Saturday, March 7, 2009

the strangest thing happened...

to flash or not to flash... this is my question.
i always heard that iowans were extremely nice people. its pretty much the state motto. and since i've lived here i have only become a witness of the reality of this motto. but i had no idea - until this very strange thing happened - just how nice they are.
here's what happened...
it was three o'clock on a thursday (this past thursday to be exact). i was just heading home from the park where scott and i had met and played with my friend christia and her two little boys. des moines temperatures that day reached above 70 degrees a temperature that des moines hasn't seen on that day of the year since 1921. my spirits were high, my adrenaline was flowing. with scott in the back seat and me at the wheel i rolled down our windows, turned up the volume on my rockin 80's cd and breathed in the beautiful warmth that blew around my face and through my hair.
i had been driving for about five minutes in this spring time bliss when a car that was coming toward me in the other lane (still about 100 yards away) started steadily flashing his lights. i watched in amazement - is he flashing his lights at me? i briefly looked around and saw that there were no cars between the flasher and me. he continued to flash his lights at a steady pace. as he got closer and closer to me the flashing gradually got faster and faster. as he passed me the flashing was so quick and so urgent that i thought for sure the roof of my car had flown off to the side of the road without me knowing it. i slightly began to panic. i looked at my dashboard searching for any sign of emergency lights or alarms. nothing.
i paid special attention to the steering wheel to see if it was pulling to either side. is my tire flat? no it feels normal.
i looked around me at the all four doors. all shut tight.
i turned down the volume - despite the fact that it was one of my favorite songs - Time after Time - i took my foot off the gas and contemplated pulling over to take a better look at my car and try to figure out why in the world this random car was flashing its lights so vigorously at me just moments before.
as these thoughts were permeating my mind my eyes caught hold of another image - one more daunting and fear inducing than almost any other image to a girl driving freely with the sun beating upon her shoulders and the music turned up loud.
the image was a police car - strategically hidden behind some overgrown weeds. i instantly looked down at my speedometer. i just knew i was speeding.
relief overwhelmed me as i saw the needle on my speedometer exactly over the 45 mph mark. i wasn't speeding at all! i passed the police car with a deep sigh.
it only took me a nano-second to realize that had i not slowed down just moments before in contemplation to pull over to the side of the road to check my car, i assuredly would have been speeding and even more assuredly would be passing my licence and registration over to the merciless police officer at that very moment.
i was awe stricken as i realized finally that the motive behind the flashings had been a warning about the hidden cop just a quarter mile ahead of me on the road.
i couldn't believe it! this random, faceless human being had actually taken the initiative to warn a speeding car that there was a police car around the bend!
can you GET nicer than that?
i thought about all the times that i have witnessed speeding cars on the road. my first thought is always, "i hope they get pulled over!" (which makes me a total hypocrite because i speed far more than i'd like to admit!)
and there have even been moments when i've seen a speeder get pulled over and i've silently done a "whoo hoo!" and smiled as big as i could as i passed the police officer unscathed.
and here was a friendly iowan thinking - not of himself - but of me, the law breaker, enjoying the beautiful weather. he wanted to save me - a perfect stranger - from receiving a ticket!
now i ask you (those of you who have actually gotten to this point of my eternally long posting) was this ethical? should i do the same for the next guy? or would i be enabling someone to break the law?
or did the flasher flash me because he thought it unethical for the police car to be hiding behind weeds? maybe he doesn't always flash, but maybe just when he feels like the cops are trying to trick us.
so should i flash in the future? but what about gang signs or the possibility of distracting the drivers i'm flashing at? and would they have any idea what i was implying? or like me, would they be so caught up in checking their surroundings that they wouldn't notice the cop at all and would be more susceptible to getting pulled over?
i'm stumped! which, once again, leaves me asking the question...
to flash or not to flash???


Cassie and Mitch said...

Natalie, hate to tell you this, but this is not just an IOWAN thing!! I can't believe you never heard of this! I am one of the people that flash :) I like to warn others, becasue I love the feeling when someone flashes me a warning light also! Glad you didn't get a ticket!

The Thomas Family said...

Have you never heard of that before?? I'm glad it saved you!
I've never flashed anyone... honestly, just because I've never had a good chance to do it. I'm always scared another cop will see me do it!

C Keyser, MS, CPC said...

Natalie, that was the best story--your choice of words and descriptive phrases really pulled me in. I felt like I was right there with you in the car. What was little Scotty thinking? I believe flashing started with truck drivers. As a courtesy, they would warn other truck drivers on the road; eventually other vehicles caught on. I think it is a courtesy; obviously, you were impressed and appreciative. Your father always flashed --- maybe it's a male thing. I'm always going too fast to think about it (hee hee). Love, mom

Mimi said...

I don't know if it is a midwestern thing - but flashing lights usually mean there is a cop - I think it just depends on the situation if you flash or not and when you so one being so sneaky - it usually makes you want to warn others a bit more.

KB Morgan Fam said...

I guess because I couldn't sleep in the car, and was often sitting up with dad as we drove through the night on trips, I remember truckers flashing us all the time. It happened when there was a radar trap, or when dad passed them pulling a trailer they would flash again to let him know that he had cleared their truck. When they'd do that, dad would pump his brakes a few times to thank them. Truckers would also pull over to the side of the road if they were heavy and slow so we could pass more easily on two lane highways -- which happened quite a bit on the way to Powell. It's all apart of sharing the road -- creating an enjoyable driving experience for everyone -- a courtesy most people have either forgotten or are ignorant of. We don't let people in. We get irritated easily, and think we're all entitled to have things our way. I like the flashing and sharing. Besides, I don't think cops mind the flashing as long as people slow down -- it's what the cops want people to do anyway.

Melanie said...

I loved your story! You really are a great writer. I got super nervous right before you said it was just a cop. Don't scare me like that! I thought maybe you had left your baby on the top of your car or something!!!
In answer to your question: I've been flashed and I sometimes flash. I don't think its a great idea to flash as ferociously as your flasher though. Just a couple flashes will do, especially if its night time.

the binghams said...

I've never heard of flashing before- that is a great idea! I hate it when cops hide and are sneaky.