On the way to Alice, Texas
On the road in Texas
On the way to Alice, Texas
I was recovering from the totally unexpected and shocking heart attack and subsequent death of my beloved husband and my own equally unexpected diagnosis of cancer, by returning to studying. As part of our studies, students went out on clinical rotations to various medical facilities. My first port of call was in Alice, Texas. It was an hour out of town and a drive I was totally unfamiliar with. I had to put on my “big-girl pants” and get on with it and I did.
Since my arrival in the United States just over a decade ago, I have had to acculturate and re-learn a great many things. I learned English back home and American spelling and grammar is different, as are the sights, sounds and smells in this part of the world. Even the sun feels different here. Americans, as I have discovered, are very independent and by nature of their arrival in this country, hardy and rebellious. Gotta love them! I swear, I got to Texas as quickly as I could! I had to learn to reverse everything and drive on the RIGHT side of the road. I elected not to drive for my first five years here, until I felt sure I would not inadvertently turn the wrong way, an anomaly which I have to keep at the front of my consciousness at all times!
I used to love driving in Johannesburg, South Africa. It is a big, sprawling city and it always took a fair amount of time to get anywhere. Back in the days when I was a single parent, I would drive to a destination, listening to classical music in my car, once I had dropped my son off at school or karate. That helped me to deal with big city traffic. I was confident then, knowing Johannesburg like the back of my hand. Coming to Texas became a whole new experience and a big learning curve for me. After my husband died and I faced my own mortality, I became quite nervous about travel. Texas is big. The cars are big. Many of the people are big. My fears were big. I did the only thing I could and took one day at a time. This helped me to avoid being totally overwhelmed.
Agua Dulce - Nueces County
As a new (but older) student, spic and span in my brand new scrubs with logo, short hair neat and tidy, freshly showered and taking the bull by the longhorns (so to speak), I got into my Honda CRV to drive the hour to Alice. The drive was a little hypnotic being so early in the morning (I always prefer to be early rather than late) and I was observing the speed limit using Cruise Control. There is a section of roadway where the speed limit reduces rapidly about three times in quick succession. My thumb was pressing the decelerate button. My speed was slowing, but not fast enough. Sitting and waiting patiently in a side street, was a Constable, waiting for someone to ticket - me. He got me doing fifteen miles per hour over the speed limit, (or was it twelve?) swung out of the side street, got up behind me and switched on his flashing lights. My heart nearly stopped. Up ahead was a rather derelict gas station (if you blink, you might miss the small town called Agua Dulce), so I dutifully pulled in there, switched off my engine and waited for the officer to approach. To my surprise, he yelled from his vehicle, “I need your driver’s license!” I held the card up through the open window. I was further surprised and rather nonplussed, when he said in an unfriendly tone, “Step out of your vehicle!”
Agua Dulce, TX
My run in with the law!
Feeling rather crestfallen, this more mature woman in her new scrubs and squeaky clean shoes, with cleanly-washed face, short shampooed hair and wearing glasses, stepped out of her black Honda CRV and stood meekly beside her car door holding her driver’s license. I was not feeling trustful and decided not to approach the Constable. He got out of his vehicle and approached me with an unfriendly look on his face, eyes shielded by sunglasses. Truly, dear reader, I am not an imposing or threatening figure of a woman. I watched him through my spectacles while he sauntered over grouchily, took my driver’s license and said, “You know, you were speeding.” I replied with my rather English accent, “I had my thumb on the decelerate button.” He looked at me with some surprise, as I do look Hispanic, but as soon as I open my mouth, that notion is immediately dispelled, and the homegrown American begins to wonder where I come from. He checked the stickers on my windscreen…. errr.. windshield, to see whether they were up-to-date and found everything to be in order (I am a most law-abiding citizen), and then asked for my insurance papers. I reached into the glove compartment (cubbyhole) and handed them to him. Almost disappointed, he returned to his vehicle to write me a speeding ticket which he then handed to me. One hundred and eighty dollars!!!
Flower of Texas
Defensive Driving Course
I got back into my car feeling deflated and ruffled, and I looked at the ticket, then got out again (the Constable looked rather surprised) and approached his window. I asked him about the information printed on the ticket to get my facts straight, and he grumbled a response, then I resumed my journey to the medical facility. According to my supervisor there, all “unfamiliar” vehicles that pass through that part of town, are watched closely. I don’t think I would make much of a bandit by any stretch of the imagination and when I returned home, I called the office of Justice of the Peace in Agua Dulce to object about the way I had been treated. Subsequently I took a Defensive Driving course online, a six-hour session in which you may NOT speed. Additionally, you are required to take timed breaks and cannot speed up the process at all. In the end, I paid almost as much as the fine but felt satisfied that I had done my bit to circumvent the whole affair and also dismiss my speeding ticket.
To add insult to injury, when I relayed my experience to my Instructor at college, he had no empathy for me at all and never could appreciate the fact that I was on my own in so many ways, struggling alone to deal with a great many challenges. I will say that I persevered and completed and passed my studies with flying colors despite the many roadblocks I experienced along the way.