Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Stupid Thing of the Week

My sister came over yesterday, dropping off my nephew. The boy was complaining, and when she got him out of her car, she discovered tiny black ants on him. We got out the car seat, and discovered there was a colony of these ants inside of it. Kind of horrifying if you don't really think about it. My sister had a job interview, so she asked me if I could watch the boy (apparently, she was planning on just leaving him in the carseat while she had her interview, but the ants ruined those plans).

I told her I was about to eat, but sure, I'd watch him, maybe take him to eat with me. "So, you'll just take him without a car seat?" she asked.

"Sure. I've done it before."

"You have?"

"I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel."

"Alright," she said, "but you probably ought to put him in the back seat rather than your lap."

Minutes later, we drove away, the three year old on my lap, helping me drive.

And let me interject for a moment. Everybody over twenty has ridden this way before. It's how you bonded with a driver, pretended to maneuver the car, looked forward to the power of adulthood. I once drove from Vista, California to Las Vegas, Nevada on my uncle's lap.* The child loves it, and it's not so bad for the grown-up either. It's not a crime, right?

We went to KFC, which was once called Kentucky Fried Chicken, before urban marketing started pulling in billions, just a mile from where I live. We hopped out and went in to grab us a meal, which my nephew refused to eat and got all over his shirt and pants.

A couple of minutes into the meal, a police officer came into the restaurant, and walked up to me.

"Are you the owner of a beat-to-shit blue Subaru that won't start when it's cold and emits a sickening grey smoke like from the very heart of Mordor itself?"

"Yes," I said, and I supposed I knew what it was about.

"I suppose you know what this is about," he said.

"Him, I'd guess," I said, pointing at my nephew.

"That's right," he said. "We got calls that you were driving with a child on your lap. And reckless driving, so maybe you cut somebody off or didn't signal when you . . ."

"Calls?" I interrupted. "More than one?"

"Yes. They gave us your make and model and someone gave your license plate."

That gave me pause. I'm not thrilled with a cop seeing me driving with a kid and pulling me over, but some stranger calling the police and lying to get the cops after me? That seems a bit excessive. Not to mention if it was more than one stranger.

But who am I to judge? That's their job.

So, from the policeman I got the lecture you probably formulated in your head while you read the above. Children under something like fourteen get their vertebrae snapped like a wet towel if they're not in a car seat and seatbelts become guillotines if you don't vote down gay marriage.

Finally, he said, "Well, I don't want to make a scene in front of the boy, so I'm going to let you off with a warning."

That too gave me pause. What kind of scene was he talking about? Beating me with his nightstick, I would imagine. I wanted to ask him if he was threatening to arrest me, or if he was itching to use his Taser. But I didn't. I was upset that the boy had spread honey and catsup all over himself instead of eating. And I was also upset that some people spell "ketchup" wrong.

But I couldn't just let it go. I told him about the ants.

He made absolutely no comment about that, save to say that I needed to find another way to transport the child back home. Otherwise, it was a fifty dollar ticket for breaking the car seat law (plus whatever fines were imposed for reckless driving, child endangerment, attempted murder, probably kidnapping, vagrancy, etc.).

I told him I would call my sister.

"Good," he said, and then he showed his hand. "Since I didn't actually witness any of your infractions, I can't cite you for them, but we want everybody to be safe. You understand?"

I guessed that I did. He still stood there, waiting. And I honestly think that he was waiting for an apology.

I settled for "Alright."

The policeman walked off, and my mind started to reel. Had there really been multiple calls about us? In a ten block stretch, how many cars had we gone by, and how many of those would have seen my attempted vehicular manslaughter? And how many would call the police about it? I even considered that the reason I got such lousy service from the KFC employee (she got my order wrong, and there was no ketchup, let alone catsup, and she had disappeared into the back when I tried to ask for some) was because she was on the phone to the police department regarding the horrible child abuser with the traumatized toddler daring to ask for potatoes instead of coleslaw.

Look, I'll make no judgments, besides the many implicit in this entry. If you like to say that I deserve the moniker of Stupid Thing this week, that's fine.

Drive on, cabbie.

The Notorious Rish Outfield

*I remember it vividly, as I was twenty-nine when it happened.

No comments: