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Driving right into justice

Sometimes you have to wonder if there is any such thing as divine justice, especially during a week when more Nixon tapes surface to confirm yet again that the pensioned-off ex-president of the United States was a violence-mongering anti-Semite. Outside of sitcoms, romance novels and B-westerns, you start to ask, isn't there ever a time that the bad guy actually gets it in the neck?

Thereby, of course, hangs a tale, and since I was the bad guy in one instance, I feel justified in telling it.

We were with friends coming back from the East Coast on Memorial Day weekend when a minor accident created one of those Interstate 4 traffic jams during which entire generations are born and die and California redwoods add enough rings to have made Liberace envious.

It was hot, our engine was overheating, the air conditioner was one of those that only works if the car is moving and, one by one, I and my similarly middle-aged companions were coming to woefully rue that decision to have four cups of coffee and a glass of orange juice _ each _ with breakfast.

At about that time, a small car roared past us in the emergency lane.

"If he doesn't have a real emergency," I said, "someone will get him."

An Orange County Sheriff's deputy did get him, and it lightened our load when we inched past him as he stood in the sun getting his ticket.

My glee at the efficiency of law enforcement was to be short-lived.

A few days later, I was on my way from New Port Richey to Dade City late in the evening. I was tired. It had been a long day. I decided to . . . er . . . minimize my road time, shall we say?

When I passed Little Road, I saw a car with that telltale light bar pull in behind me.

I would, I decided, amuse myself by playing cat-and-mouse with the gendarmes. I know . . . it's not much. But after a few days in New Port Richey, small things entertain you.

Assuming he couldn't catch me speeding without getting a radar gun on me, I decided that I was safe whenever his lights were out of sight around a curve. I only had to drive the speed limit when I could see him.

Don't do this at home, kids. I am a professional idiot. Others could be injured, or even more embarrassed.

The guy behind me never got me.

In fact, as I stood by the side of the road handing Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Gary Odom my driver's license, the police car that had followed me from West Pasco went by, and we noticed that it belonged to the Dade City Police Department. It was occupied by someone who probably could have cared less about a minor speeding violation out of his jurisdiction.

"If I hadn't been so busy watching him," I told a smiling _ and writing _ Odom, "I might have seen you."

What followed was a brief, and very polite, discussion about middle age, peripheral vision, the possibility of avoiding license points by going to traffic school and the address to which I could mail my fine.

"There's a divinity that shapes our ends," Hamlet said, "Rough hew them how we will."

Mine got shaped about 95 bucks worth. I've noticed, by the way, that other citizens along State Road 52 are having similar discussions with Odom and his colleagues almost every night.

I got the message. Thought I might pass it along.

Among my other sins, I accidentally promoted Gary Graham from County Judge to Circuit Judge in a recent column. I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am.

I'm going to be working on a special assignment for a couple of weeks. I have not been fired. I am not drying out. I am not on vacation. I am working. Honest. The column will resume soon.