Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I Fought The Law And The Law Won

I have never been to jail, officially, though I have had some very close calls. I wasn’t what you would call a juvenile delinquent; I just had a knack for running afoul of the law with no ill intent. I thought it would be fun to share a few of my more interesting run-in’s with the man with the badge:

Age 5
I was fascinated by all things mechanical, and also the labor and laborers involved in work. Fire engines, garbage trucks, garbage men, mechanics, and gas station attendants. I especially liked those guys in the snappy hats with a rag in their pocket, filling up the car and cleaning the windshield. I decided to imitate them, filled up a large jug with water, went outside and proceeded to pour the water into the gas tank of a neighbors car. Not good. The neighbor saw me, ran outside and grabbed the jug. He yelled at me and asked me where I lived. I knew instantly I was in big trouble, and figured I could avoid a harsh penalty and keep my parents from finding out by lying. I told him I didn’t live here and was visiting my friend. He asked me where my friend lived, and I pointed to my own house. Oops. He walked me to my house knocked on the door, and hell was unleashed.

Age 10
My friends and I loved firecrackers. Don’t all boys? Problem was they were illegal where we lived- not only in the state of Maryland, but we were also on a military base- where they are always illegal everywhere. Double illegal. We had accessed the contraband from a boy that recently moved into the area from California (where everything is either legal or ignored) and bought the precious materials with pockets full of quarters. We devised a cool, non lethal bomb- we used Elmer’s glue to attach a ring of firecrackers around a large raw egg, wrapping the fuses together and up to the top, and gluing a small paper stand on the bottom of the egg. We called it the Scrambled Egg Bomb. Theoretically, it would explode and spew quickly half-cooked egg in all directions. We thought it would be fun to place these on peoples porches, light it up, knock on the door, and plaster the place with egg (every house there had storm doors with screens and people didn’t open the door so we thought there would be no danger to people. 10 year old thinking). The very first house we tried it at we were busted. The plan was Clint would stay on his 10 speed bike and hold up mine and Robby’s so we were ready to blow. Robby lit the fuse, I watched intently, and then looked up to do the knocking. As I extended my hand I noticed there was a very large US Marine with his arms crossed looking down at us through the screen. RUN! Robby and I made a mad dash for our bikes, the Marine made a mad dash for us, and we barely escaped. Or rather, Clint and I barely escaped. Robby had left his bike in first gear. He was grabbed from behind and taken down. Clint and I kept going. We didn’t stop until we were far away, then stopped, congratulated ourselves on our escape, and then went back to turn ourselves in. We couldn’t leave Robby to face death on his own. By the time we got back the MPs (Military Police) were already there. They were men of honor, and appreciated so much that Clint and I came back to turn ourselves in they let us all go with a warning (and confiscated our explosives, eggs and matches).

Age 11
I thought it would be really cool to attach some fishing wire from my second floor window, down to an abandoned building across a rarely used access road for the sole purpose of sending my GI Joe’s sliding down the wire for Special Forces missions. It was there for days, undisturbed, until a military police officer knocked on our front door. My mom answered it, and then called me to join her. He was a very nice man, pleasant smile, and had been driving along that rarely used access road I mentioned. I knew it without asking since he had a nice perfectly straight cut across his forehead, courtesy of my zip line and his open air jeep.

Age 12
I walked home from school with my best-friends Clint and Robby, and got to my front door only to realize I had forgotten my house key that morning. Dad was at work, mom at work (out shopping) and my sister was at a friends. Clint and I thought it would be a good idea to borrow his dad’s ladder, and have me climb up to the second floor in the back and climb through my window that was almost always left unlocked. As I climbed up, a man passing by walking his dog looked up at me and jokingly said “pulling a second floor job, huh?” I had no idea what that meant, said “Um- yea” and climbed in my window. 15 minutes later two police officers knocked on the front door.

Age 13
It was Christmas day, 1979, and it was warm. Very warm. That morning I had received a very cool gift- a small rubber raft, 2-seater, and Clint and I headed out in the afternoon to give it a test run. We rode our bikes to Burba Lake, blew up the raft, and christened it with our canteens of water. Off we went, an oar each, and explored the lake. Shortly after reaching the small island in the middle, and watching Clint debark to explore the magical place on foot, I left shore thinking it would be funny to leave him stranded for a bit. As I turned the boat around I noticed two police cars with lights on, and two MPs staring at me. One- the officer- with a scowl on his face, arms crossed, the other- the grunt- waving me in. I reached the shore (Clint still on the island, now crouching down hiding behind some rocks) and the senior officer proceeded to rip me up and down for my illegal act. He asked me if I was stupid. He asked me if I was smart enough to read. He asked my why I couldn’t follow orders. He pointed out the signs that clearly stated NO SWIMMING and NO BOATING. I told him, sir, that the sign didn’t say NO BOATING. He was infuriated, insisting they did, and I kindly insisted they didn’t. He marched a hundred yards or so, placed himself in front of one of the signs, read it, and marched back with an awful look on his face. He informed me that while the sign may not actually say NO BOATING, there was most certainly NO BOATING allowed. He ordered me to deflate my raft and leave immediately. I told him I had a friend on the island I needed to pick up since there was NO SWIMMING. That made him very happy- to have to stand there and wait while I rowed back out to the island and picked Clint up. The signs at Burba Lake now include NO BOATING.

Age 16
Gaithersburg High School had an annual trip to the seashore for its best biology students. I was one, and so excitedly packed the morning of the trip, and headed out with 30 or so class mates for the overnight camping trip. The focus was on marine biology, and we spent the two days digging up creatures from the sand, taking a short boat trip on a research vessel, and having tons of fun with our friends. We had some free time so a group of us headed out to explore the abandoned forts and bunkers from WWII. The US had built a string of these along the Atlantic coast to defend against German U-Boats. We found one that looked promising- there were metal bars keeping out intruders, but two of the guys with us were so skinny they could slip through. They had a flashlight, and yelled back to us the play-by-play of what they saw as they explored. We had hit GOLD. The explorers called back that they had found old uniforms, books, pens and all sorts of military-type stuff. They brought out armloads, and we all divvied them up. When we got back to camp the police were waiting for us. Turns out it was a museum designed to look exactly like a bunker in 1942. The guys had tripped an alarm, and the police saw us walking back to camp and met us there.

Age 18
I purchased a brand new motorcycle and thought I was the coolest. I rode it everywhere- in all weather. Sun, rain, even snow. Yes. One winter night riding home from work I was pulled over for driving with an expired registration. Very expired. So expired that the policeman said he needed to impound the bike. He told me to wait there as he needed to leave, and another police officer along with a tow truck would be there shortly. I moved a bit away from the road, and sat down with my back to a building to escape the wind. It was so cold I tucked my arms inside my jacket to wait. I put my head back against the wall and closed my eyes to rest and wait for whatever was next. A few minutes later I head a voice, shaky, scared sounding, and very loud- “Take your hands out of your jacket- VERY…SLOWLY.” I sat up and saw a young police officer, weapon drawn, pointing right at me with a very concerned look on his face. Great. I’m gonna die for not renewing my registration.

Well that’s it- after that last one I was pretty much scared straight.

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Timothy Frazier said...

It's always interesting to get the other guy's perspective. You might enjoy this read from my days on the thin blue line: A Memorable Traffic Stop