Thursday, October 18, 2007

thursday morning

i was moving my car from our parking spot in back to an unzoned street in our neighborhood when i heard police sirens and saw the cops coming up behind me. i wasnt sure why they had pulled me over, but i knew that a) my seatbelt was unbuckled, b) i had probably not completely stopped at that stop sign and c) i did not have my license on me.
obviously, i was upset. i was upset at myself for being so careless, for the fact that i even had to move the car in the first place...i had a whole day planned ahead of me and it was going to be ruined by a ticket, loss of cash, court date, points on my license, etc. if only i had left the house before i showered instead of afterwards, or turned right out of the alley instead of left, or registered my car weeks ago so i could park it anywhere....or even just stopped at the stop sign. argh.
a mosquito flew in my open window and i moved to strike it. i paused and realized that taking my anger out on the mosquito would do no good, and what i needed right now, in the moments as i waited for what would either be a set of asshole cops trying to bust my balls or some reasonable men willing to let me off with a warning, the last thing i needed right now was more bad karma. my mind thought of all the things i'd done wrong already today, the minor mistakes and personal flaws that put us in these situations, and the internal issues that make these situations so painful. i did not kill the mosquito. instead, i thought of the dalai lama, who i had seen speak the day before at the capitol, who, i had heard, was known to let mosquitos bite him from time to time, for it benefits them much more than it injures him. i decided to do the same.
the mosquito landed on my face and i brushed it away. not there, i said. it landed on my bicep and i watched it poke its nose around, looking for a good spot. i watched him penetrate the skin, his tiny needle burying itself in my muscle. it was nice to watch, to know what he was getting out of it. it did not hurt, i did not feel it, but it was also a freaky watching a needle go into your body. i blew him off after a few seconds, once i knew he had gotten his sustenance, once i could no longer stand to watch him eat me.
i used that situation to find calm, to find peace, to know that this moment, like any other moment, will come to pass. that this feeling of frustration, like any other feeling, will come to pass. i found calmness in my interaction with the mosquito and i chose to apply it to my interaction with the cops.
the cop came to the window and i immediately apologized for not having my ID. and i apologized for rolling through the stop sign. and i played the passive role, and i deferred on all accounts to his greatness and his dominance in the situation. he was nice enough about the situation and took my registration, along with my name, date of birth and social security number. he came back and said that it didnt come through, that my name was not in the system. i realized that they had probably checked with DC's license database, not maryland's, so i told them my license is from Maryland. i said that i had just moved to town. i offered to go to my house to get my ID. they rejected this offer for the first of many, many times.
they went away to try again, and nothing came through. there were three or four cops there, uniformed secret service agents to be precise. one of them was clearly being trained, and i could hear the others explaining to them what was going on and why it was happening. when they came back to me a third or fourth time, this time asking for my middle name and inquiring about past tickets, instances of DUIs, reasons why i wouldnt be in the database, etc., i could tell they were starting to get suspicious. naturally, i told them that i only live two blocks away, hence not having my ID on me, and that i'd be more than willing to go get it for them.
by this time the mosquito had set up camp near my feet and was feasting on my ankles. i was regretting many things at this moment. about 20 minutes had passed since they pulled me over and it didnt look like i was going to make my 11.30 meeting, so i asked if i could call to let them know. they asked me to step out of the vehicle and before i could make a phone call they had me handcuffed and were searching my body. they told me that driving without a license is grounds for being arrested. "isnt this a little absurd?" i asked the cops as they cuffed me. out here, on this quiet neighborhood street, a normal thursday morning, and me getting cuffed for not having my ID on my person. i think he agreed that it was a little absurd.
"you dont have a belt or shoelaces?" he pointed out. "nope" i said. "good, cause they dont let you wear a belt or shoelaces in the slammer." "why?" i asked, " you think i'm gonna hang myself for not having my ID on me?" arlo guthrie.
