Welcome to Arkansas!

While driving through Arkansas I had a run-in with law enforcement . . . which showcased professionalism and the benefits of mutual respect.

Welcome to ArkansasI’ve been driving cross-country across the southern U.S. and it’s been a lovely trip. For the past many years, barring one summer trip to Civil War battlefields, my trips have been to Europe and Southeast Asia. They’ve been great trips and I’ve seen wonderful things. I don’t regret those travels at all.

Nevertheless, I really enjoy traveling in my own country. I like how vast America is. I like how friendly Americans are. I like American architecture, from the cheesiness of the roadside attractions to the charm of classic American houses, schools, and churches. I like the comfort of an American fast food place where I can get a cheap, reliable meal and a clean bathroom. I like that, with the chain motels, I can always find a clean room, in towns big and small. (Currently, Best Western is my favorite, just as it was when I was a child in the 1960s and early 1970s as a child traveling with my family.)

But this post is about entering Arkansas, for no other reason than that I want to tell the story. Within twenty miles of entering the state, I saw flashing lights in my rear view mirror, and it was clear that the Arkansas highway patrol officer wanted me to pull over. I did so responsibly and carefully and kept my hands on the steering wheel because I’ve been taught well.

I was baffled, though, as to why he stopped me. I’d been signaling nicely when I changed lanes, wasn’t weaving, and had my cruise control set to 72 in a 70-mile zone. In California, speeding is ten miles over the freeway limit. Moreover, I was in the slow lane, so I wasn’t the fastest car on the road.

So, as I said, I pulled over, lowered the window, and kept my hands visible as a (to me) young officer walked over to the car and politely introduced himself. Then,

“I tracked your speed for over a mile, Ma’am, and you were going 74 miles the whole time in a 70 miles per hour zone.”

At this point, my California brain says, “Wow, they really do pull out-of-state cars over for things like that.” My mouth, however, was both sensible and polite.

“Oh, dear! I had my cruise control set to 72.” I didn’t say more than that because clearly even my cruise control beat that 70-mile rule, but at least I made it clear that I wasn’t trying hard to speed.

“The speed limit here is 70 MPH, Ma’am.”

“Oh.” (What more could I say?)

“May I see your license, registration, and insurance, please.”

“Of course.”

He takes the documents and walks away to check his database.

He comes back and asks why I’m driving through Arkansas and where I’m going. I answer with brevity and specificity.

He looks at me, hands me my papers, and says, “Just remember that the speed limit here is 70 MPH on the freeway.”

I say thank you, and the interaction ends.

The officer was never anything but polite and professional and, as far as I was concerned, the whole interaction ended well. Also, unless Arkansas really is OCD about speed limits (and you can bet that I’ll assume that it is for the rest of my travels through this state), I wonder whether he saw my California plate and thought I might have been a drug runner – which, once you see me, I quite obviously am not.

It was a weird experience and left me a little shaken, because I prefer to obey laws and not have to interact with law enforcement. It was also a reminder that, if you treat people with respect, they tend to reciprocate that respect. He was polite to me, I was polite back to him, and all’s well that ends well.