Towards the later years of my teens, I was working at various locations in the Burlington Mall, usually until late at night. I had spent about a year and a half working at Johnny Rockets — where a good majority of the stories on this site or people in the stories on this site are from — where I met Tim.
I was around 17 or 18 at the time, and Tim was in his early 30s. He was much older than I was, but we got along famously. He was a bit of an oddball, and I was a bit of a reject, so we fit well.
Many nights after work, we’d get together and either go across the street to a movie or go driving around playing a game that we liked to call “Where does this road go?” The game was quite simple, you’d just drive to the end of a road or an intersection and pick a direction. Whoever was in the passenger seat got to pick left straight or right. We ended up in some insane places playing this game.
Given that we both worked nights, it didn’t matter how late we stayed out or what time we got in. When you didn’t have to be at work until late afternoon, you didn’t care much.
One night, while out playing “Where does this road go?” we ended up on the strip in Hampton Beach. It was summer, but late enough at night that there weren’t many people at the beach.
We made a few laps around the strip, looking for anyone or anything interesting — as we did — before deciding to head back to the mall, where we’d left my car hours earlier.
If you’ve not been up to Hampton, you know that just over a long stretch of bridge is Salisbury Beach. The lesser of the two beaches, if you will.
It was around 2:30 that morning when we started crossing the bridge that connected the two, when Tim decided that he wanted to toss pennies off the bridge, for good luck.
We pulled over, go out of his truck and walked to the guard rail.
It was a long way down, though I don’t know the exact height of the bridge.
I threw my penny over, watching it spiral and twist and seemingly float its way down to plop in the cold dark water below.
Tim followed suit and we were on our way back to the truck when flashing lights quickly approached from each side of the bridge, quickly surrounding us.
“Put your hands where we can see them,” a voice came over a loud speaker as the Ford Explorer from Salisbury Police pulled up.
Tim and I looked at each other confused and raised our hands above our head.
An officer came from the front and one from the back, quickly separating us from one another. Tim was taken in front of the truck and I was taken to the back of the truck, each to be questioned separately.
“What are you doing?” the officer asked me.
“We stopped to toss pennies off the bridge.”
“At two-thirty in the morning?” he asked, aggravated.
“Yes. Is that a problem?”
“Are you sure that’s all you’re doing?” he shined the maglight in my eyes.
“Yes, that’s all we did. Why? What are you accusing us of?”
He looked me up and down, visually accusing me of whatever it was that he thought we were guilty of.
“Many people throw weapons off the bridge after they commit a crime.”
“Are you serious?” I asked almost louder than I should have.
“Dead serious, son.”
He went on to ask me dozens of more questions about where we were, what we were doing in Hampton, and why we’d stopped on the bridge.
After checking my ID, he left me go back to the truck. I sat in the passenger seat and waited for Tim to join me.
He got in, not saying anything and started the truck.
As we drove away, both police vehicles followed us through Salisbury and into the neighboring town. We drove slowly, making sure to not give them any reasons to pull us over again. Using our signals the entire way, making sure to obey the speed limit. There was no way we were going to get in trouble.
We shared stories when we got back on the highway about how we’d been grilled by the officers. Tim’s questioning officer was evidently a little more aggressive than mine was, but both ultimately saw that we were just a couple of guys out driving around. So what if it was late at night and we were acting suspicious.
Those late night driving games took us all over New England — from Cape Code, to Maine, to all over New Hampshire and Vermont. We had some great times just driving around, peeling out over speed bumps, and trying to convince the police that we really weren’t bad people.