Admittedly, I’ve had some puzzling encounters with cops. Going all the way back to my teens. Never being on the wrong side of the law, of course, more along the lines of clashing egos. Cops can be full-on male energy, and that is something I don’t usually handle well. It only takes a fraction of a second for me to react with imaginary chainmail, helmet and mace.
There was the time I was trying to open my father’s car with my mother’s keys. I was nineteen and did not even have a driver’s license yet. The car was parked in front of a bank, and the security guard called the police. Once inside, the doors flew open and I thought I was being robbed. They were plainclothes cops. When I easily proved my right to be in that car, they walked away without a word. Furious, I made them come back and apologize.
There was the cop who waved me through a red light at a DWI checkpoint. Since I don’t drink, I had nothing to fear, and calmly proceeded through the intersection and pulled over. He then he wrote me a ticket for running a red light! I shouted that I would see him in court. I did, and won.
There was the Christmas Eve when I was driving to a gig on Staten Island. As I reached the toll plaza on the far side of the Verrazzano Narrows, I realized I did not have any cash on me. I asked the cop for one of those forms you send in the mail with your payment. He refused, taking my driver’s license away, and demanded that I drive back across the bridge, find an ATM machine, then come back to pay the toll and he would return my license! That had me out of my car, on my feet, shouting at full volume. When the guy in charge heard what had happened, he clearly felt the first cop was in the wrong, but did not want to admit it so quickly. After keeping me waiting about twenty minutes (making me late for my gig and costing me a tip,) he handed me the form and my license and sent me on my way.
There was the cop in the intersection at the entrance of the Holland tunnel one morning. I was heading to Hoboken, and so was not among the masses of cars cutting each other off in order to get ahead in line for the toll. I sat at my red light, happy not to be one of the poor slobs stuck in that rush hour mess. When the light changed to green, I began to drive across the intersection. The cop stopped me by standing in front of my car. He accused me of driving in the wrong lane up to the light in order to jump ahead of the other cars. Something which many people do, but which I had not done. After arguing with him, I decided it was not worth getting a ticket, and so turned around and drove back the way I had come, as instructed. When I reached the intersection again, he once more stood in front of my car. This time, he asked if I had just made an illegal u-turn and refused to let me through. I began shouting “FUCK YOU!!!” and slammed down the gas pedal. I drove through the intersection, and had he stood in my way, I would have run him over.
That’s a sampling of the baffling encounters I’ve had with cops. There have been others, I’m sorry to say, but they are beside the point. The point is the good cop who tried to help me one night in the snow. The good cop who was genuine and kind and who did not listen to me when I warned him about my weird cop karma. He laughed it off, believing himself immune. Poor guy. I’d hate to hear what he told his wife later on.
We had well over a foot of snow. I love snow, and never complain about having to shovel out the drive, or how cold it is, or how frustrating it can be to get stuck. Which is what happened. I got stuck in the snow while driving to the post office. You see, the post office in question did not have a parking lot, at least not attached to the building. There was a lot across the street, which is where I was trying to park. The problem was that it was difficult to tell where the entrance was under the snow and I had mistakenly entered too soon and found myself driving across what must have been a grassy lot next to the paved parking lot. As I was trying to find a way off the grassy lot and onto the pavement, I got stuck.
It’s happened before, and so I knew some of the things you are supposed to do when stuck in the snow. Nothing worked. What’s more, there was mud beneath the snow. So really, I was stuck in the mud and stuck in the snow.
Along came the poor cop. He was young. A fresh-faced, slightly chubby fellow with kind eyes and a gentle voice. He was sure he could help me by pushing my car with his. I tried to explain that it wasn’t just snow, but also mud, and that he was going to get stuck as well. He smiled and said thanks, but he was sure all I needed was a little push and I’d be out of the jam.
He pushed a little. He got stuck.
I felt so bad for the guy, and didn’t dream of saying that I’d told him so. Now, I was stuck along with this nice young cop, and the more we tried to get out, the deeper in trouble we got. It was clear that we needed a tow truck, but the cop would not make the call. I could tell he was embarrassed, and didn’t want the other cops he worked with finding out that he had made a foolish mistake. It wasn’t his fault, and really it could have happened to anyone. It had happened to me. Of course, I am not a cop and don’t have to worry about appearing foolish.
It gets worse. While we were struggling with logs and stones placed under the wheels, the cop made a gesture with his hand. His left hand. There was a flash of silver in the air and the deafening silence which accompanies a wedding ring landing in over a foot of snow.
We froze. We both knew at once what had happened, and also how important it was not to move until we could ascertain where it might have met the snow. We took our best guess, then found a couple of flashlights and began gently sweeping the area, being careful not to disturb any more snow than was necessary. It probably sank straight to the ground and was most likely lost in the mud.
He was not having a good night at all, and it was entirely my fault. I knew he was simply caught in the chaos which had attracted me to that spot. I wanted to find the ring for him, just so that I could go home knowing he wouldn’t be humiliated twice in one night. We spent who knows how long searching, but came up empty handed.
A guy in a Bobcat came by. He was out and about looking for people who were stranded in the snow. Just for kicks. I guess if you own a Bobcat, you look for ways to justify spending so much money on a big toy that would only come in handy a few times a year. He had us out in no time at all. At least the young cop was saved the embarrassment of having his buddies hear his call for help over the radio. The guy in the Bobcat understood perfectly, and even spent a few minutes helping us look for the ring, without success.
I can only hope that when the snow melted, the cop will have gone back with a metal detector. We shook hands goodbye. I thanked him for trying to help me, and apologized too many times for his bad luck that night.
Now that I think about it, I haven’t had a puzzling encounter with a cop since then. Maybe my own spell has been broken?