“I'm thankful for serendipitous moments in my life, where things could've gone the other way.” —Rick Springfield, Australian musician and actor

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“Rode in a police car?”

That question on one of those “Have you ever…” true confessions Facebook games triggered a 911-night memory. It also created cringes with its grammatical infractions, but I will confess to having ridden in the back seat of a law enforcement cruiser.

It’s only appropriate that this exchange came up during Thanksgiving week with a friend as we discussed small things for which we are thankful.

The sad saga of my ride started with a hasty exit from New Orleans some years ago after a long weekend in the Crescent City. Certain that I had covered everything needed for the getaway, I rolled out of the parking garage and onto the interstate. The error of my ways had yet to dawn on me before I turned north onto I-49. It took the warning light on the gas gauge glaring to realize that I was in the middle of nowhere on a sparsely populated stretch of I-49 near dark and almost out of gas.

As I was coming to grips with the foils of my folly, a glimmer of hope appeared in the form of an “exit ahead” sign. That hope was dashed, however, when the car sputtered, missed a couple more times and gave a final heave-ho sending us coasting silently toward the shoulder.

Lady luck was on my shoulder when the big “mobile phone” I had in the pre-cell phone days found a signal. She prevailed when dialing 911 connected me with, “What is your emergency?”

“I’m out of gas in the middle of nowhere on I-49.” I'm betting that may not fall within the realms of a bonified emergency, but when you’re sitting in a fuel-starved car on an isolated stretch of interstate with the sun setting, all bets are off. Sharing the location of that exit ahead sign, the one that momentarily offered hope that a situation like this would not happen, got me assurance that help was on the way.

Sure enough, a sheriff’s unit soon topped the hill traveling at a high rate of speed with the long “whip” antennas on the back practically horizontal. The front end dipped from braking before it disappeared in a gulley between the north and south-bound lanes. As fast as it had disappeared, it popped up into the northbound lanes and pulled up behind my car. “Need some gas,” the deputy asked with a smile. “Yes sir,” I replied. “Got a gas can,” he asked. “No sir, truthfully, our meeting like this wasn’t in my plans,” I smiled.

“No problem, we’re used to that,” he laughed. I was invited to sit in the back seat for the trip into town for which he laid the antennas back again. Peering through the heavy mesh isolating the front seat from the “no way out” back seat, a quick glimpse of the speedometer bouncing somewhere north of 100 was enough. I sat back and thought, “So this is what it looks like when you qualify for perpetrator.”

Sailing off at the exit and a left turn under the interstate found us at a convenience store. “Hey, Doris,” the deputy called out as we entered, “You got an old can of some kind we can put some gas in? And how ‘bout that coffee. Is it yesterday’s?” Doris pointed to the back with a scowl, no doubt for his coffee reviews. Makeshift gas can in hand and hi-test coffee in a Styrofoam cup, we were back on I-49 south taking another shot at that land speed record.

Fueled up and running again, I thanked the deputy profusely and tendered a donation to the parish sheriff’s office which he refused. He also dropped all charges of ignoring my gas gauge and wished me a safe trip home.

Hoping to ensure a safe trip myself, I saved the hi-octane, day-old, coffee for fuel in case I ran out again. One time to say that I “rode in a police car,” grammatically correct not, was something for which I am certainly thankful.

We know the big things to be thankful for, find a few small things. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

—Contact Leon Aldridge at leonaldridge@gmail.com. More Aldridge columns are at leonaldridge.com

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