Last week I was talking on my cell phone while stopped at a red light. A cop pulled up to the same light across the intersection. As he rolled to a stop, I let the phone drop from my hand like a ton of bricks. Glaring, the cop was visibly upset at my attempted deception. The green of the streetlight was joined by the red and blue of the copper's dazzling lanterns - a symbol of his power, his patriotism.
The pig got me. He had me on the side of the road right where he wanted me, but I wasn't going down without a fight. I have an intrinsic propensity for doing whatever I can to get out of trouble - outsmarting police officers falls at the top of that list. The cop exited his vehicle with the cool that comes with years and years of too much power - or, at least, the illusion of such power in his tiny, ill-conceived mind. My window was rolled down, I watched his awkward, finicky approach in my side-view mirror. There was nothing routine about this man, it seemed he was out to prove a point or show off or just abuse his power for the sake of it. Stopping at my rear brake light, his hand hovered over his gun. He yelled, "Sir, roll down your back window and unlock your doors so I can search your backseat!"
Poking my head out the window like a confused turtle, I responded, "What!?"
The officer continued, "Sir! Please roll down your back window and unlock your doors!"
He thought I didn't understand, so he said it louder, more aggressively. I responded for a second time, "No. Why?"
Uninterested in offering any sort of answer, he repeated himself again, "Sir, roll down your back window and unlock your car doors!"
The volume and anger in his voice, although convincing, failed to sway me away from my original response. I decided to elaborate. "I'm not doing any of that until you tell me why. What am I suspected of?"
"Roll down your back window and unlock your car doors, sir!" Clearly, he had not understood my question. His hand now resting on his pistol, he was clearly flustered.
"No," I said, once again. This time, I didn't offer any elaboration - I thought, maybe, simplicity was the key to navigating this tricky situation.
It appeared as if the man had exhausted his knowledge of the policeman's handbook. Stammering and confused, he peeked through my back window, using his hands like blinders on a racing horse. What he found: a surfboard. He then came to my window, which, mind you, had been rolled down the entire time. With difficulty he said, "I've never had someone not listen to me like that." The man felt defeated, I almost felt sorry for him, but I wasn't about to let up.
"Well, then there are alot of people who don't know their rights."
Not the answer he was looking for. "When a police officer tells you to do something, you need to do it," he said sternly, trying to intimidate, attempting to strike fear in me - the defenseless societal lamb that I am.
"No. That's not true. You can't just pull me over and try to search my vehicle without telling me what I'm suspected of. Are you familiar with the fourth amendment?"
He squared his shoulders, hands resting on his thick leather belt. An air of smug confidence descended over him. "The right to a public trial? What does that have to do with anything going on here?"
"Actually, you're confusing the fourth amendment with the sixth amendment, sir. The fourth amendment protects me from unreasonable, illegal searches and seizures...which is exactly what you just attempted to do."
Embarrassed, vulnerable, he dealt with it like a cop - loudly and aggressively. If at first you fail, try, try again. "Do you know what I pulled you over for?" He asked, trying to get me to admit guilt.
Another answer that wasn't in the Policeman's Handbook. "Wha...do...ss...yes, you do."
Unwilling to give in, I continued, "No, I don't."
"Ah! Okay...well....then i'll tell you. You were talking on your phone."
The tables had turned. The side of the road was no longer his safe place, his sacred arena - now, it was mine. "No I wasn't," I said.
"Can you please take off your sunglasses sir?" He said, a tactic learned in Chapter 3 of the handbook.
This was almost laughable and I was unable to keep the smile from my face. He was reaching and he knew it - he knew that I knew it, too. "No."
"Okay. So you weren't talking on the phone?"
"Nope. I was checking my messages."
"I saw your lips moving for five to ten seconds!"
"I was checking my messages," I answered. If he knew the law, he would have known that it doesn't matter what I was doing on the phone. It's illegal to even touch your phone while driving. He didn't know the law - any law, really.
"License and registration, sir," he barked. The one thing he knew I had to obey.
Searching through my scattered papers, I could only find my license. He marched back to his vehicle to run my id - desperately hoping I was a fugitive. 30 seconds later, I found my registration and waved it out the window. Catching his attention, he got out of his car and snatched it from my grips. "Ahhh," he grumbled, retreating back to his car.
30 seconds after that, I found my insurance card. Laughing, I waved it out the window. Exiting his car for the third time, he yelled, "Are you serious?!"
He approached, trying to kill me with his glare. "I'm not doing this on purpose," I said, laughing. "You gotta admit, it's pretty funny," I said, trying to lighten the mood. He was not amused, nor did it ever admit the comedy of the situation.
Trudging back to his car, he slammed the door and did his calculations. Ten minutes passed before he reemerged.
"I don't know why I'm doing this but I'm giving you a warning," he said, expecting me to be obsessively thankful for his mercy.
"Okay," I said plainly.
"I believe you were talking on your cell phone." He wanted to get the last word.
" I believe!" he yelled, gesturing to himself, slapping his palm against his bulletproofed chest. "I BELIEVE you were talking on your cell phone."
Unsure what to say, I waited for him to continue. Nothing. "Okay."
One final stare-down, then, with awkward, big steps, he stomped back to his vehicle. I threw a peace sign out the window as I pulled away.
Know your rights - because cops don't.