The Law Won (Twice)
January 16, 2008
I had two run-ins with the law this past weekend, one direct and the other not so much. Before I go any further, I should say that both were extremely minor, and probably boring as well. But seeing as how this is The Internet, I will elaborate anyway. Someone, somewhere, might care about these run-ins, and for this reason both stories are important. I will keep telling myself this for as long as you support the delusion.
The second one first (so backwards!):
I was driving. A strong rain began to pelt my car, and all the cars around it as well. My windshield was dirty, my wiper blades were dull, my tires were bald, and I hadn’t driven much over the course of the past six years (a result of living in
Poor Person’s Purgatory New York City). Six years ago I would have taken the situation for a challenge. But last weekend it made me nervous. My future wife was in the passenger seat, and I didn’t want to hydroplane and possibly get into an accident because then she might get hurt. This would have been no good. Her face is too pretty and I love her and besides that I need someone to pick my nose. So, anyway, a strong pelting rain. A rain that bit my eyes.
As we got closer to The City, the rain stayed strong and the amount of traffic increased by about a million percent. This obviously made things even more difficult, and I soon ended up in an EZ-Pass toll lane instead of a cash toll lane when it came time to pay the man (for the privilege of independent movement). My ass was fresh out of EZ-Passes, so I couldn’t pull one out of there, and so not knowing what else to do when we came to that toll barrier, I put the car in park and looked (sheepishly!) around. Very soon, a tall, angry police officer approached the car.
I won’t go into specifics about what he said to me, except to say that it was comprised mostly of abusive questions as to why “it’s so hard to get into the right lane,” and angry professions about how “it’s not his job to collect money from people.” Being somewhat empathetic to his situation (as well as towards angry people in general) I apologized more than once, and attempted to explain to him what should have been pretty clear – that it was fucking raining like hell and I hadn’t done it on purpose. But that really only made him madder.
Partially he got madder was because I was right, but I think his problem with me also had a lot to do with the general fact that some angry people are going to be angry and abusive no matter how you choose to deal with them. Hit them back with a smile and a calm voice, and they’ll get madder. Give them some of their own medicine, and they’ll get madder. There’s no winning with them – they are angry not at you but at what you represent, a reflection of their own dissatisfaction with their life and situation. These feelings are only somewhat offset by shiny badges. A much better choice, for the unfortunate soul that finds himself subjected to them on a regular basis, would probably be to subvert all of these feelings, ball them together, and then plug them into a bureaucracy. That way more people – and their families – can pay the price for their emotional issues.
Anyway! My conversation with the toll booth police officer ended in him saying “don’t speak,” in a tone of voice that made me want to get out of the car and punch him in the face while speaking incessantly. I didn’t get out of the car, though, and I didn’t speak – because my future wife advised me to just stay silent and listen to him, and because had I done anything to piss him off further I most probably would have been both beaten up and arrested. This would not have been fun.
In the end I paid five dollars for a four dollar and fifty cent toll, the entire amount of which probably went into his pocket. I was also made afraid to exercise one of my rights as an American citizen because “I didn’t want no trouble” after making an understandable mistake while driving in pouring rain.
So that was fun.
My first run-in with the law was more special. I shared it with my future wife, my parents, and my younger brother. We had stopped at a New Hampshire State Liquor Store off the highway to use some rest-stop bathrooms and to…buy liquor.
But liquor they were not a-sellin. Not to troublesome folks like us.
At first, it was like any old liquor run. We went in as a group: me, Ma, Pa, Future Wife, and Brother. We perused the shelves. Dad and FW picked out some red wine (to go with that cheese!), Ma grabbed a bottle of vodka and some white wine, I decided to skip on Scotch for the weekend and spend some time with Bourbon. My brother just sort of hung back from the shopping, because he is not of drinking age and because he does not enjoy alcohol.
Everything was going as swimmingly as sperm. We brought our purchases (or so we thought!) to the register.
A rather portly woman with wide-set eyes, pale skin, and a hare-lip, did not greet us at the register. Instead, she looked at a point in the air somewhere between where my mother and I were standing and asked: Are you all together?
