Sunday, October 25, 2009

How urban legends get started

There was this kid I arrested a few months ago. He was a 17 year old who was dealing dope and I was helping one of our detectives pick him up because a confidential informant said that he was carrying a large quantity of drugs and a pistol.

We saw him walking down the street so we passed him in our unmarked car and cut him off. He turned to bolt and I banged a quick J-turn, chased him back down the street and cut him off again, pulling right up onto the sidewalk and nearly flattening him. This time he gave up and we put the Habeus Grabus on him. Then we searched him and although he didn't have the gun he was supposed to have, he at least had distribution quantity of both weed and crack in his pockets.

Of course he wanted to know how we knew he had the stuff and since we didn't want to reveal that we'd been tipped by an informant, I told him: "Dude, didn't you hear? The city's got these new weed detectors up on the light poles now. You walked right past one." Him not being very bright, he asked how they worked. I said "You know how dogs can smell weed a long ways away? Well now they have machines that can do that too, and the city bought a bunch and put them all over the place. They detect weed and take your picture and send it right to us."

And a minute later when his auntie and a batch of his cousins came running up to see why we were locking him up this time, the kid yells out to the whole block: "They said I walked by one of the new weed-finding machines! It's up on a light pole somewhere. Watch out for them poles!"

With any luck, there will now be a whole bunch of dope boys looking up at the utility poles for a bit, at least until this knucklehead realizes that one of his own pals dropped a dime on him and squelches the rumor.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

All wet

So we got rain. Lots of rain.

And a low-lying section of highway predictably flooded when the poorly-designed drain backed up like it always does when we get lots of rain.

The highway is under water for a stretch, anywhere from several inches to nearly three feet of water. It’s impassible to most cars at this point so our DPW crews put up barricades to close the flooded section, complete with signs directing people to a detour.

Of course this area is chock filled with stupid people. Not ignorant or uneducated stupid people, but the special kind of stupid people who think that because they drive expensive foreign cars and have high-paying jobs that don’t require them to ever perspire or get dirty, that the laws do not apply to them. Many of them also don’t think that they should have to take detours just because a sign and a few barricades suggest otherwise.

So because these people won’t stop going around our barricades and getting stuck in the water, I get assigned to go take up a traffic post at the south end of the flooded zone to direct the people to the detour and prevent them from going into the water. In other words, I have to force people to not do stupid stuff that any five-year-old would know better than to do. And trust me—they are not grateful. About one in ten feels the need to pull up to me, inform me that they need to be on the other side of the closed section, and ask if they cannot be allowed through.

Sir, that’s a BMW, not a U-Boat, so no.

And then they get all pissy because they don’t know any other route and don’t want to follow the detour signs. Fine. Go home then. See if I care. All I know is I have to sit here all day because if I didn’t, your dumb ass would drive into the water and get stuck, which if I had my way, you’d be allowed, even encouraged, to do. It might even teach you a lesson.

So I sit. And I fend off countless members of the “better-than-you” set who are mad because we’ve dared close the road. But then the inevitable happens, and the unit on the north end gets called away to deal with some sort of actual emergency and a car goes through his barricades and gets stuck in the water. The driver gets on her phone and cried about how she’s trapped and the water is rising—which it isn’t—and she makes such a fuss that I gget called and told to go find her and deal with it. And of course this means that I have to go through the flooded area to get to her.

Oh well…it’s not like it’s my car.

I drive around the barricade and slowly move through the water. At least I know enough to go slow and avoid creating a bow wave that will get sucked into the intake. I also know which sections of the roadway are just a bit higher, so I manage to avoid the really deep holes.

I get to the woman in short order. Her Mercedes is on the other side of the Jersey wall, stalled out in about a foot and a half of water. She’s hysterical and won’t open her door because she doesn’t want the water to get in and wreck the carpeting and seat. She thinks that I’m going to tow her car out with my cruiser. Once I disavow her of that notion, she insists that I call her a tow truck.

Under my breath, I have already called her much worse than that.

I put the call in for Triple A and of course they’re backed up and give us an ETA of three to five hours. This is too much for her, so she finally opens her door—flooding her car’s interior—and climbs over the jersey wall to my car, which is sitting up on the raised shoulder sufficient to keep my interior dry. I then carefully turn around and drive back out the way that I came, because I know that there’s a deeper spot ahead that I could not otherwise get through.

On the way back—a distance of about a mile and a half—there are now EIGHT cars stuck, all of which went around the barrier right after I did, each trying to either command the water to get out of their way or re-enact that scene from the movie Risky Business where Tom Cruise put the Porsche into Lake Michigan. They all either came through too fast and drowned their cars, or drove cars with less ground-clearance than my Crown Victoria.

I then spent the next hour ferrying each of them out, making sure to issue each one a citation for Drive Around Barricade as I did. Surprisingly, they all took the cites without much complaining, but that’s because I don’t think that any of them realized that these citations would give their insurance companies cause to deny towing and repair claims later. But then being stupid is supposed to hurt, or at least cost money. And hopefully they all realize now that no amount of money and no impressive job can exempt you from the laws, particularly the laws of nature and physics.