Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Bird-Kicking Boy and My Run-in with the Law

On Sunday, as my son was leaving, I lectured him about speeding. It was the big travel day after Thanksgiving and I wanted him to be aware of the fact that State Troopers would be everywhere. I got the usual eye-roll and was reminded that he set his cruise control at the speed limit. Duh! Okay, he is a good and safe driver but I know policemen and I know my son. Any contact with a uniformed officer would scare my law-abiding son to death.

That brought to my mind an incident which forever scarred him regarding police officers. Oh, he hadn't been in trouble – his Mom was. A few years ago, he and I had gone to a local hamburger place for lunch. As I got out of my car I saw a young boy, about twelve and much taller than me (who isn’t?), kicking an injured bird. All of you know what an animal-lover I am. I told the boy and his little gang to stop and leave the bird alone. He told me in explicit terms where I could go and it wasn’t a cool place. Shocked at his language, I responded in kind (okay real mature). Thinking the incident was over, my son and I went inside and ordered lunch.

As I was carrying my tray to a table a woman came running up to me and started screaming in my face. She kept asking me who the “H…” I thought I was. Not knowing who she was, I ignored her (as I would any crazy woman) and sat down at a table. My son kept looking at me as if I was going to do something, which I didn’t. About the time I started eating, screaming sirens and flashing blue lights came roaring into the parking lot. Good, I thought, someone had called the police about her. Maybe they could handle the foul-mouthed woman.

Now, before I continue, let me preface the rest of this story with – I respect the police. After years of being a prosecutor, I know the job is dangerous, hard and low paying with little thanks. Officers put their lives on the line to protect us and I sincerely appreciate it. That said, there are always a few, and I stress a few, who over-step their bounds, whether through ignorance of the law or just plain over-zealous self-importance.

To continue – Foul-mouth met the policewoman at the door and began gesturing wildly at me. I continued eating, not really concerned. The officer then approached my table, asking for my driver’s license. Nonplussed, I asked her why (this officer knew me – I had grown up here). She told me I didn’t need to know, just hand it over. Bristling, I informed her that I didn’t have to but for the sake of avoiding a legal battle I would. She jerked it out of my hand then went over to foul-mouth, got that woman’s license and went out to the patrol car. I assume she was running the licenses for priors – I didn’t have any but ol’ foul mouth looked like she might have a couple. My son, who had finished eating by this time, was looking a little pale. He’d never had a run-in with the police and I could tell he wasn’t taking this one too well. I decided then and there I was taking this outside. At least then my son could get to my car and leave if need be.

The minute my hand hit the door to open it, the female officer came up and told me I couldn’t leave. I walked outside anyway, turned, and then asked her why. She did not respond so I kept walking to my car. I knew I didn’t have my license but I wasn’t standing there on the sidewalk waiting on the locals to decide what to do with me. She hurried after me to tell me that I couldn’t leave. I smiled and told her I knew that already. Then, “Barney” pulled up, lights flashing and sirens blaring. He got out of his cruiser, put on his hat, adjusted his gun belt and swaggered over to where I was standing by my car. He looked me up and down then asked me my name, address and place of employment. I gave him the information including the fact that I was not employed. Information, I said a bit smartly, the other officer already had.

Barney, in his best interrogator voice, asked me what I did to the boy. Okaaay, so that was what this was about. Ol’ foul-mouth was the bird-kicking-boy’s mother. Strange I hadn’t seen the resemblance before, especially around the mouth. I shook my head and told him in proper English that I was not talking to him. I went on to tell him that if he probable cause to arrest me then go ahead. Otherwise, I smiled, I wanted my license back and I was leaving.

Now Barney’s Adam’s apple was really bobbing. I had upset him mightily and his first reaction was to place his hand on the holster of his gun. Great, now Barney was considering pistol-whipping me for the information. I could see that this was spiraling out of control. I handed the car keys to my son and told him to drive the car home if something happened. I could hear my son talking on the phone but I kept my focus on Barney and the gun. The officer stepped into my personal space (which, if anyone knows me has a mad-dog effect on me). Controlling my temper I calmly listened while he began telling me that this was an investigation and that I would answer his questions. I crossed my arms, leaned casually back against my car and told him I did not have to talk to him. Barney just got more agitated, poking me in the chest with his finger and telling me I had to admit what happened. Mentally I was calculating how much I was going to sue him for when it occurred to me that he was clueless about a little thing called the Constitution. I grinned and only said I was invoking my Fifth Amendment rights. He began yelling that I didn’t have any rights and that I was going to talk to him. In response I handed him my Alabama Bar Card with my license number on it and told him I wasn’t talking, period.