I assumed she was asking this because my mother, always three steps ahead of any one process, had already taken her wallet out, and because my future wife and I were just then adding our bottles to the few that my mother had placed on the register counter. We answered that we were together, and one of us added that a few more things were coming. My father, always feeling the need to add more steps to any one process, had ventured back into the store for…more liquor. I should mention at this point that the number of bottles for this two night trip had by that time reached five or six. Maybe that had something to do with what was about to happen – not that it should have.
My father arrived at the register at about the same time as my future wife and I were being carded, because, as the woman explained, it was the law. To my discredit, I probably didn’t help what was about to become a situation by laughing at her. I am only twenty-three but I have sort of looked thirty-three for about five years now. Yeah. Do that math. But it really wasn’t a big deal, so I showed my license.
My future wife doesn’t drive, because she’s a native New Yorker, so she doesn’t have a license. She carries her passport around, though, for just these situations. Except that she had left it in the car this time.
The woman said that she had to see it, that it was the law. By now she was starting to enjoy herself. Some little voice, calling out from deep inside her miserable soul, was starting to whisper like the devil in her thick jellied ear. My brother emerged from the background of the situation to volunteer to go to back to the car for my future wife’s passport. We all thanked him, and he went. The woman began scanning our goodies.
My brother came back, and we got the passport in front of the woman. She then seemed to realize for the first time that my father was part of our group. She then asked him for identification. My father is almost fifty years old, and his hair is almost white. He thought it was a little silly to have to do it, but he gave a short laugh and showed her his license.
My mother joked about feeling left out. The woman took the joke quite seriously, and asked her for her ID. She reminded us, once again, that there were laws about these things. I think that was the first time that she pointed to the “Law Sticker” that was stuck in the lower corner of the window farthest away from the entrance to the store. She also added something about the newness of this law, which seemed to have been updated recently.
The woman then asked us if my brother was with us. I guess maybe she gets a lot of strangers offering to get passports for people out of cars. We said that he was with us – because he was.
She said she needed to see his ID. She mentioned the law and again pointed in the direction of the sticker.
My mother, probably the only person at this point with any sort of patience and/or kindness left available to her, calmly explained that he wasn’t old enough to drink, and that he was just with us…because he was with us.
The woman actually started moving the bottles away from us on the counter.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I can’t sell to you without identification from him.”
My father: “But he’s only a teenager. He just came in here with us because he was using the bathroom next door.”
“I’m sorry. There’s no way of me knowing that you aren’t buying it for him. Or that he’s not going to drink it later. It’s the law.”
She went on about the law. I asked her if she was serious. She said that she couldn’t sell to us – because of the law. The woman running the register behind her, and a few other customers (or so they hope) were staring at her at this point. They didn’t seem empathetic to her and her law. Probably because it’s not the government’s job to tell people what they can and can’t buy. Probably because its up to other people to take things a little less seriously in situations like the one we were then facing because despite being annoying the law’s intent is understandable. Probably because we were from out of town, hadn’t read the fine print on the sticker on the way in, and didn’t seem like a group that was going to take that liquor and get into trouble with it.
My mother calmly tried to explain that we were on vacation. She promised that he wouldn’t be drinking, and that she’d see to it because she was his mother. The woman again cited the law, adding that especially because my future wife and I were so close to him in age (five and six years), there was no way for her to tell whether we might give some of the alcohol to him in spite of my mother’s wishes.
What happened next is my favorite part of the story. I grabbed a bottle and smashed it to the floor.
“Whoops,” I said. “I’d pay for that, but you can’t sell to me because I walked in with my brother.”
My future wife, to the woman: “Yeah. How do you like that, bitch?” She broke a bottle too.
My mother: “Yeah! You bitch!” She picked up the bottle of vodka, and smashed it over the woman’s head.
Then my brother jumped to the other side of the register. He began to kick the fallen, bleeding woman repeatedly in the base of the spine. My father simply watched, nodded his head knowingly, and snickered like Beelzebub.
In reality…we walked out of the store. Shock and disbelief, not anger and violence, took hold of us all
A day later, my father explained to me that it was okay, that, “There’s a reason why God makes people ugly.”
He made it publicly, so in public I quietly chided him. But privately…I laughed.
Because it was funny. To adapt a quote of Winston Churchill’s to the situation: “You may have forced us into buying our liquor for a higher price and in the next state over, Lady, but in the morning you will still be ugly. Oh. And shove your law up your ass.”