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…