Now Barney was really mad. He threw the card back at me and said I was in big trouble (Darn, I was hoping for “you’re in a heap of trouble now, girl”). It seemed that, according to him, I had lied to a police officer when I said I wasn’t employed. I calmly told him I hadn’t lied, I wasn’t employed and if he was having a problem with the word employed he needed to look it up. Whups, he unsnapped his holster, ready to draw sooo I didn’t laugh like I wanted to. With nothing else to do or say, he told me to get into the patrol car. I told him to put me in it. We went back and forth with this little exchange for a few minutes. Cha-ching – the compensable damages were mounting if he laid one finger on me. Totally frustrated, Barney called for back up on his radio. I leaned unconcernedly on my car waiting for more stuff to hit the fan. Wow, this was getting exciting.

My son, now whiter than paper, rolled down the car window and told me I was on my own. He had called my father (also a lawyer) who had responded that, being two hundred miles away, there wasn’t much he could do at the moment. My son then informed me that my husband wasn’t coming either but had promised to bail me out of jail. Comforting…

In the sudden stillness of Barney standing there glaring at me silently, the shrillness of more sirens (or as they say in Arab, “Sireeeens” - long E), erupted as three more patrol cars came flying into the parking lot. I was surrounded – a middle-aged housewife with no weapons but a smart mouth. Barney grinned evilly and told me the sergeant was there now. I could talk to the sergeant. Oh, right Barney, now I was really scared. The sergeant, appearing a bit more urbane, walked over and asked my what my problem was. Now, for an instant I almost said you and your buddies but better sense took over. I told him I didn’t have a problem. Sarge asked me what I did to the “little” boy (Little? Right. Had these guys gotten a good look at the kid?). I again responded that I wasn’t talking. He spoke to Barney and then handed me my license. Evidently it had come back on their check about who I was. He knew the futility of trying to intimidate me. Smart Sarge. Before I got into my car, Barney had to make one last parting shot. He informed me that I couldn’t leave town pending the investigation. I laughed and, being a typical smart-a** asked him if he’d watched one too many Westerns. He gasped but did nothing. I grinned, waved and backed out of the parking space.

As I was leaving, foul-mouth was screaming obscenities and then, to my surprise, jumped on the back of the female police officer. The last I saw of ol’ foul-mouth was a swarm of officers and handcuffs. Now they really had an incident.

Moral of the Story – Avoid cruel, criminally-inclined kids. Eventually they will end up in prison and you won’t have to worry about them or their mothers.

Have you ever had a run-in with the police? A ticket? Tell us your story. I know we’ve all had our brushes with the law. But, after mine, I seriously doubt my son ever will…


  1. Strange, but most of my contact with law officers ends on a humorous note. Once when I was stopped for speeding (guilty) the officer tried to buy my car. He'd just given me a ticket, so no way was I selling him my car.

    Another time when I was stopped for speeding (guilty) and the officer asked why I was in such a hurry, I held up my bag of Milo's hamburgers that I'd bought in Birmingham, and told him I was trying to get home before they were completely cold. He was familiar with Milo's. Very seriously he said, "Ma'am, I'll need to inspect that bag." Then we both burst out laughing. No ticket.

    Yet another time when I was stopped for speeding (guilty) in my very small town, when I handed over my license the officer glanced at my name, dropped his head, and handed my license back. He said, "Ma'am, there's no way in the world I can ever give you a ticket. Your niece is best friends with my wife, and if I gave you a ticket those two little women would WHUP me!" Ah, small town life :-).

  2. Hey Linda, thanks for joining us. Yes, life in a small town is fun. I saw the female officer about a week later at a high school football game. She acted like she was my best friend when only a week before I had been a hardened criminal. Barney, well, for reasons unknown to me (but I could guess) is no longer with the force.

    I haven't gotten a speeding ticket since my son was about six. Guess I am due...

  3. I have a very heavy foot so I have gotten to speak with the fine officers of the law on many occasions.

    In fact, when I had a lovely teal Mustang that I purchased to celebrate my divorce I got so friendly with Alabama's finest State Troopers that the Alabama Dept. of Motor Vehicles sent me a really nice letter saying that if they heard from me one more time they were going to want my license back.

