Arteries, Alcohol, and Automobiles

Last week I introduced Jessie as the woman who used to strap a doll into a car seat every morning so the neighbors wouldn’t know she was leaving her baby home alone. Her saga continues with the Heart Attack Incident.

One night not long ago Jessie was driving herself home, having enjoyed the sparkling company and lackluster alcohol that are the hallmarks of any good Melbourne get-together, and found that she had inexplicably driven her car into a ditch.

So Jessie dialed 9-1-1, which you can do pretty much whenever you like in Melbourne because emergencies are few and far between, and before long her distress signal had been answered by not one but two men in uniform. One was the helpful and understanding kind of policeman, but the other was a state trooper who insisted on asking unpleasant questions about how the car had come to grief on a stretch of road that was theoretically quite uncomplicated. When Jessie was unable to give a satisfactory answer, he proposed a breathalyzer test.

Jessie considered this, taking into account the points on her license and that fact that there really had been quite a lot of the lackluster alcohol, and finally told him thank you very much, but she’d rather not.

“Well,” the trooper said, “Alabama state law is that if you refuse the test, you have to spend 24 hours in jail.”

Jessie went with a third option: call up the chief of police and request his friendly intervention. This may sound strange to you city-dwellers out there, but in a small southern town it’s par for the course. When my grandmother moved out of Melbourne she was always frustrated that she could no longer get her favorite judge to fix her speeding tickets.

So Jessie dialed up the chief of police, who was an old buddy of hers, and explained the situation.

“Well, let’s see what we can do about this,” said the chief. “What’s the trooper’s name?”

Jessie peered at the trooper’s name tag and reported her findings.

“Aw, hell,” said the chief in disgust, “I can’t do anything with him. You’ll have to fake a heart attack.”

(Please take a moment to appreciate the fact that not only was this advice given in all seriousness, but it came from the chief of police. That is awesome.)

So Jessie clutched her chest and began to groan, and the incorruptible trooper was forced to roll his eyes and call an ambulance to take her to the nearest hospital.

I would like to report that this strategy was successful, but if I stray from the facts I will lose all credibility. It is therefore my sad duty to report that doctors are actually pretty good at distinguishing between real heart attacks and fake ones, and in short order they were able to inform the state trooper that Jessie’s arteries were functioning perfectly. So she had to spend 24 hours in jail after all, and she lost her license for a few months.*

*This didn’t mean she stopped driving, of course; she just drove slowly and inconspicuously, and only to work and back.**

**And by work I mean school. Did I mention that Jessie is a third-grade teacher?***

***Of course she is.

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