Jim McBeath’s impeccable arithmetical instruction was soon forgotten. Not many weeks after Joy Mulligan had been told her speedometer reading must be divided by six and multiplied by ten to approximate kilometres per hour, she was pulled over.
As they do, the motorcycle cop parked his shining white BMW behind her car, withdrew his booking sheets from the pannier and took down her registration number. Meanwhile, Joy, consummate jazz singer and delightfully evil little bugger, was working up a reservoir of tears behind her big blue eyes.
By the time Constable Plod arrived beside her open window, she presented a picture of devastated innocence.
‘Do you know what speed you were doing, driver?’
‘Only ninety,’ she sobbed, indicating her old MPH speedometer.
‘I clocked you at a hundred and forty five!’
‘A hundred and forty five!’ she repeated, shocked. “No way this old car can do more than ninety!’
He looked more closely and the penny dropped.
‘Ninety miles, he corrected, that’s almost a hundred and fifty. Didn’t you know?’
With a good Catholic name like Mulligan she was probably OK with a Saturday night fib that could be confessed away on Sunday.
‘How silly!’ she cried. ‘Of course it is!’
Tears flowed as those big eyes pleaded for understanding.
‘Oh, I am so sorry, Officer! I had no idea!’
‘All right,’ he sighed. ‘No more than sixty-five on that speedo. OK?’
She swallowed hard and smiled her best winner.
‘ Sixty-five,’ she repeated as if memorising a lesson. ‘Sixty-five. Right, got it. Thanks you officer!’
His hands left her window sill.
‘Take care.’ He advised as he turned back towards his bike.
She pushed the stick into reverse in her anxiety to get away and let out the clutch.
Back the car jumped, narrowly missing the retreating officer and knocking his machine off its stand, stopping with its bumper in contact with his newly scratched paint.
He reappeared to find her slumped in the seat with more tears running down her lying little cheeks.
‘Am I under arrest now?’ she cried as he stopped safely short of her door.
‘Madam!’ he shouted. ‘You are not under arrest. I never want to see you again!’ He then stepped forward and leaned into her window to spit his anger.
‘Get the hell out of here!’
Even before he had struggled his cycle to its wheels, she was a half kilometre along the highway, speeding ahead. She could hardly wait to tell the story.