    Since I couldn't slow down I had to trade the car for an SUV, but I didn't have to take the husband back!

  4. Whew Stephanie! The Point System! Glad you got the SUV and equally glad you didn't have to take the husband back! LOL! Seriously, I catch myself speeding sometimes and have to make myself slow down. I am due a ticket sometime.

  5. Woe! My eyes are bugging out of my head, Cheryl. My first question is: where was the mother when her kid was harming a bird? She had obviously been close enough to know that you had cursed at her child. Why wasn't she putting a stop to the abuse?

    When I was in college, on one of my many trips back home, I was driving a VW Bug (Herbie). Well, I could see my town in the distance and I was listening to my music, excited to get home. Far away in the distance through my rear view mirror, I saw a Highway Patrol car. I looked down and realized I'd been speeding. As soon as I started to slow down, his lights came on. Once I pulled over, he rolled out of his car, adjusted his belt, and approached the car. "Can you tell me why I had to chase you for two miles to get you to stop?" Huh? I had just seen him and his lights weren't even on. (Did I say I was in a VW Bug?) Anyway, he proceeded to take my driver's license from me and told me I was going to have to pay the fine or go to court to fight it. (Now let me say I'd never had a ticket in my life up until that time and he TOOK my license!) I have a very healthy respect for our police officers, but this one resembled your Barney, Cheryl. Needless to say, I was traumatized.

    I got pulled over for going through a yellow light once. The officer approached the car, which had all four of my children in it. I was already crying. (We had been in a hurry to get to Ballet class and the kids hadn't been cooperating up until that point.) Anyway, I knew LTC wasn't going to be happy. The officer took one look at the tears streaming down from under my sunglasses as I told him we were late to Ballet class and then he proceeded to tell me how many mini-vans he'd seen wreck after going through a yellow light. He accused me of putting my kids in danger. (More tears... The way to gut me is to accuse me of being a bad mother.) He made quite an impression.

  6. A few months after I had moved to Alabama we were making a trip back to GA and Hubby got pulled over by a State Trooper in Wedowee. I don't know if the town is even on the map but there is a State Trooper that likes that stretch of 431. It was raining and the trooper asked Hubby to come sit in the front seat of his car. I'm not sure if he wanted to get out of the rain or get away from our car that held a 4 year old little girl crying and screaming to the top of her lungs. She thought he was taking Hubby away and she wasn't having it. She was hysterical so I just took her back to the patrol car and let her sit in the front seat with them. I apologized to the trooper but told him I couldn't calm her down. She did calm down after a few minutes and Hubby still got the speeding ticket but I bet that trooper's ears were ringing for quite a while afterward!

    Cheryl, we had talked about your run in with the law before so maybe that's why I take a different route to our chapter meetings! :-D

  7. The State Troopers like to keep that stretch of I65 controlled by a speed trap too.

    But this should remind all of us that if we aren't speeding in the first place, we have nothing to worry about. ;)

  8. Very true Kathy! At the time I had an Eagle Talon sports car and that thing would fly. Hubby wasn't use to driving it and we were zipping right along. We now use the cruise control on a regular basis!
    Which reminds me. Like Stephanie I got the sports car when I got a divorce too. But when I traded it in I also got Hubby. Best trade I ever made! lol

  9. Well, I am the most boring person alive. I once got stopped for having a headlight out. No ticket. I once got a ticket for parking backwards in front of a tearoom. I once ran a red light and caused a wreck but I didn't get a ticket. I don't know why. I guess because my record was so clean. When I asked about it, the policeman said, "It was an accident. That's why we all have insurance."

    I did almost cause a fight in TGI Fridays between my friend Dwayne and some sort of off brand sports team. (Stephanie, was it rugby? Soccer?)After the ringleader(who was yelling in ear and I told to be quiet, possibly not as nicely as I should have) offered to go to the parking lot with Dwayne, Dwayne got out of his chair and said, "Do you really want to go out there with me?"

    Dwayne is large. And mean, when called for. Former defensive tackle. The guy decided to stay inside and stop yelling in my ear.

  10. We are a wild bunch here under the magnolia tree.

    Kathy, there is nothing like being scared like you were when the policeman took your license - which as an aside they can only do if you were recklessly driving, not just for speeding. And the officer who lectured you about going through a yellow light would have gotten a lecture back from me because yellow means proceed with caution - not stop.

    Sherry, good for you. The trooper should have gotten an earful. Besides being dangerous for him to have someone in the car, it isn't standard procedure to do that while writing a ticket. I hope he got a headache.

