Archive for May 24th, 2011



Holly used to say that she looked forward to being an old lady because then she would be able to get away with being as eccentric as she wanted to be. Because Holly died at age 44, she never got her chance. So now it’s up to me to live the vision.

Yesterday as I was driving into town, from a high point on the road I could see flashing red and blue lights almost a mile ahead on the highway. It looked like a roadblock or traffic stop and I was curious. Who and why? What are these guys doing to us now?

About an eighth of a mile from the flashing lights I could see it was our local deputies conducting a traffic stop. More surveillance. A sign said I would have to show my license and insurance. But all I could think of was that damned red plane.

I pulled onto the shoulder and came to a dead stop. No way I’m going to submit to a search. Weren’t these stops ruled unconstitutional? I thought I remembered hearing something about that a few years back. So I made a u-turn to return home.

Sure enough, because this happened under the deputies’ noses, one of them came after me with lights flashing. It was Patrick the new deputy, a big beefy and earnest cop straight out of central casting. I could see from his serious demeanor that he probably had visions of bagging a drug smuggler or gun runner and that he did not remember having met me at least a couple times at the Grub Shack.

I gave him my driver’s license and my insurance information when asked.

“Why did you turn around?” he asked me suspiciously.

“I didn’t want to be surveilled,” I said, and told him about the red plane and how its flyovers had pissed me off. “There’s too much official intrusion.”

Being a cop, Patrick was still suspicious and asked if I had any weapons in the car, and I told him no. He asked if he could search the car to see for himself and with a shrug I told him I didn’t care in a tone of voice that said “knock yourself out.”

Now I know I could have demanded that he get a search warrant, but I didn’t want to create an enemy who would remember me as the guy who made him work too hard. I’d already got him to chase after me, and Paul the second deputy just pulled up too, leaving their checkpoint unmanned. These guys really wanted to find something, but I knew all they had was an eccentric old guy with a long beard who was asserting his desire to not be interfered with.

I was careful not to do anything that could be interpreted as fear or defiance. By this time Patrick had me standing outside the car on the side of the road, and I think I made him nervous by wandering off the spot where he told me to stand. I was curious and wanted to observe what the deputies were doing. However this encounter turned out, it was going to make it into the blog.

While waiting for Paul to verify my paperwork, Patrick returned to the car two or three times to poke around for contraband and to ask me questions. All the while I kept telling him about that damned red plane, about the guy whose welding work they’d shut down just days before, and about the inspectors who had shut down the Grub Shack, costing Jerry and Eva lots of grief and money, and just plain meddling in our happy lives. I won’t say he got an earful (because I was pretty laid back and unperturbed in my attitude), but Patrick could not have failed to understand that he and his sidekick were doing the same kind of thing about which I was complaining. Yet my deportment conveyed that nothing personal was intended.

A long time ago I learned that the best way to talk to cops is to be assertive without being oppositional, to stand your ground as if you have nothing to fear or about which to feel guilt. You cannot give them an opening to exploit. You’ve got to be fearless and friendly and keep talking without admitting to anything they can use against you.

Patrick reached the conclusion that he would uncover nothing unlawful and finally drove his truck back to the checkpoint. Paul emerged from his truck and gave me back my license and insurance papers.

“You didn’t have any reason at all not to drive through our checkpoint,” he said quizzically. I could tell he just didn’t get it, and I started telling him about that damned red plane.

“Do you understand why we came after you?” Paul asked. “Do you know how suspicious that looked to us?”

I agreed, and then returned to my riff about the official intrusion. Paul changed the subject and cut me short to send me on my way.

I made another u-turn and passed through the checkpoint. “So you decided to go south after all,” Patrick commented as I crept by.

“Yeah, he said I could,” I answered, gesturing in the direction of Paul’s arriving truck. Patrick waved me through.

As I drove into town I felt sure that those deputies will remember me after this and will not waste their time hassling me. They know I’m just a harmless old crank, an eccentric.

As I drove north through their checkpoint forty-five minutes later, Paul waved me through with an exaggerated flourish.

I didn’t even have to stop.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Ben Folds and Regina Spektor performing “You Don’t Know Me”