The first time I got pulled over driving the RV, was just east of Dayton, Ohio. We were on our spring tour. It was mid-morning, well after rush hour, the ‘quiet time’ for long haul drivers like us. By the time I saw the cop in the rearview, I knew I was toast. Cops get that menacing approach with their menacing assault cruisers and you can feel them feed off your fear. It’s not just that I had an ounce of weed (for medicinal purposes!) in the freezer that I’d rather not flush into the black water tank, I am a good driver. Nay, a good person! This incident if things got hairy, would be all anyone might remember about me.
"Wasn't he arrested in Ohio trying to bring music to the people?"
"I think he was on Drugs."
"Oh, him too? Not that surprising really."
Waiting for the menacing black & tan cruiser consuming my rear view to take me down did not help my composure. I told myself the officer was no doubt in a hurry for a treed cat or to help out another taxpayer with a little roadside assist. I don’t look like a drug addict. Other than the dark circles under shifty eyes, the two weeks unwashed road hair & my new snarky mustache, I look like a friggin police chief.
Other drivers passed with poorly concealed smiles, maybe a cocked eyebrow, These drivers felt 7-10% better about themselves because they now know who’s taking the fall & they can go on speeding to wherever they were going at that hour of the day. God revealed my sin as manifest as a contrast to the righteous. The rest of you good drivers may now hurl your NPR stares and gently shake your head, “Well, he’s probably drunk”.
“I’m not fucking drunk! It’s was windy, in your dumb state.”
The blue from the cop lights hit us like a scarlet letter. Shakeyhouse is tattooed in the jagged azure flash of the American highway perp. No effort is made by the passing jury of my peers to even consider the mitigating circumstances and how they might be misinterpreted. Once those lights come on all those mitigators you like the fair weather friends they are.
The wait is awful. It leads to intemperate thoughts.
“No leave it in the fucking freezer! He can’t come in without a warrant right?”
In living rooms without cops, people always say this, “You know, you don’t have to give the police anything! They gotta have probable cause.” Or some shit.
When Officer Shoot First pokes his head in the passenger side window, my powder dry mouth is barely audible over the fevered scream barking of my idiot dog not helping. I see little processing images of me holding my inmate number reflected in his impassive sunglasses.
“I am not sure why you pulled me over Officer Sir”, I say after three failed attempts, and hint of irritation from the Man in with the Gun. I just wish Jess was driving and I shaved this ironic mustache off, I don’t say. Officer Shoot First is clean shaven to the pore with a medium strength gel holding his high top stoutly westward despite the brisk spring breeze.
"You were weaving out of your lane." Yeah, cause I wasn't fucking speeding in this thing! Have you read my blog! I'm trying to save money by...(yeah, I didn't say any of that).
“I see,” I said, like a blind man in church.
When you get pulled over you know they are going to ask for your license and reg etc. But when he asked I’m like, Oh NO!! Where are my papers! I am getting sent to Auscwitchz once they find out I have fake papers, do drugs & have have grown a snarky mustache. But I am an ambassador from Oregon! Like Johnny Appleseed from the west having having bartered his applejack for a dime of Chubakka Balls. Plant in full sun.
“Papers, please.” I heard him say. He may have phrased it differently but the accent was definite.
The Officer took the only documents proving I might be a Christian. He was gone a long time. Hundreds of satisfied Ohioans passed the RV looking at me saying, “Probably on drugs.”
"I have a condition!"
Drivers continue to pass, unconcerned with my conditions.
Jess added from the back of the RV weed was illegal in Vermont still.
Really? Nah-uh. Really? They got a Republican governor? What?! We should have stayed in Oregon. This is all happening because of my decisions.
Then Officer Shoot First came back. He needed to speak with Jessica or rather the passenger in the vehicle not the dog.
She wasn’t driving! She is innocent!
She was led away. Even Puddin moved away from me to the back of the RV. I had hit rock bottom.
But I wasn’t touching anyone inappropriately!
Finally, after what must have been hours, I was issued a warning. (AKA: Innocent Enough Motherfuckers!) In His wisdom and mercy, Patrolmen (and agent of Peace) Civic Duty tossed me back in the highway after returning the other half of the band. I wondered how my life had gone so wrong.
