A visit to the Fort Anne Historical Site at Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia — claimed to be the oldest historic site in Canada.
With our tour finished and souvenirs stashed away in the car, we pulled out of the parking lot intent on travelling to Digby, home of the MV Fundy Rose ferry to Saint John, N.B.—and a world-famous Digby scallops dinner and a beer. Ignoring my Garmin navigator, I made a right turn out of the parking lot for the road leaving town. As we entered the street, a police cruiser drove past us in the opposite direction.
I’ve always been a little paranoid when police pass by—in either direction. Not that I’m hiding out from the law, but it seems they can always find you guilty of some driving infraction. Your driver’s licence may be out of date, your tail lights may be dirty, or there’s always — “We don’t allow grey cars on the road when it’s raining.”
Checking my rearview mirror, I noticed the red and blue lights on the roof of the police car start flashing, and the cruiser quickly made a U-turn in our direction. He came up behind us, lights seemingly exploding in blinding red and blue when they are that close. His siren whoop-whoop-whooping, so I decided I must have been his intended target. I had been nabbed. They had me. I was nicked. My crimes were about to be exposed. I pulled to the curb and stopped; the police car parked behind us.
The officer slowly got out of his vehicle, squared his hat firmly on his head and approached; inspecting, first the back of our vehicle, then the rear seat as he arrived. He was young and pleasant-enough looking but presented a rather stern expression on his face. He was also cautiously resting his right wrist on the butt of a gun hanging from his hip. He nodded a friendly ‘hello,’ followed with a “Good afternoon, you folks just visiting Annapolis?”
“Yes,” I replied, now beginning to think that with this friendly approach, we possibly had been chosen for a ‘Special Tourist’ prize.
“Did you realize that you just turned onto a one-way street, the wrong way?”
“No!” I replied.
There it was. I had broken the Law of Directions and hadn’t realized it. Jail time was imminent.
He requested my driver’s licence and vehicle registration which Robin had already retrieved from the glove compartment. He reviewed them, checking their authenticity through a handheld computer he carried. Perhaps he had chanced upon an escaped, psychopathic serial baby-rapist wanted on warrants across the province. I apologized for not noticing the alleged ‘One Way‘ signage. I took his word that it was there.
I had only travelled about 500 feet since leaving the parking lot, and not too far ahead, was a traffic light facing me. If I was driving in the wrong direction, why was there a traffic light facing me? I was confused, but I assumed him to be correct—it being his territory and all.
As he stood there performing research on his hand-held computer, I babbled on about our visiting from up-island . . . , well, not from up-island as such, because Nova Scotia’s not an island really. I mentioned how we had just moved to Nova Scotia from Victoria. I hesitated a moment, then added, British Columbia, just in case he wasn’t familiar where Victoria was or thought we were possibly from Australia. A few more ridiculous bits of verbal diarrhea trickled out, but I remained calm; prepared for a ticket. Robin supported my scattered explanations, but we mostly waited quietly for the final results of the apprehension. I tried to look the innocent tourist, so lost in the surrounding beauty of Annapolis Royal that I had missed the directional signage.
“It really is a pretty town.”
I realized what complete tripe it must have sounded. I stopped talking and stared forward again.
Then, to my surprise, he handed me back my documents—without a ticket.
“Just try to be more careful in the future,” he said, although still with that austere smile.
For whatever reason, he chose to take sympathy on us. Perhaps it was WiFi, our Yorkshire terrier, sitting quietly, strapped to his elevated back seat, peering out the window, looking directly at the officer as if he was obviously there with a treat that he was about to offer at any moment.
I thanked the officer, without getting out of the car and kissing his boots, and then tucked the license and registration into my pocket. He headed back to his vehicle, and I drove ahead about 50 feet to the intersection with the traffic light and stopped. Robin twisted, to take a picture of an old church through her side window. I hesitated an extra few moments for her to get the shot. The cop pulled up behind us, stopped, and waited. Not wanting to hold up traffic—particularly that police officer, and noticing no one else on the adjacent streets, I moved on through the intersection.
As I proceeded across the street, I immediately recognized a problem. What I had mistaken for a flashing red stop-and-go light, was in fact, a regular red and green traffic light. I had driven off through a red light . . . . . in front of the cop that had just forgiven me with a warning for not paying attention to my driving.
OMG! Now, I was certainly in trouble. This is where they lock me up. I crawled the rest of the way through the intersection to an angled parking spot in front of another old church, rolled down my window and waited. He pulled in beside me, rolled down his passenger side window and just looked at me shaking his head in disbelief. I looked back, with a kind of rueful smile on my face.
“God,” I said, “I don’t believe this. For some reason, I thought it was a flashing red light.”
‘I thought it was a flashing red light?’ Why didn’t I just tell him that I had no driving knowledge and that he should probably just lock me up for everyone’s safety? He shook his head—no friendly smile.
“Could you just pay attention and be careful?”
I gave a weak smile. “You should just follow me around. You could probably fill a book of tickets.”
‘Oh My God! Just shut up, fool!’
Apparently, still feeling charitable, he repeated his warning about being careful; I told him that I would and that I promised to leave town while I still could. He weakened and his lips curled up slightly at the edges; then he backed out and drove off.
I think I gained more appreciation for the police with that encounter than if I had received a ticket.
Robin and I headed for Digby. We both needed that beer more than ever.
It really is a pretty little town, with lots to see and do.
ANNAPOLIS ROYAL, Nova Scotia.