    Jean, you are so funny! I wish I had been there for the rugby/soccer guy. He would have gotten a short, fat woman on him along with Dwayne. I get feisty sometimes...

  11. We are a wild bunch here under the tree. :-)

    Jean, I am pretty sure it was a soccer team but they were wearing rugby shirts...like they were wanna-bes.

    Kathy-Nice job with the Christmas background, simple but elegant like you. :-)

  12. Thanks, Stephanie! The candle symbolizes that during the hectic days of December, those who come to rest under the Tulip tree will always be welcome.

  13. I know I'm late commenting, but I had to stop and wipe my eyes because I was laughing so hard. I am a huge fan of the Andy Griffith Show and Barney Fife is an iconic character. I can just imagine your knowlege of the law colliding with Arab Barney's sense of self-importance.

    I've had one speeding ticket in my life -- I was on my way to my first appointment with my divorce attorney and drove into town a different way than usual. I had so much on my mind (wonder why???) and didn't notice the speed limit drop. I was crying by the time the officer got to my car. I mean I was going to see a divorce attorney and I'd been speeding. The officer didn't give a rat's arse what my sad marital situation was. I got the ticket anyway and went to driving school to keep the points off my license. At the end of the class they give you a test and I made 100. The girl beside me who wasn't quite sure why she had even received a ticket, looked at me and said, "What the hell are you in here for since you know all this stuff?" ~sigh~ And I proceeded to tell her using language at a level I was sure she could understand.

    My divorce was final two weeks ago. I didn't know I was supposed to buy a sports car. I've been concentrating on things like furniture and a retirement account. ~grin~


  14. I'm late too, but holy heck, Cheryl, that's funny! I don't think I've ever had a run in with the police. I've never (yet) had a speeding ticket -- which is kind of amazing since I have a BMW and a lead foot.

    My dad did once haul me to the police station when I was a teen and had them give me a breathalyzer. I failed. ;)

  15. First off, thank you Cheryl. That was a thoroughly entertaining tale, and it even had (somewhat) happy ending in addition to a moral. Your knowledgeable calm is inspiring. :) Talk about a teachable moment to have your kid with you! ;D

    While my past is littered with speeding tickets, the incident I most remember is the time my husband and I got out of a ticket that we defiantly deserved.
    Heading to New Orleans for our honeymoon, we weren't accidentally going a little too fast...we were hauling butt with the aid of a borrowed radar detector.(I know I know, chalk it up to being 19.) So there we were, snagged by a sneaky cop and preparing to loose all of our spending money. The trooper tipped his hat to me and politely asked my hubby where the fire was. My husband sheepishly informed him that we were headed for New Orleans and were a little overeager to start our honeymoon. The trooper grinned,patted my husband's shoulder, and said, "Oh, well I'd be in a hurry too! Just take it down a notch, Romeo. You want to get there in one piece." He then turned and walked back to his car, leaving us sitting there dumbfounded and grateful.

    Wherever you are, Mr. Trooper Full-of-Mercy, I salute you! :D

    ~Angela Blount

  16. Finally wiping tears... My hubby and I were at meeting, late heading home down lonely Tennessee roads, and he was pushing the car to get home. Got stopped by a State Trooper who somehow during the conversation discovered hubby is a veterinarian. The Trooper replied, "Well, heck. My vet [sic] drives faster than this backing out of his driveway." He told us to slow down and be safe and sent us on our way.

  17. Angela - It was a teachable moment. I think my son will never ever get in trouble with the law (I hope). It did stress one thing to him. Never try to explain anything to a policeman. Everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. Let the lawyers sort it out. I know I did it for years.

    Cathy - I always harass the daylights out of my vet when there is an emergency. He has me on speed dial (I don't give up calling until he shows up). I know he speeds just to avoid one more phone call . I am sure you and your husband have patients like me. Glad you didn't get a ticket.

  18. Hey PM - Glad you are finally free. Listening to the others, I doubt you should buy a sports car . Maybe we should all have a divorce party and celebrate!

    Lynn, failing an Intoxilyzer 400 test...shame . I probably needed a few of those back in the day...High school...local bootleggers (Ah, Schlitz) ...My parents weren't savvy enough to wonder why I was falling up the steps.

  19. I am just catching up with the blog this week. Cheryl, we haven't met but we must. That is one of the funniest stories I have read in a while. You are my hero.