Cop stop a sign of trouble just around the bend

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

If I were seeking an omen about what is ahead in the future, I should have known it would appear on the first workday of the week.

There I was moseying below the speed limit Monday morning, driving up U.S. 17 in Little River, S.C., and minding my business with a cell phone pressed to my ear (“Can you hear me now?!”).

I thought I was doing everything not to attract the attention of law enforcement, which is what I always strive to do whenever I venture out on the highway and anywhere else in between.

Coincidentally, I was on the phone with the Sunset Beach Police Department, trying to find out if I needed to stop by on my way toward Shallotte to check the latest incident reports.

Then I noticed the South Carolina trooper next to me in the left-hand lane. Then I saw him suddenly “slow up” and get behind me. Then those blue lights flashed, along with my life before me. To this day, I can’t remember what happened with my phone call.

I pulled into the parking lot of a large, freshly built bank, the trooper right behind me.

He demanded the usual—license, proof of registration and insurance.

“You weren’t wearing your seat belt,” he accused in a gruff voice.

Now, I may be guilty of some things—cell-phone talking and checking my makeup in the rearview mirror among them—but I knew darned well I’d been wearing my seat belt and I told him so, as sweetly and politely as I could to counterbalance his gruffness.

“I promise you I was wearing it,” I said.

But, I added as an honest afterthought—I also have a bad habit of tucking the shoulder harness under my arm.

“If you weren’t wearin’ it right, you weren’t wearin’ it!” he charged, ordering me to wait right there as my life continued to unfold in front of me.

A judge, he said, came up with that precedent-setting decision.

He wound up issuing me a stern warning, both in expression and on the pale blue sheet of paper he handed me with “seat belt violation” dutifully checked.

“Oh,” I exclaimed, “I thought you were stopping me for talking on my cell phone.”

“That’s not against the law yet, ma’am,” he said—at least not in South Carolina.

As soon as it is, I don’t doubt he’ll be enforcing it.

Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or e-mail llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.