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Monday, September 26, 2005


1981. Driving from Massachusetts to New York with my friend Arthur in my Dad's Chevy Malibu. Ostensibly to visit colleges, the trip was really just an excuse to go on a parentally-sanctioned road trip. Hell, they even gave us spending money.

It was about 95° and the A/C was out so we had the windows down. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt but no shoes and no socks. Just over the state line, Arthur was telling some story which I can't remember now but at the time was quite funny, so much so that I failed to realize that I was heading downhill at 88 miles an hour straight into a speed trap. Moments later I shut the engine off and watched in the side view mirror as a state cop sidled up beside me while another stayed in the cruiser. The usual scene was acted out – license and registration were handed over and the cop returned to the cruiser to enter numbers into a computer. We wait. And wait. And wait and wait and wait. I'd been pulled over a few times before and knew that the waiting is the excruciating part, but this was ridiculous. What was taking so long?

Finally, the cruiser's doors opened and this time both cops approached the Malibu. This was when the cop usually makes you sign the ticket and says something mildly intimidating and returns your documents and everyone leaves. Usually. Not this time.

"Step out of the car, please," the cop said.

Stunned by the escalation of the situation, I looked at his face for the first time. I looked into his eyes. He was a young guy, just a few years older than Arthur and I. But he was the one with the badge and the gun and the lights on top of his car so after a moment of adjustment, I stepped out of the car.

My moment of adjustment did not prepare for what the cop said next.

"Turn around and put your hands on the car."

My heart raced and my knees started shaking but I didn't comply. I was paralyzed with the kind of fear you have when your a kid and someone tells you you're in trouble but you don't know why so you try and think of all the bad stuff you've done lately and figure out which one you're about to be busted for.

"What? Why?" I squeaked back at the cop.

"Just turn around and put your hands on the car," he repeated. So I did. And he started to frisk me. At this point I should have realized that this wasn't the brightest guy because he frisked my bare legs. Now I'm part Italian, but I don't have so much leg hair that I could have been packing heat in there. Frankly, I was so confused and frazzled that I barely noticed the absurdity of the cop feeling me up this way. Before he and the other cop handcuffed us and put us in the back of the cruiser, he explained that the license plates on the Malibu belong to a vehicle that had been reported stolen. I told them that was a mistake, that it was my father's car and he's the only one who'd ever owned it.

"It's not stolen," I pleaded. But they weren't interested. So off to the New York State Police barracks we went, where Arthur and I were taken out, sat down and handcuffed to a wall. By now, I've gone from panic to fear to anger to seeing the humor in it all. I'm calm and just waiting for someone to realize the mistake that's being made. The young cop seemed to be waiting to speak to his superior officer who was on the phone dealing with another matter in his office. Arthur and I sat just outside the office, each with a wrist shackled to the wall. Finally, the superior officer finished his phone conversation, hung up and shouted for the young cop to come in. This is the conversation as I remember it:

SUPERIOR OFFICER: OK, so what's happening.

YOUNG COP: When we ran the plates on this vehicle, it came back stolen, sir.

SUPERIOR OFFICER: Do you have the print out?

YOUNG COP: Yes, sir. Here it is, sir.

Paper shuffled. A pause.

SUPERIOR OFFICER: According to this, the stolen plates are Delaware plates.

YOUNG COP: Yes, sir.

SUPERIOR OFFICER: But the vehicle you pulled over has Massachusetts plates.

YOUNG COP: Yes, sir. That's correct, sir.

SUPERIOR OFFICER: So why did you bring them in if they have Massachusetts plates and the stolen plates are from Delaware?

YOUNG COP: Because Delaware's part of Massachusetts, sir.

Another pause, this one quite sweet.


YOUNG COP: Delaware is part of Massachusetts, sir.

A final pause, even sweeter.

SUPERIOR OFFICER: We'll talk about that later. Right now we've got to get these guys back to their car.


At 10/10/2005 3:53 PM, Anonymous said...

OK, now that's pretty funny!


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