Saturday, February 14, 2009

Menace II Society...*
A cop gettin his Rodney King on...

2:19 am. My girlfriend and I are returning home from a social at a coworkers house driving down the main street in my town a few lights away from our turn. I notice a police cruiser parallel parked across the street. I happen to look at the officer as we pass, curious to see if he was vigilantly watching the area or working on the computer most cruisers have. Behind me is an SUV. As I pass the officer, I notice his attention is locked on to me. He promptly u-turns and falls in behind the SUV. Then pulls up along the right side of the SUV. Now, I know good and well he's not interested in the SUV but for the sake of doubt I somewhat casually make the next left as the officer is in the right lane blocked by the SUV and it would be hard for him to follow inconspicuously.

Clearly subtly isn't his strong suit as he awkwardly maneuvers to follow me some 30 feet back. Since I've clearly piqued his interest, I pull over. As this is not the first time I've aroused authoritative suspicion by simply existing, I know a few tricks to these encounters. Plus my record is spotless, and I have character witnesses for days. Thus this time I decide to do the "can I help you, Officer Friendly?" having already started by pulling over. I know everything that happens from here has to be flawless else this situation can go very badly very easily. My only mistake thus far is the place I've picked to stop. I've stopped near a "No Parking" zone, so I don't turn off my engine, thus I'm legally "standing". He's still a ways back so I turn off my lights thinking maybe he'll just cruise by thinking I'm going to get out soon. He doesn't. Instead he stays 25 feet back now, just watching and brazenly blocking the street were anyone else needing to come along. As well, he doesn't pull up along side right away making the inevitable encounter more suspicious. Thus my only mistake so far is swelling into a huge error if I don't play this exactly right. Even worse, my girl is in the car and she's never been here for these types of "protect and serve" occurrences. Clearly I'm not getting out because I don't live here. Clearly I'm watching him just like he's watching me. As well, I've turned off my lights so he can't read my plates which I'll bestow him the aptitude of picking up on.

Now it's the waiting game. I'm not getting out. Mainly because I can't play it off like I'm going anywhere around here, also I don't know how inept this officer may be and last thing I want to do is get shot reaching for the identification he would ask from me. As well, that would fall back into I'm parked in a no parking zone. I'm in check. Can't just drive off now, because clearly I've stopped here to watch him as he is watching me so he will just keep following me. I'd rather do this here than at my place. Really not comfortable with a shady cop at my spot. Let's just say I was feeling less than civil. After a long 7 minutes of waiting he finally pulls up next to me. I look at him. He looks at me. I roll down my window ready for whatever bull he is about to spew.

"Hello" with the Leave-It-To-Beaver nod. Your move officer.
"You know you can't park here, right?"
"I know."
"So why are you stopped here?"
"You were following me."
"Well... I'm just on my patrol. So why are you parked here?"
"You were following me. I am not parked, my engine is running."
"So why did you turn your lights off?"
"I didn't want to waste the battery."
"Do you live here?"
"No, we don't."
"Where are you... whose we?"
"My girlfriend and me."
"So does your girlfriend live here?"
"So why are you stopped here?"
"You were following me. May I help you?"
"What makes you say I was following you?"
"You saw me, made a quick u turn, followed me as I turned on to this street and waited as I pulled over."
"...?!" [Debate standoff rule: First one to speak loses.]

"... Where are you from?"
"...I'm from around here."
"..." [He is in check. From here I know I can wrap it up.]

"Would you like to follow me home?"
"Do you need a ride?"
"No... I'm fine."
"Where do you live?"
"...What street?"
"[Name of my actual street.]"
"...." Stalemate.

We just stare at each other for a few moments. Him knowing that I find him just as suspicious as he finds me. He had no justifiable reason to follow me to this spot just as I have no reason to be here. As well, the situation of "we're talking here because you were followed me here" is so cyclical that he can't do anything about it. The more philosophically straightforward query being 'would we be there had he not so brazenly followed me there?' Lastly, I know he saw me trying to look at his unit number but he'd pulled up in such a way that it just happened to be out of sight the way the town marks the cruisers. As well, in my attempt not to say anymore than I needed to, I forgot to ask him his name.

"...I think you better head on home."
"Yeah, you have a good night too, officer." Slightly failing to hide my rejuvenated contempt.

Turned on my lights (released the parking brake, shhhh) and hastily drove off, making sure he couldn't fault me for any moving violations henceforth. I looked in my mirror the few blocks home, just to see if he might actually follow me. The headlights in the distance didn't seem like his.

My girlfriend felt I should have just driven home to begin with and let him follow us if he wanted. I disagreed citing location of the possible encounter. She retorted that the side street I chose wasn't ideal. I chuckled a bit acknowledging that fact. I was so focused on making the officer do something that he couldn't explain away -were he not "arbitrarily patrolling"- that I was a bit further down the side street than I would have liked to have been. We enjoyed the moment of levity before falling back into the reality of being Black in America.