Brushes with the Law

Photo: Keith Allison

I must just look guilty. Judging by my many encounters with the authorities you’d think I was some kinda outlaw. But I’m one of the most law-abiding, upstanding citizens I know. Not that that’s any credit to me. If you know you’re going to get caughteven when you’re not doing anythingit’s easy to walk the straight and narrow.

It started when I was in first grade. We went to the restroom 5 boys at a time with 4 of us waiting outside the door for our turn. Against the rules, one of us was talkingNOT me!—but we all got spanked by the substitute teacher. I’ve never forgotten the injustice of it.

When I was a teenager, three of my friends and I went to an outdoor Debbie Boone concert. Our folding chair seats were way in the back, and we saw that many people were standing up closer to the stage, so we moved to the front. One of my friends—I’ll call him “the alleged suspect”—started yelling at Debbie to get her attention, something along the lines of “Hey, Debbie! Hey, Debbie! Hey, Debbie! You light up my life!” Soon, a police officer ambled over and asked me,”Are your tickets to the next show?” I said,” No, officer, we have tickets to this show.” Then he narrowed his eyes at me and said, “Well, keep it down.” I’ve never forgotten the injustice of it.

I’m ashamed to confess that I have actually broken speed limit laws a few times in my life. Well, I’m not ashamed that I broke them; I’m ashamed at how the speeding tickets make me look like an over-cautious granny. Once I received a ticket for going a hellacious 32 miles per hour (not in a school zone, by the way). I distinctly remember that I had sped up because a school bus was impatiently tailgating me. Another time, I had been stopped at a red light for about a minute when blue lights started flashing behind me. (My wife will vouch for this.) I have to say, I was surprised. By the way, when a police officer asks if you know how fast you were going, “How fast I was going?! I was stopped!” is probably not the most prudent answer. My wife used to look over at the speedometer when I was driving and sigh in disgust at how slow I was, but she’s given that up. She now accepts as fact that if I’m speeding, I will get pulled over. Every time I get behind the wheel, I feel the injustice of it.

My most recent brush with the law involves my exercise of my First Amendment right to peaceful protest. Several fellow trouble-makers and I have been assembling every week at our town’s main intersection to display our signs and wave to passers-by. After Charlottesville, our town passed an ordinance that signs couldn’t be attached to anything that could possibly serve as a weapon. Because of the “Please arrest me; I must be guilty of something” aura that I give off, I knew I’d better toe the line. But I also wanted my sign to be readable from a distance. So I found a sturdy cardboard tube and attached my “Trump is a Porn-Again Christian” poster to that. This was a tube. Hollow. Made of paper. With no sharp edges. So I was surprised when the local police chief got out of her big black SUV with the dark-tinted windows and started walking toward me, looking straight at me. When she got within a few steps, she said, “Oh, I see what it is. Someone called to complain that you were out here with your sign on a stick.” Then after looking more closely, she said, “But that cardboard is heavier than we’d like.” I can see it now, having to answer a fellow con who’s asking, “What are you in for?” I’ll say, “Possession and brandishing of a cardboard tube with intent to provoke Trump supporters.” I’m sure he’ll say, “Whoa!” as he raises his hands and starts slowly backing away.

Determined not to give in on this issue, I hit upon a solution. If you drive by the old courthouse in my town during lunch hour on any Wednesday, you’ll see me on the side of the road. I’ll be the protestor holding a sign attached to a long, vibrant-blue, foam pool noodle. And, yes, my noodle is a bit floppy. Yes, it does waggle. And, yes, I am now known in certain circles as “the noodle guy.” Go ahead and laugh. I do. And this time I feel like I’m having the last laugh.

And I love the justice of it.

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6 thoughts on “Brushes with the Law”

  1. It’s just jealousy, Bill. I get it all the time from the authorities. Those who can’t be you, become authority people and bother you.

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