Monday, July 13, 2009

To Serve, To Protect and To Pedal

Perhaps now I can die a contented man. Saturday night, as I was attempting to negotiate my way through the gauntlet that is the road in Point Pleasant that runs parallel - and immediately adjacent to - the boardwalk, I inadvertently created my own "white Bronco" moment.

Presumably the spectre of O.J. Simpson has not yet faded so far into the ash can of our collective memory that the image of the Juice in the back seat of the white Ford Bronco being driven by his friend Al "A.C." Cowlings while every member of the L.A.P.D. not named Joe Friday followed behind at a remarkably controlled rate of speed has been permanently erased. Saturday night - for just a moment - I created a scenario that allowed Margaret, Lynne, Suzanne and me to all feel as if we were there - on a freeway with a phalanx of local law enforcement officers hot on our trail.

My little Toyota Corolla had daytime running lights, which makes life easy for me. The headlights are always on, whether I remember to turn them on or not. Margaret drives a Toyota Camry, which is a decidedly fancier ride than mine but one - for whatever reason - that Toyota decided to not equip with its idiot-proof illumination system. My wife, industrious and clever as she is, has fashioned a remedy to that potential problem. She has simply adjusted the headlights to a particular setting that ensures that while the engine is running, the lights are on.

When Rob was home a week or so ago, he used Margaret's car to get around. Unbeknownst to me (and judging by her reaction on Saturday night, Margaret) Rob - not privy to Margaret's secret system for perpetual light - must have adjusted the setting on the headlights to the "If you need them, then turn them on" position. Here in Levelland we are still on the part of the calendar when the days are long. Also, while we have been drowning in rainfall all spring and summer - we went the entire week since Rob's departure back to Cheyenne without a drop of rain. Thus, Margaret did not drive her car all week in any situation that required her to check the setting of her lights.

Point Pleasant apparently does what a lot of New Jersey Shore towns do in the summer months. It hires additional police officers. And Point Pleasant puts a number of their officers (including those who appear not to be old enough to operate an actual motor vehicle) on bicycles. How do I know this, you ask. I know this because on Saturday night, as we left the beach area at or about sundown, I had the distinct pleasure of being pursued for a block or two by one of Point Pleasant's finest.

It is a surreal moment when one looks in the rear-view mirror of the automobile one is driving and sees a police officer who appears to be no older than Harry Potter pedaling his bicycle furiously down the road behind him. The faster he pedaled, the faster his little red flashing light blinked. For just a moment - OK, closer to two - I toyed with the idea of not pulling over. If there were any real hilly sections of Point Pleasant, I would have aimed for one and tested the wherewithal of young Lance Armstrong to get his man. I envisioned him pushing furiously to keep up with the car on the uphill legs and then intermittently coasting/braking all the way down the other side.

Once I stopped laughing at the visual image of a boy and his bicycle in my rear-riew mirror, I pulled over. It was a good thing I did for at least a couple of reasons. First, whether he summoned them to assist or whether the rest of The Goonies simply sensed a disturbance in the force, when I stopped I noted the presence of "back up" at the scene. There was at least one other unit that had rolled (OK, pedaled) into position to assist him and I could see two more about a block away from where I stopped. I wondered - if the circumstances had been such that I contemplated running for it - whether to flee from the police or just charge at them running at full speed to knock them over. And I wondered whether - in the event I had done something to warrant slapping the bracelets on me at the scene - I would have been forced to ride on the front of his bike while he pedaled or simply to run alongside with my hands cuffed together. Boy, watch one showing of HBO's "First Look: Public Enemies" and suddenly I think I am John Dillinger.

The second reason I am happy that I did not do anything other than pull over was that the officer told me - when I did - that the reason he stopped me was that my headlights were not on, which neither Margaret nor me noticed from our respective vantage points in the front seat of the vehicle. After the cursory check of my credentials, he wished us a nice evening and let us be on our way. He was so courteous in fact that I almost regretted trying to bribe him when I passed my license, registration and insurance information out the window to him.

Almost, but then I figured, rent-a-cop or not what teenage boy at the Shore cannot make use of a couple of hundred Skee Ball tickets? Undoubtedly, they are better for him than doughnuts.


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