So you can imagine, I was almost pleased the second time a cop pulled me over in Ohio. It was in the same stretch of highway east of Dayton. This time it was October. It was almost a year since Donald Trump was elected President. I was not weaving.
It’s hard to describe America now. But it is different. For liberals, Trump’s election was like a partisan September 11th (not that the original wasn't). There is before. There is after.
I saw the cop this time as I drove by him. I saw him see me. I saw him pull out. It’s like unfair if you see them & they still pull you over. I mean, how drunk could I be?
As I sat on the side of the highway listening to Puddln scream bark at the armed intruder, I felt less of sting from the passing judgement of my fellow Americans. Yeah, I'm your worst nightmare. I thought of dressing like Tu-Pac.
My answers were cleaner, my papers were folded correctly. The cop (and it may well have been the same cop) asked the same questions the same way. But I was different. Things had changed. I am used to being a foreigner in a country slowly separating from itself.
“What instrument do you play?” was a one such repeat question from this Officer.
I almost answered, ‘Oh I only play with myself’. But I thought about how nobody in law enforcement thinks onanism is that funny so I just said, “Mandolin”. But I stated it with clear metaphoric intent.
A second warning was issued. I had my suspicions but still, I felt I now had a chance to prove my innocence. And just because everyone else in the news is guilty, I’m gonna be innocent (albeit totally ignored by the media).
We tour to Alabama every November. I think that must continue. Trump was elected one year ago this month. I have never seen the embodiment of the national mood so personified in a US President. We have stolen, we are stupid, we are a reality TV show, this is my home.
Alabama in November is lovely like Vermont in September. There are very few tourists, the air warm and dry, the sky is blue. White sand beaches lay empty to welcome the gentle teal tide.
Monarch butterflies bumble slowly to Mexico. They swim thru the air with the awkward grace of a drowning victim trying to stay afloat. No one knows they fly with guidance of quantum mechanics, what some have called the purest manifestation of God. We must have hit two dozen already with the RV windshield from Huntsville to Fairhope. Next month the state decides between a weaponized minister with a side interest in shopping mall teens and some guy named Jones. Small cotton fields with whimsical cotton bols flap on dry stalks like anachronistic jokes about a living wage. Globalization roils Mobile Bay. I want an ironic t-shirt.
The third time I got pulled over, I did it on purpose and specifically in Alabama. Ohio is too much a bell weather state. If I am going to control the police with my mind, I wanted to start in Alabama. My plan was simple. I have a genetic ability to hurl disgust across three lanes of traffic. Other drivers want to curse at the slow pace of my RV going 55 but they see my stare and quickly refocus on their talk radio (NPR or InfoWars). But when I saw the cop on the roadside in an Alabama flecked with butterflies, I couldn’t pass up the challenge.
I turned my head left as I passed the black SUV poised like a gator in the bayou. I cast a Level 3 ‘Fuck You’ right thru his tinted windshield. I even lowered my cheap sunglasses as if to say, “yeah, I don’t need the Gucci, motherfucker! You got a small dick!”
You know when you go fishing for sharks and you’re not really planning on actually catching one…?
As soon as he enter the highway, I lost my erection. He followed right behind me for about 30 horrible seconds before the blue lights of guilt exploded.
(True fact: No one stares at you when you get pulled over in Alabama.)
I didn’t get a ticket again. I still got high that afternoon. I even felt a little stupid for wasting the dude’s time. The officer did note that he would not fine me for my Oregon Registration that was one day out of date. (Excellent example of a good excuse vs a real one Mr State Agent.)
That night, safely over the state line at the Walmart parking lot in Fort Walton Beach, Jess and I ate dinner listening to NPR reports about Americans ignoring things. Outside, ordinance from a Fort Elgin AFB thudded the sky with fireworks that kill. I thought about how little I understand. I still regularly soothe my anxiety with my distilled opinion about people I don't know. But things are different now. It is after, afterall.
I have never felt more dependent on the code of US Military and its retired generals. I pray every night to the god of quantum butterflies that the FBI, the IRS and the DOJ will keep me safe from the embodiment of American disgust. This Thanksgiving I am grateful to the American that is Alabama. I hope they will let me back in even if the T-shirt I sport is made with un-American cotton.