Small towns aren't what they used to be. Everybody knows this.
When I drive through my hometown of LaFayette, Ala., I notice all the things that are gone.
Even the court square is gone, thanks to the construction of an annex that wiped out a street and connected the courthouse to the building where Collins Drugs and Food Town used to be.
Downtown LaFayette was a place where you could park and walk and do all your shopping and greet people by name. Now it's a giant filing cabinet.
But small towns aren't dead yet.
I realized this on Thursday morning when I made a phone call to Camp Hill, Ala.
I spent a couple of minutes there in late December.
We were driving up to Nashville for the Music City Bowl, which usually means taking U.S. 280 from Columbus to Opelika, then the short detour on I-85 to Tiger Town, then back on 280 and on up to Birmingham and I-65.
But this time my family had taken a detour to LaFayette to see my parents, and then we'd headed over to 280 at Camp Hill.
It was Sunday morning. We didn't see a single car on the road. You probably know where this is going.
At the stop sign, I took a right on 280 and was increasing my speed to 65 when I looked in the rearview mirror and saw a blue light.
I pulled over and asked the state trooper what seemed to be the problem.
"I clocked you at 62 miles an hour," he said.
"And?" I said.
"And the speed limit is 45."
"But this is Highway 280, right?" I said.
"This is Old 280," he said.
He went back to his car. I knew he was writing me a ticket because there was another trooper in the car and he appeared to be training her how to write tickets.
It was disappointing. I mean, if you're going to get caught for breaking the law, it would be kind of nice to at least know you're breaking the law so you could experience the guilty pleasure of breaking the law before you get caught.
It was disappointing to be tricked like that in a small town in America.
In my small town, they didn't raise me to trick people like that.
Of course, Camp Hill is not alone. If you're leaving a wedding or a funeral or a reunion anywhere in Alabama or Georgia, the hosts will pull you aside and warn you about a speed trap in some obscure town on your way home.
For example, if you're in Macon, they'll warn you about Butler.
On Thursday, when I called Camp Hill, I learned that my ticket would cost $194.50. I was about to ask the clerk how many speeding tickets they'd written and how much money they'd raised on Old 280, but she had to leave to take another call, which kind of answered my question.
Long live small towns.
Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, firstname.lastname@example.org