Crazed cat, slick foot add up to educational experience

Voices of the Clarion

Posted: Sunday, April 16, 2006

Some of you know my husband, Mark, and I have four golden retrievers we compete with, but few know we also have a cat.

Lucy has been with us since she was a kitten and became so ill in her first week with us that even the vet didn’t expect her to survive. But after a night of being near death, Lucy miraculously woke up the next morning meowing and wanting affection.

In all actuality, Lucy rules our house. We are at her every whim to fill her food bowl, clean her litter box and throw things at her when she feels vocal in the middle of the night.

Although it can be difficult to tell with a cat, Lucy was acting quite out of sorts in November. I called the vet and gave him the details. He said to bring her right over and bring a “sample” of her, as well. So I put her in a kennel, stuck it in the van and headed down the road.

It is a fair assumption on my part to say Lucy hates riding in the car. In fact, although she has gotten somewhat better at it over the years (she’s 7), she still screams all the way to our destination and back.

For this reason, I was eager to get to the vet. As I pulled close to the highway, my foot slipped off the break. I saw a car coming, but in true Alaska fashion, I thought I could beat it.

I did.

However, while I was looking left to see how fast the car was approaching, a trooper was on my right.

You know how at the very moment you do something you know you shouldn’t, someone is there to catch you in the act? That would be this moment.

As the trooper immediately flashed his lights, I pulled into the first driveway — cat screaming and my hands shaking on the wheel. You see, I’ve never been pulled over before. In fact, the first thing I did was what you’re not supposed to do: I got out of the car and started walking toward the trooper.

“Ma’am, please stay by your car,” he told he, holding his arm out to signify to keep my distance.

I was flustered. Lucy was angry.

As he walked toward me, he immediately sensed there was a crazed animal in the car.

“Everything OK?”

“Yes sir. I’m taking her to the vet.”

When he asked for my paperwork, I dug through the glove box. As I handed it over to him, Lucy’s “sample” fell out of my coat pocket and lay there on the ground in a plastic bag.

There was silence for a moment.

“Ma’am, what is that?”

“It belongs to the cat,” I said.

I had to give him bonus points for not laughing, as I could see he was struggling not to. And I could just hear the story being retold in my head — “You’ll never believe what happened to me today ... .”

In all honesty, I was surprised I got a ticket. But also, in all honesty, I wasn’t disappointed. After all, he was doing his job, and I was wrong.

When I went to the courthouse to pay for my sins, I was told I could take a class, which would erase my error in judgment from my record. My options were to go online or physically show up and spend time in a classroom.

I opted to turn this into a true learning experience and decided to go for the classroom.

I was surprised to walk into a room with so many students. There were about 20 of us — young and old. Some were there for the same reasons as me, some were there for their insurance, and some just wanted to improve on what they already knew.

Early on, I dreaded my choice. I wasn’t real thrilled about class participation. But I have to admit, as we moved along, I was starting to get into it. It made me pay more attention, and I actually learned a great deal.

For example, I now know:

· Alaska has a four-second rule, while other states have a three-second rule. A four-second rule means when the vehicle ahead of you passes an object, you should be following so that it takes you four seconds before you pass the same object.

· To keep my wheels straight at an intersection until I’m actually turning. This is so that if I am hit from behind, I am less likely to be pushed into oncoming traffic.

· An air bag can cause severe damage if I’m sitting too close to the wheel. The bag inflates so quickly that a head can be snapped back like a toothpick.

· I’m not supposed to pump anti-lock brakes. OK, maybe you knew this one, but I didn’t. The rule is to “stomp, stay and steer.” That explains a lot.

· Patience truly is a virtue.

I can tell you I have made considerable changes to my driving habits since I completed the class, and each change has improved the way I drive.

I sit back from the steering wheel and I find myself more relaxed when I’m driving. I’m not so stressed about getting from Point A to Point B, and this actually makes me feel more alert.

I changed the way I position my side mirrors, and I struggle much less with my night vision.

I keep a safe distance between me and the vehicle ahead of me. I also find I don’t get as stressed when someone tailgates me. I try to allow them to pass me.

I have to say the biggest change I’ve seen in myself is that I stop, look both ways, and if a vehicle is sort of close, I don’t take the chance. I wait.

Imagine that.

So in the long run, I guess it wasn’t such a bad experience after all. I gave a trooper a laugh, got an education, am a safer driver and Lucy, well, Lucy still screams when she’s in the car, but I even found a solution for that.

“Hey Mark, can you take Lucy to the vet?”

Drive safe!

Dori Lynn Anderson is the managing editor for the Clarion.

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