Like many Americans, I decided to stay local today, and use this Independence Day to catch up on errands, and much-needed housekeeping.
As one who has scrupulously avoided getting behind the wheel on holidays like July 4th, and Christmas, to avoid getting pulled over by law enforcement, and cited for one minor infraction or another, and as one who has developed the habit of walking for exercise, over the past several years, I thought I'd enjoy the mild temperatures, and walk to the local mall.
To my amazement, the traffic was heavy, or heavier than on any work day, and the street I walk on is an alternate for a major highway, so it was as busy as any weekday.
After commenting to the clerk at the video store about what a wise move it was for me to walk, given all the cars on the road, I began my one mile trek home.
When I crossed the street, I saw a black and white, his lights flashing furiously, pull over an older model Honda Civic, no doubt for a routine traffic violation. I was busy yakking away on my cell phone with a friend in Ventura, making a valiant attempt to ignore the police car, brave the 30 plus mph wind, and not curse out the sharkish drivers who insist on taking their divine right on red, thereby forcing me into submission.
Right after the late model Civic took off, the officer hung up his cell phone, and looked right at me: "Can I talk to you a minute?," he asked with unctuous courtesy. I said "Sure," and told my friend I'd call him back. I thought maybe he wanted to ask me for directions.
"What's up?," I asked "Well," he said, "I had reports that you were weaving back and forth while walking down the street, and I'm concerned for your welfare. Have you had anything to drink?"
"Why, officer, heartfelt thanks for your concern," I said, "of course not. I don't drink." "What about prescription drugs?" "Look into my eyes," I insisted. "Are my pupils dilated?" He asked to see my license, which I promptly gave him. "By all means," I said, handing him my driver's license.
"Where are you off to now?" he asked, "Roble Road, the place listed on my license." I was struck by how polite he was, and his impeccable uniform -- probably a rookie, I thought. Give him a few years, and he'll be arrogant, and choleric.
"Well, you were talking on your cell phone which may have been while you were swaying back and forth," he said smiling sweetly. Oh my gawd, I'm thinking, I must be under the influence, I'm getting turned on by this cop.
"Yes," I added, "and I am only 98 lbs., so in a 40 mph, I suppose I was getting blown about a bit." There is something called gravity, I wanted to add, but decided it was best to leave it at that.
He called in my license number, and when he hung up, he appeared somewhat apologetic. "We were just concerned for your welfare, you understand," he said.
"Funny thing, officer," I said laughing. "I have a car. I deliberately didn't drive today, and stayed off the road because I was paranoid I'd get stopped, and ticketed, for one minor infraction or another. Who would have guessed that I'd get pulled over for being under the influence while walking?"
Was it my hat? or maybe the way I dress? I sure look different than the folks around here who, for the most part, dress like they're going bowling. What would I get a ticket for -- breathing while different?
Could it be that he thought I was homeless? After all, there are lots of homeless people in the Bay Area, and many sleep in their cars near the train station half a mile from my house. And, what if I were? Was I not exercising my rights by walking down the street in broad daylight?
What would have happened if I didn't have a valid driver's license, and/or proof of residency? Where would I have ended up? What happens when Mr. and Mrs. Middle America think they see some displaced person walking down Main Street, and call local law enforcement because they're "concerned ." How quaint! You'd have a hard time convincing me that this was about concern for my welfare.
Happy Independence Day everybody, especially to those who, over the past few decades, have screamed the loudest about America becoming a welfare state, and who sit back quietly as America becomes a police state.