“… I think it is time for white folks, faced with yet another story like the one emanating today from Cambridge, to do something else. Something that will illustrate that aspect of inequality about which we are more than a little expert. Namely, we must tell our stories: stories about our beneficent and preferential treatment at the hands of the same cops who regularly view our brothers and sisters of color with contempt.”
—Tim Wise, author and anti-racist educator
When I lived in Pacific Beach around the turn of the century (I've always wanted to say that), my drive to and from work included a short but slow stretch along Loring Street. I always loved my drive home because I'd turn west onto Loring and just like the magic of a sea-and-sky horizon, all of my stress and worries that had accumulated during the day disappeared. Having been brought up in Utah, I cannot overstate the spiritual impact of seeing the ocean, rather than polygamists, at the end of my road each day.
And even though the beautiful Pacific was little more than a gray blur in my rearview mirror every morning, I liked my ride to work, too—especially on Thursdays. Thursdays were extra-good because, on Thursdays, there was a Sam Elliot-esque motorcycle cop standing at the side of the road, aiming his radar gun in my general direction. I always made it a point to go the speed limit so I wouldn't get a ticket. But a side benefit of 20 mph on a Thursday morning along Loring Street at the turn of the century was that I could practically see this man's soul as I drove by. It looked pretty damned good tucked into all that tight, dark blue polyester.
So, one particular Thursday morning, I opened my eyes only to realize that my alarm had failed to go off which, ironically, is about as relaxing as waking up to the sound of a shotgun firing next to your ear. It's funny how alarms don't sound when they're not set, isn't it? As a result, I moved through my morning at a pace wholly unsuitable for someone who might drive past a cop with an active radar gun.
Completely distracted and fumbling with the faceplate ('memba those?) for my stereo, it wasn't until Sam Elliott stepped away from his bike and motioned me to pull over that I realized what day it was. Shit, I thought to myself or probably even said out loud as I hit the brakes and veered toward the curb. Shitshitshit! The last thing I could afford was a speeding ticket. At least I didn't run him down. That had to count for something.
I turned my engine off and, with my hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel, watched as Sam Elliot walked / lumbered / sauntered / strolled toward me. He was moving in slow-mo, and I could swear now that the sun glinted off the front of his mirrored sunglasses. It was a typical socked-in beach morning, though, and any sunbursts or flares were pure invention, as was the Joe Cocker / Jennifer Warnes An Officer and a Gentleman duet that played in the background.
“Good morning,” Sam Elliott half-smiled at me from beneath the 'stache. Generally speaking, I don't care too much for the hair-lip, but for this guy—who was better looking from a distance, as it turned out—I'd made an exception.
“Well, it is now,” I smiled back.
“Really? Why is that?” he asked me.
Love lift us up where we belong….
“Because,” I said, “I drive this road every day and, the truth is that for months now, I've been hoping you would pull me over.”
Where the eagles cry, on a mountain high….
“And why is that?” Sam Elliott asked again.
Love lift us up where we belong….
“Because”—and here is where I attempted to talk myself out of a ticket from waaay out on a limb—“because you are so devastatingly handsome, I wanted to get a closer look.” I flitted my eyelashes and leaned toward him through the window.
Far from the world we know, up where the clear winds blow….
He smiled bigger then, looked down at the ground and then back up at the sky. He wrinkled his forehead, maybe blushed a bit, and I'm certain his eyes squinted behind his shades. “OK, well—may I please see your driver's license?” I handed it to him and he walked back to his motorcycle.
Shitshitshit, I thought. Did I really just do that? I cannot believe I just did that!
If I wasn't already nervous and sweating from being late, now I was nervous and profusely sweating from being pulled over and from being a lowly jackass. Still. I was checking my Game Face in the driver side mirror when Officer Elliott re-appeared at my window with a notebook. He handed me my driver's license and wrote me a warning ticket for going 35 in a 20 zone. That's right: a warning ticket for driving 15 miles over the posted speed.
Sam Elliott told me to have a great day and then, almost as punctuation, took off his sunglasses and winked at me. Honestly, his eyes were better with the Ray-Bans on. But it didn't matter to me anymore if he looked like Lou Dobbs because I'd accomplished my goal, even if I had to use my gender and my privilege to do it.Write to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.