It's a Thursday afternoon in the sprawl of suburban Arkansas.
To be more precise, it's late afternoon, the gloaming of the consultant's workweek, when things are hopefully winding down and you stare longingly at the laptop clock hoping it gets to that point when no one will judge you as you leave for the airport.
You could argue that staying later than everyone who actually works at the client and sending emails at all hours of the night would earn you some capital to leave on Thursdays on your own terms. But consultants are the worrying kind, and more self-conscious than most, so we're always cautious.
But that can cause some problems if you wait too long. And that's what happened today.
With a 20+ minute drive to the airport, we didn't get out the door until 4:05.
That would be fine, only the other associate on our project had a flight at 4:45.
And it wasn't a normal flight back to the office, he was leveraging a cheaper plane ticket to go home an see his family.
And he hadn't checked in...and he was going to check a bag.
And I was rocking a Chevy Malibu courtesy of Hertz.
So we started booking it as fast as possible, knowing that it was going to be really really tight.
Driving through the winding back roads through the woods and past the trailers, we were actually making pretty good time.
Until about 4:15, when I came over a hill to see a white police cruiser on the other side of the road.
We zipped past the police cruiser and both looked in the rearview to see if he'd let us go.
At first we didn't see any reaction...but optimism was quickly dashed as his car lurched from its comfortable place in the shade.
He pulled us over a little ways down the road, and both of our hearts sank. Our hearts sank, and our temperatures rose, because it was 104 degrees at the time and we had to turn off the engine to pull over.
God, the South is freaking hot. Even hotter as you wait on the side of the road, clock ticking on your chance to get out of town, while the local police decide your fate.
Fortunately for us, the cop didn't take too long to write me up for speeding. I'm guessing he didn't want to spend any more time out in the sun than we did. I couldn't even make out how much it was for, but I grabbed it and quickly got us back on the road (I was officially written up for 52 in a 30 mph zone, just a hundred feet or so from a turn where the new speed limit would've been 55. Doh.)
I'll try and be careful with my word choice here, but let's just say I drove fairly aggressively for the remainder of the trip, pulling up to the tiny regional airport just a few minutes before the flight.
I told him to get to the counter, beg to get checked-in, and wave my speeding ticket in front of them to show them how crazy this has been.
I let him out and went to return the car. By the time I got to my gate, he was long gone on the way home.
It may have been the most productive thing I did all day.