the agent asked me if there was anyone i could call who could go to my house and get the ID and bring it. by now the other secret service agents were calling for back-up. the sergeant showed up, and all of a sudden there were 6 secret service agents and 3 police cars. i told them that i work with secret service, that i had some buddies who are agents. "like who?" one of the agents asked. " my phone there's a guy named Chip, an agent in San Francisco....let's give him a call..." the agent had lost interest. i didnt know anybody higher up the chain. Chip, rocks, by the way, and i wouldve loved to have given him a call. a really nice guy out of Petaluma. i told the agent that. by this time one of the agents and i had formed a pretty good rapport, and he offered to call my roommate, Abigail, and have her bring the ID to where we were. he even held the phone up to my ears. "umm...Abigail, uh...i'm actually in handcuffs right now....any chance you could swing by 1824 and pick up my ID and bring it over to Monroe Street?"
once i made the call they told me to get in the back seat of the police cruiser. "seriously?" i asked, " come on, you dont need me to get in's such a nice day out here." i think my calmness was starting to have the appearance of insanity. i realized at this point that none of the agents believed that i actually had a valid driver's license. i overheard the one i like saying "you know, i actually kind of believe him." the other ones were more skeptical.
at this point i was scrunched in the back of the cruiser, my knees pinned against the driver's seat, still handcuffed with my arms behind my back. point of interest: did you know that cruisers have a hard plastic casing instead of a normal seat, and the casing is molded such that your arms have a spot to rest in. there is even a spot at the base of the seat for your cuffed hands. it's pretty sweet. except at this point my wrists were starting to hurt from the tightness of the handcuffs. i still have welts on my wrists.
i wondered whether it was possible that i didnt have an ID, in a kafka-esque kinda way. maybe i am not a licensed driver, maybe i do have something on my record, maybe i am exactly who they are looking for. it was a funny thought.
i decided to try the "work with secret service agents" line one more time. the asshole agent was reminding me that the situation was all my fault, when i told him that "i work with service, i get vetted all the time, my record is clean." using their lingo caught his attention for a second. "what do you do?" he asked. "i do presidential campaign work" i said, trying to avoid revealing my political stance. "but for who?" he responded. "i work for Obama" i said, loud enough that i thought the black sergeant might overhear me. if he did hear me, he did not care.
i still knew that i had a valid driver's license and that i was going to get out of this okay. the agents were getting antsy, as we had been there for over 40 minutes by then. "if she doesnt show up in 10 minutes we're gonna have to take you down to the 3rd district station." they said. i overheard one of them say to the trainee "you want to see someone get arrested, dont ya? i was screwed. i offered to walk to my house in the cuffs. while i was still enjoying the absurd nature of the event, i was starting to worry that abigail wouldnt get there in time. the sergeant left to go meet abigail at 1824, to wait for her there. they were really getting anxious now.
once they told me that she had arrived at 1824, i relaxed a bit. i small chatted with the nice agent, asking him about the job of secret service around here. i could once again appreciate them moment, and i wondered how it would transpire once they knew i was clean.
the call came through that i had a valid license and they let me get out of the cruiser. "you're free," they said, and i started to wonder whether they were going to bring up the whole running-a-stop-sign/no-license thing.
they had parked my car for me and they gave me back the keys and my cellphone. they apologized profusely and i really came to realize that they thought i was full of shit, that i had given them a fake name, that i wasnt a legal driver, and that i deserved to be arrested. i realized it must be extremely uncommon for one's name not to come up in the system.
the sergeant had returned from 1824 and had my license in his hand. he told me that i have to take abigail out to a nice dinner. i reached for the license. "i told her to give me a call if you dont take her out to dinner..." he smiled. at this point i had a wide smile, and was realizing that i was off the hook for the stop sign incident, the no license, the unbuckled seat belt.
the sergeant and the nice agent apologized once more. "no problem," i smiled, "this was a good life experience."
they looked at me like i was crazy.


Blogger risaden said...

I enjoyed your story, I've had a similar run-in with cops myself, but many years ago. Sad to say not much has changed. But mostly, I'm writing to say that you're a damn good writer. Gives me another reason to lean towards Obama, too.

I don't know how I found your blog. I was looking for my cousin. Strange world, no?

8:07 AM  

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