The typical New Year's resolutions to lose weight, eat healthier and exercise more require plenty of self-discipline. It's easier to keep a resolution when a police officer gets involved.
Not jamming all my self-improvement projects into a single vow made on New Year's Eve, I already had begun my pledge to look for the positive in every situation before my wife and I, one of our sons, and my 90-year-old mom set off before Christmas on a 13-hour drive to see loved ones on the East Coast. Sure, flying might seem the less stressful way to go, but I was approaching the cross-country trek as the perfect vehicle for family bonding.
Hoping to save my family's 2007 Toyota Prius from tacking on to the 211,103 miles on the odometer, my mom volunteered her 2012 Honda Civic for the adventure. Her car needs the exercise, she figures. All good.
But my positive attitude resolution gets a test barely 100 miles into our drive when I spot the flashing red lights in my year-view mirror. I pull to the U.S. 24 shoulder near the Hoosier hamlet of Huntington, boyhood home of Dan Quayle and current home of the Quayle Vice Presidential Learning Center. I struggle to see the bright side of this traffic stop. I shut off the car to save gas and curb pollution, and those are positive outcomes, I tell myself.
"Do you know how fast you were driving?" asks Indiana state police Master Trooper Trent Kiefer.
My gut is thinking up horrible responses: "C'mon, man. Are you really going to make this trip even longer for my dear old mom?" "I'm not used to driving this car." "I've gotten one speeding ticket in the last 30 years." "I have a kid going to school in this state and spend a lot of money in Indiana." That bad instinct even suggests the always unacceptable advice that the officer "should be out catching real criminals."
But my brain reminds me that I should look for the positive in this situation. So I admit my speed, apologize for my careless behavior and thank the officer for kindly intervening.
The trooper points out that he clocked me at 1 mph slower than my confession and heads back to his squad car to do the paperwork. Kiefer returns with a warning ticket, holiday wishes and a reminder to drive safely the rest of the way.
My jubilation lasts only until I try to restart the car and hear only the click-click-click of a dead battery.
Not only does Kiefer swing his squad car around to give us a jump, but he also correctly diagnoses the problem as a dead battery and a faulty alternator. He points to the exit ramp and tells us to stop at the AutoZone next to the Arby's. An AutoZone employee installs our battery and directs us a couple of blocks away to Monro Muffler Brake & Services. I'm thrilled that my positive attitude is paying dividends.
Monro can install a new alternator, but it doesn't have one in stock and will have to order one. As I grasp for a bright side to that situation, I am told that "ordering" a new alternator simply means that we'll have to wait 20 minutes for someone to drive one down from Fort Wayne.
Turns out that our lifesaver, Master Trooper Kiefer of Indiana State Police District 22, already received an award for saving a life at Walmart in December 2015 while he was off-duty. Our plight wasn't that dramatic, but if he hadn't stopped us our battery would have died somewhere down the road and we might have been stranded.
Instead, three hours after he stops me for speeding, we are back on the road with a new alternator, a new battery, and a renewed faith in the power of looking for the bright side.
Now, all I need is for a kindly police officer to help me eat healthy, exercise more and lose weight.