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Celebrating 25 years of publishing

Published March 17, 2020


But officer, let me tell you more about this green van

By John Toth / The Bulletin

I pulled the old Greenster (my reincarnated green van) into the bank parking lot, opened the door, looked up and saw the police lights on the other side of the lot’s entrance.

I wondered what was going on. I was the only car near the police vehicle. But I was not speeding and signaled the right turn into the parking lot. The blinkers just got fixed.

Maybe it was going to be one of those traffic stops I’ve seen on TV when they reward you for being a good driver. A gift card would be nice.

“What’s going on, officer?”

He walked toward the van. “I stopped you because your registration has expired.”

That eliminated the gift card.

“Let’s take a look,” I suggested.

The nice officer didn’t know the history of this vehicle. He may have missed the number of columns I have written about it - how I brought it back to life.

There was a glitch, though, recently. The van could no longer pass the emissions part of the inspection, no matter what I did. Back in 1995, these vans were not made to pass the 2019 emissions tests.

I nursed it through the tests for many years, but in August 2019, it was at the end of the line.

“Why don’t you park it and come see me again on Jan. 2,” suggested the kind mechanic who had been struggling with the task of getting the car passed for years.

That’s when it will need only a safety inspection as it turns 25 years old.

I almost cried. I wanted to give the old van a big hug, but I didn’t because that would have been really embarrassing.

In a few months, all our troubles would be over. It got started regularly and driven around a little just to keep all the oils flowing and the gaskets lubricated. But for the most part, it sat in the back of the lot, waiting to be legal again.

The day finally arrived. It was a momentous occasion. The Greenster would be able to run around again without fear that its driver - me - would get a ticket for an expired registration. It passed the safety inspection, and we went down to the courthouse to get it a shiny new registration sticker.

In the bank parking lot, the officer and I walked to the front of the van, where the sticker was in plain sight.

“I apologize,” he said. “I thought I had read 19.”

“I understand. It wasn't all that easy to get that sticker, you know.”

The officer looked at the van. “It’s in really good shape,” he said.

That opened the door for me to tell him the history of the van - the trip to Orlando, tennis lessons, Little League, daughter’s paintings on the windshield (which have since been replaced), softball and all the other family excursions that the van had made over its 25 years.

It was the abbreviated version, but it still took some time.

“I didn’t have the heart to get rid of it, so I brought it back to life inside and out, and under the hood,” I said.

I could tell he was busy and needed to get back to his squad car. We shook hands and parted ways. He, perhaps to resume his traffic stops, and me to proceed to the bank. It was the best traffic stop I’ve ever had.

The previous time when I was stopped in the Greenster many years ago, the officer told me I did not signal a left turn, and I argued that I did. It wasn’t for a very long time because I made a last- minute decision to turn, but I did signal.

Our disagreement was ended by the Greenster. Smoke came out from under the hood. The officer quickly backed away from the van and let me go my way.

The Greenster sprung a leak in its power steering hose to get me out of that ticket. It was a daring move. I’ll never forget it - true sacrifice.

This latest stop went much smoother - for both of us.

(John looks forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send me a note at john.bulletin@gmail.com. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.)