A close call.

A few weeks ago, my roommate “Kenny” bought a 1991 Ford Escort. The car rides pretty well for its age, but there are several minor problems with the car. One of them is that when he tried to take off the rear license plate, he found that the screwheads were almost completely stripped, and wouldn’t budge. When I used my socket wrench to get the screws out, the heads broke off. He was stuck putting the tag in the rear window.

Fast forward to the other night, about one o’clock in the morning. Kenny and I had been at a bar with some friends in West Chicago, and were on the way home in his car. I was driving because I was sober, and Kenny was not.

I turned onto my street, and noticed that the car behind me was following a little too closely. I said, “This guy’s right on my bumper.”

Kenny said, “It’s a cop.” Sure enough, it was, and the blue and red lights began to flash.

I was confused. I’ve only been pulled over twice in my life, and both times it was in my old Delta 88, with my friend Patton riding in the passenger seat. Since I no longer had the Delta 88, and Patton was over in Iraq, then logically I couldn’t possibly be pulled over. And yet, there were the lights.

I pulled over and parked the car three houses away from my building. Turned off the engine, got out my license and insurance card, and rolled down the window. The officer walked up and asked for my information, which I gave him.

Then Kenny piped up, “Officer, this is my car, he’s driving because I’ve been drinking.”

The officer asked me, “Have you been drinking also, sir?”

I said, “Not since ten o’clock,” though it probably had been even longer than that. I don’t drink much. When I do, I’ll have no more than two drinks as soon as I show up someplace, and then stop. And I mean stop. I don’t drive until at least two hours after my last drink. That way, as the evening goes on, everyone else gets more drunk while I get more sober. Lame?Perhaps. But last I checked, I’m alive.

The officer said, “Well, I don’t need your insurance card, I need his.”

I put my insurance card away and expected Kenny to dig out his. Instead, he said, “I just bought the car two weeks ago, and they’re still switching the insurance over, so I don’t have my new card.”

Officer: “Who’d you buy it from?”

Kenny: “A private owner.”

Officer: “Well, I pulled you over because you don’t have a rear tag.”

I pointed out that it was in the rear window and explained why, relating the tale of the stripped heads and the socket wrench and the broken screws. So the officer took down the tag number and the VIN, and went back to his car to check the computer.

Kenny apologized to me for the inconvenience. Turned out he should have held off on that apology for a few minutes, because when the officer came back and said, “We ran the tags and they don’t match this car yet. Registration, please,” Kenny shrugged and said he didn’t have it.

My head spun around. The officer asked, “Why not?”

“I did the paperwork at the Currency Exchange, and I guess they’re still getting it straightened out.”

“Sir, the Currency Exchange is not the Illinois Secretary of State and it isn’t the DMV… Do you have anything that shows that this car belongs to you? Do you have the title?”

Kenny said, “Not here. It’s in my apartment, which is just right there.” He pointed, and said, “I can run in and get it if you want.” Like that was going to happen.

The officer said, “No, let’s just stay here. But you’re driving a car with tags that aren’t in the system, no registration, no proof of insurance… you know how this looks, right?”

Kenny shrugged. I could’ve killed him.

The officer said, “Wait here.” He went back to his car one more time, talked to his partner, talked to his radio, came back, and asked me to step out of the car.

Just great. I do my roommate a favor by driving him home after a night out, because if he’d been driving himself, he would almost certainly have gotten nailed for DUI—which is now a felony in Illinois. And because he didn’t have any of the paperwork, I was about to get arrested. Perfect timing, too: I’m interviewing with several school districts this month, and now I’d have to explain how an arrest for driving an unregistered vehicle suddenly popped up on my background check. “Well, you see, I can explain that… my roommate’s a jackass.”

I stepped out of the car.

The officer said, “Sir, I’m gonna need you to stand perfectly straight and follow the tip of this pen with your eyes, without moving your head.”

I said, “You fool. My master trained me in the ancient art of dim mak. With a single motion, I could strike you and your partner dead and catch your pen before it hit the ground. But I can see that you are both honorable men, likely with loving wives and children, with nothing but your pistols and steel batons to attempt—futilely—to defend yourselves. Using the death-touch against you would be unconscionable. Thus I shall take pity upon you, and submit to your field sobriety test.”

At least I think that’s what I said.

I successfully tracked the pen without moving my head, and the officer asked how far we were going. I pointed and said, “That building right there.”

He said, “Tell your friend to get his license plate mounted properly. Either take it to a dealership, or drill the holes himself and save a hundred bucks.” And that was that. I drove the remaining 150 feet home, went inside and had a heart attack.

Thank God the officer let it slide. That’s two, two out of three times, ah ah ah, that I’ve been pulled over by the cops and not gotten a ticket. God watches over small children, drunks, and on this occasion, the designated driver.

5 Responses to “A close call.”

  1. Doctor Hmnahmna Says:
    April 25th, 2006 at 8:14 PM

Oh, my God, you killed Kenny! You bastard!

  1. Vincent Viscariello Says:
    April 25th, 2006 at 8:24 PM

What a clever, clever comment. How close are you to your doctorate?

  1. Doctor Hmnahmna Says:
    April 26th, 2006 at 6:25 PM

Not nearly close enough, apparently.

  1. PaxonGator Says:
    April 26th, 2006 at 7:11 PM

I wish Officier Buxton would have let me slide last year. $180 for “Careless Driving” because I chirped my damn tires!!! People like her that make me dislike cops.

  1. craziness4now Says:
    April 27th, 2006 at 7:43 PM

oh my goodness graciousness Mr. V!

i had to come share with you the good news. It was announced yesterday in third period that I, Amber, am salutatorian. I was thoroughly exuberated. Well, frankly, im just excitedi get to sit on stage at graduation among other things. Just thought i’d share with you the news. And im sure you can guess who my partner in crime is for number 1….

by the way…i applaude your ability to somehow escape the cops. i think i would have slaughtered my roommate if that had happened to me.

you are coming to graduation, right?