scene & heard

Scene and Heard: Staying off the road on Friday the 13th

Friday, November 13, 2009

Today is Friday the 13th. George Zinnemann will be spending the day at home.

You've heard about the old superstition that bad things tend to occur on the 13th day of the month. Surprisingly, that has happened to me on a number of occasions. So on the 13th, I usually keep quiet and don't do anything exciting. Superstitious? Moi? Not a bit. Just careful.

If you happened to be driving in rush-hour traffic on Rowe Boulevard in Annapolis on the 13th day of a recent month, you might have come across a rather surprising scene. Parked along the edge of the highway was my semi-antique white Ford Taurus. Almost bumper-to-bumper to its front and rear were two Maryland State Police cruisers with flashing multicolored lights. Standing on the sidewalk behind the cars were two burly state troopers in their crisp, starched uniforms and wide-brimmed hats. Standing next to them were two forlorn looking people: my daughter Judy and I.

Judy and I had been driving in fairly heavy traffic in downtown Annapolis on a hot day when the air conditioner started spewing warm air and suddenly quit operating. We opened the windows, and the onrushing hot air destroyed both our hairdos. About two miles closer to home, white steam started pouring out from under the hood. I was able to pull to the edge of the road without impeding the flow of traffic. We bailed out of the car.

Finally, a pretty young lady who had driven past the wreck and the two disheveled people next to it, stopped and dialed 911 for us.

Minutes later, we heard a siren, and a state police car with flashing lights pulled up behind us. The driver, a tall, handsome gentleman built like a Redskins linebacker, came over, inquired what the difficulty might be, and asked for all my credentials and licenses.

The call to 911 seemed to have alerted all the law enforcement people in the area. Soon, we were joined by another state trooper and two Anne Arundel County police cars. So here we were, surrounded by four emergency vehicles, all with their lights flashing. Judy said, "You've got to take a picture of this." Which I did.

The first trooper decided that my car had to be moved to a safer spot. He directed all his colleagues to deploy their vehicles to cut off the passing traffic, temporarily making Rowe Boulevard look like a parking lot. Then, the four law enforcers pushed my car by hand to the other side of the road, which eventually was reopened to traffic.

The county officers departed, and we were left in the drug bust-looking scene. It took quite a while for the tow truck to find us, and, meanwhile, we had a nice, friendly chat with the troopers. The first trooper turned out to be a friendly and caring gentleman, and, before long, he called me George, and I called him Dave. I said, "I'm sorry, Dave, to be taking up so much of your time, keeping you from chasing the bad guys." Dave said: "Naw. The weather is so nice, I gave the bad guys the day off."

The tow truck finally arrived, and the state troopers stayed with us until we were hooked up and ready to go. Judy and I arrived home, traveling in style in the cab of the tow truck.

Basically, all this was a great experience -- we met several fine and charming people as a result. And I will think twice before I go driving again on the 13th day of any month in the future.

-- George Zinnemann, Annapolis

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