It was the middle of the week and well after dark. Joe Ikell and I had ended up at the Office together to complete some paperwork. I had parked my new ’73 Dodge next to the large outside air conditioning unit. It was in the slot to my left and came out from the curb about four or five feet. This unit was protected at the two outermost corners by two large yellow poles, set in concrete. I guess this thing extended out to the back of my left front wheel and was about one foot away from my vehicle. We did our business in the Office and after a while, we came out.
I was so proud of my new Patrol Car. Joe didn’t have one like me. I’d already checked it out some to determine its capabilities and wanted to show him my new trick, the reverse turn-around. He was my Best Friend and I wanted him to be the first one to see.
This maneuver wasn’t taught to us in Patrol School, but I had seen an older, crazy Trooper do it there on our Driving Track. I’d practiced it some and thought I’d learned. I sure was impressed by how it looked and the way it was done. I guess now I’d better explain it some.
For a Traffic Officer, after meeting and passing a motorist on a narrow road with no shoulders, this is the quickest way to turn around. It is dangerous, and it takes a lot of nerve and practice, but it can be done. First, bring your car to a stop in the opposing lane (the left one). While looking to the rear, accelerate to a pretty good speed (you’ll know it when you get there), then slam on brakes and swerve to the right. Keep applying brakes, throw it in low range, turn the steering wheel to the left and accelerate all at the same time. When you’ve slid as much as you need to, release the brakes and take off. If you’ve done it right, you’ve never left the pavement, you’ve slid that car around, you’re now headed in the opposite direction, and you’re quickly approaching the motorist you’re after. If you’ve done it wrong, you may be dead or have killed someone else by now. Seldom did I ever use this trick, but in isolated areas, I did practice it from time to time. This was one of those times. I was not an expert! I just thought I was.
I figured I’d just show young Joe my short version of this maneuver. I jumped into my spanking new car.
“Watch this!” I proudly stated.
I revved it up, looked to the rear, held my foot on the brake, threw it in reverse, turned the steering wheel to the right, and let her go! There were so many other things going on in my head that I forgot about that air conditioner.
BAM!! That’s when I remembered … But it was too late. When I got out and looked, the whole headlight assembly was just barely hanging on, and my bumper had been pulled out on the left.
It wasn’t long afterwards, that I was there by myself … Because as my good friend Joe would put it, he got scared and left.
I had to call our First Sergeant and he was not a happy camper. I got a lengthy office visit with him, a good chewing out, and three days off without pay. I’ve learned, but as with many other lessons in life, I’ve had to learn it the hard way. Although I’m much older now, I’ve slowed down some and become a little smarter …
But not much.