It’s rush hour and it’s raining. I’m on my way to Trader Joes to forage for dinner when my car decides to slip into a coma (note to self: stop buying cars at places that sell über-crappy, budget jerry-rigs).
Before the “how much is this going to cost” panic sets in, Ross assuages my fears with a quick prognosis: I’m out of gas. He dashes across the street mid-downpour to procure a gallon and a vessel to transport it, while I pretend that my fuel gauge—the one claiming half a tank—is wrong, and wave away a steady stream of offers for pushes and help, trusting in Ross’ nonsensical logic.
Twenty minutes later, the gallon we finally finagle into the tank doesn’t do squat to get my car running.
I’m on hold with AAA when a cop knocks at my window.
“Isn’t it refreshing to be approached by a cop and not be afraid?” Ross asks as the officer ambles back to his patrol car, where he’s offered to wait until the tow truck arrives.
“What do you mean?” I ask, ever-tethered to my rebel tendencies. “Cops are always scary. This one included.”
Twenty minutes later, the rain is slowing, the sun is fading, an unseasonable chill hijacks the air and the tow truck has yet to arrive. We pass the time reading aloud from Henry Miller’s Tropic of Capricorn—which I nabbed from op.cit.’s freebie box earlier that afternoon.
Forty-five minutes into our wait, Ross darts home to retrieve his car to meet me at the mechanic, because the tow truck is bound to arrive any minute. When it does, I leap out into the chilly night, thrilled to be one step closer to dinner.
The tow truck driver informs me that the tow will cost $60.
“No,” I explain. “I’m a AAA member.”
“AAA didn’t call me,” he says, lighting the cigarette dangling from his lips. “The police department did.”
“WHAT???” I say, wholly thrown by this unforeseen hiccup. “I don’t have $60.”
“Well, if you don’t pay him, I’m citing you,” says the cop as he approaches, tracing some distorted track of punitive reasoning, wherein I’m shelling out cash to someone as penance for blocking traffic, and proving himself just as scary and untrustworthy as I’d suspected. “So, either way, you’re paying.”
“What the fuck kind of logic is that?” I counter, because defensive cops who make stupid unilateral decisions respond really well to profanity, aggression and demands for reason.
Cop blathers on about AAA taking too long, and how my car is blocking the busiest street in Santa Fe. He signals to the tow truck driver who starts attaching his rig to my car, which inspires me to scream: “GET YOUR FUCKING HANDS OFF MY CAR!” I then turn back to the cop and ask why he didn’t walk all of 20 feet to my broken vehicle to let me know that I’d run out of grace time and needed to make another plan, and—dare I suggest—help?
In my memory, he says: “I’m not obliged to endure lengthy conversations with citizens,” but I think he actually says something more like: “I don’t need to have some long, drawn-out conversation with you.”
“But, if I’d known you had me on a time limit, I could have pushed it to the gas station,” I say, pointing to the Chevron across the street.
“No, you couldn’t,” he says, underestimating the kindness of strangers, as well as my superhuman strength.
I turn back to the tow truck driver manhandling my wagon.
“STOP TOUCHING MY CAR,” I yell as I leap onto the ledge next to the driver’s seat and pound on the rain-damp hood for emphasis.
Ross pulls up in front of the tow truck as the cop announces he’s impounding my car.
As I go (even more) apeshit, Ross shoves me inside the car with a firm “CHILL OUT” and slams the door, blocking it with his full body weight as I thrash and froth and freak out inside. He convinces them to tow my car across the street, where I’m not blocking traffic.
By this time, AAA has (finally) arrived, but tow truck driver No. 1 refuses to release my car until I pay. The price for the 300-foot tow soars to $75, then $100, and then, finally, to $125. Ross plays messenger, darting from the cop/tow truck driver huddle and then back to me, still locked in my car, still refusing to shell out a dime for this ridiculous charade. Apparently, the tow truck driver keeps hiking the price because, as Ross relays it, “Your girlfriend’s a bitch.”
The ever-so-NOT-AT-ALL-helpful cop ultimately lets us go because I’m not backing down, and I’ve “wasted enough of his time.”
“We appreciate your time and your concern, officer,” says Ross, as the cop heads back to his patrol car.
“I don’t,” I mutter.
OK, clearly my cop issues are deep and ferocious. I’m unraveling them—really, I am. But, what’s infinitely more relevant and disturbing is that this cop made some extraordinarily asinine choices because he “didn’t feel like” having a conversation with a woman who sat alone in her car only 20 feet away. These actions, combined with a volatile Aquarian rocking an exaggerated buttload of authority issues, caused a simple traffic incident to escalate into full-fledged emotional chaos—the kind of emotional chaos that so often leads to a body count.
I take responsibility for my behavior, but I’m not the issue here—I’m not being paid to represent a crooked system that shoves tow truck drivers in their back pockets, and makes reckless choices while blinded by skewed perspectives and lackluster communication skills. I’m not the one carrying a gun, a badge and a false sense of power. I’m not part of a larger force that’s stolen many a human life—“accidentally”—because I’m not in the mood to have a conversation with the person whose life I’m choosing to destroy or dent or shit on.
My mind loops about how many “accidental” shootings (to death) I hear of in this country, this state, this tiny town, and I wonder: was this human life lost, this family shredded, because a patrol officer simply wasn’t in the mood to chat?