

This last week I had an unusual experience. Let me tell you about it:

    I made a day trip to my little hometown in northern Illinois to visit my mother. After spending the day with family, I left her home, and stopped at the little gas station in that town, about 2 blocks from my mother's home. I needed to fill up with gas for the 2 hours drive home. The gas pumps at this little gas station are old and do not have the modern LED screen. Instead there are lighted block letters. The sun was shining right on the pump and it was difficult to see the instructions. So I suspect I put the card in and did things in the wrong order and my sale didn't work; the machine began to beep. I tried again, trying to read the instructions better and again the pump began to beep. So I walked into the station and explained to the young woman behind the counter what was going on. She asked me if I wanted to prepay for an amount of gas and I agreed. But then when she went to enter the card to prepay, she said, "Oh, your pump is on now. Do you want to go ahead and pump out there or should I cancel that one and prepay." I asked her if everything was OK, and if my card was in there. She said, "Yes, the pump is on and everything looks ok." So I went out the door. She called as I left, "Come on back in if you have any trouble." Indeed, the pump was on and I filled my tank. There was no receipt printed but I thought maybe being that this was an old pump that it was out of paper. I returned the nozzle and decided to call my husband at homea and tell him I was on my way. So I pulled forward away from the pump and made the call. I also got out of the car and took my coat off in preparation for the drive home. Only then did I take off.
     I had driven for about 35 minutes and was on one of the county roads that I take to get to the freeway. I look into my rear view mirror and there is a squad car with his lights blinking behind me. I am the only car on the road in this area, so I pull over and indeed he pulls behind me. He is stopping me. I hadn't looked at my speedometer for a while and began to think: Oh, what rotten luck!. Here on this small county road, no other cars around and he is going to catch me speeding.
     The young officer walked up to my car. I already had my window down and was holding out my driver's license. He said, "Ma'm do you know why I stopped you today?"
"No, I have no idea."
"Were you just in ? And did you fill up gas there?" he asked.
"Yes," I answered simply.
"Well, you didn't pay."
     I gave the young officer the same detailed explanation as above.
"Well, sometimes things happen like that at the pump," he said.
I asked, "Now what do we do?" I thought perhaps they could call my credit card number to the gas station and the charge could be filed by phone or online. We certainly charge a lot of things these days without being present. But no the young officer said I would have to go back to Pecatonica and he would escort me. By the way, he would just hold on to my driver's license until we get back to the gas station. (Just policy or did he actually think I would try to escape?)
     This young officer in the county squad car led me about half way back to my hometown, where we were met by the local policeman in his squad car. They talked and the county officer gave my license to the local police. Then we drive at 55 MPH the rest of the way back to town.
     I pulled into the gas station, and got out of the car. I said something to the young town officer, something like, "I feel like a fugitive from the law."
     He said, sarcastically, "Yah, you look like a fugitive from the law. By the way I like your coat." I had my good coat on. Not what you would expect from a police officer but both young men were very nice.
     Inside the gas station, I expressed my dissatisfaction that the young woman at the counter had told me that it was perfectly fine to use the pump and she implied that my credit card had taken. Then I told her I had even pulled forward to make a phone call and take off my coat before I left. "Was that you?" she asked. She hadn't even known who had not paid.
     I still don't know how they found me on a county road 35 minutes out from my hometown. I guess they must have had a video of my license number and there must have been an all points bulletin put out. I was indeed a fugitive from the law. My sister said that I was lucky that both police officers had been so nice. She says she has heard of that not always being the case. I just think that they knew, each of them, right away that it was a mistake. They saw an old lady, all dressed up, driving a Lincoln LS. Was it likely that I had purposely driven away without paying? Not likely.
     I always try to have a moral to my stories. What is the moral to this one? I can only think of a coupleand they are very practical. Alway make sure you get a receipt at the station and if none comes out of the pump, go into the station and get one. Oh, and don't argue with the police officer. Be VERY polite!

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