Monthly Archives: December 2011

Cop Week: Day 3 — Mustache & Motorcycle

I stood by the side of the road, shaking, whimpering, pleading. I wished desperately that things had gone differently, that somewhere along the line a butterfly had flapped those little wings in some other direction, but deep down I knew there was nothing I could’ve done to prepare myself. He was a lawman, my greatest foe, and neither wit nor intellect would be able to help me this time.

But how did it come to this?

The year was still 2010, and I’d ridden into town not a week back. It was one of those days when the dust caught in your teeth and the air crackled with the reverberations of warning. Brian, the roommate, was having coffee withdrawals and needed to go to a snooty coffee shop to re-up on his fair-trade organic beans. To hide his addiction from the rest of the world, he usually brings a friend along to create an illusion of normalcy. That day, it was my turn. A long bike ride and some unsuccessful barista flirting left a bad taste in my mouth. So did the coffee.

When the roommate saw the sky was getting on toward afternoon and he’d be late for class, my so-called “friend” abandoned me and sped off into the distance. I was alone, trapped in the bewildering and hostile streets of what Oprah called the happiest town in America. I set my jaw and rode for home, but something was wrong.

I was biking on the sidewalk! In an effort to be more lawful and avoid further complications with the overzealous wardens of “justice” that patrolled this backwater whistle-stop, I crossed to the right-hand side of the road and continued my frantic pedaling, but something was still off. Before I could sniff it out, Motorcycle & Mustache pulled up alongside me and started yelling to get to the corner and dismount.

Apparently, I’d unknowingly committed one of the most appalling atrocities that man is capable of: biking against one-way traffic for about 15 feet. Mustache sauntered over to me, aviators lending a daunting aura to his hillbilly strength.


Russ: “Uhhh…”

Cop: “ARE YOU TRYING TO COMMIT SUICIDE?!” He seemed not to have basic control over the volume of his voice, but I didn’t mention it for fear he had some sort of disorder. “Cause this is a DAMN good way to do it!!!”

I could kill myself a dozen better ways without breaking a sweat, I thought, ready to rise to the challenge.

But I let it lie, deciding that correcting him probably wasn’t the best idea.

Cop: “You a Cal Poly student?” His question dripped venom. I got the impression that his wife had been done in by a Poly student.

Just then, I knew I was safe. You see, I hadn’t gone to Cal Poly. As soon as I played the Stanford card, I’d be off the hook and back to swimmin’ upstream, err, up-traffic. So I played it.


Russ: “Uhhh…no, sir. I do not have a death wish,” I said meekly. “Honestly, it’s my first week in town and I didn’t know about the one-way streets.”


It went on like this for some time, him insulting my skills of observation, me swearing on my grave that I didn’t want to die. Finally he handed me my ticket and left. My first and only real ticket.

Wait, that’s not true. Bike tickets aren’t real!

Check back tomorrow for Part 4: The Exciting Post before the Penultimate Post, in which Russ uses a test dummy to trick his parents into thinking he has friends.


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Cop Week: Day 2 — The Regular Cop

Close your eyes and imagine yourselves traveling forward in time many years. Now open them. What are you still doing reading this blog post? It’s been years!

In a time-jump justifying bit of luck, I managed to go through college without getting a single ticket, either because my newfound love of learning inspired me to untold heights of citizenry and obedience or because I didn’t yet own a horse-free motor buggy. But upon graduation, I was presented with my first car, a shining symbol of status that turned eyes and won hearts with its dent-ridden charms. Eventually, by the blessed hand of Chronos, the earth spun to September and I drove my new prize to San Luis Obispo, where Brian, the roommate, was taking 6 years to finish school.

My first Friday in town was shrouded in the hazy magic of heavy boozing. It was one of those calm nights when the wind rustles through the trees with the sound of uncertain beginnings, and the moon sparkles in the sky with unattainable majesty.

Also, my literally insane cousin needed to be picked up from the dorms because he’d spent the last few hours getting blitzed knitting a sweater and was thus unable to perform complex tasks like operating heavy machinery or speaking words. Unfortunately, the only place to stop my vehicle was inside this little cul de sac which clearly should not have been a fire lane. I figured I’d idle my car so that, should any fires choose this inopportune moment to ignite nearby, I could skedaddle  in a jiffy.

The cousin had done so much knitting that he was at this point highly unreliable, so to pass the twenty minutes it took him to traverse two sets of stairs and a small lawn, I booted up the ever reliable Angry Birds.

Out of nowhere, a cop taps on my window, asks for license and registration. I immediately weep like a little girl, but the cop is immune! He starts to write the ticket, and I pray to the god of finance that I’d still be able to feed myself post-indictment. But before he can finish copying down my address, he gets a call.

Then, with barely controlled rage, the cop leans into my face, his beady eyes pinched into an expression halfway between disappointed foster parent and a crocodile that just lost a chunk of its tail.

When he spoke, I could feel the heat of his breath on my face. It smelled of donuts and a deeply buried insecurity.

Cop: “You’re lucky that these shit-for-brains college kids can’t handle themselves like adults,” he spat. “I have to go save some student who’s puking his guts out on the steps of the performing arts center before he chokes on his own vomit and his parents find themselves without a son.”

And with that he stormed to his car, slammed the door, and sped off, leaving me both taken aback, and, beneath the shock of his fury-speech, joyous.

Stay tuned for Day 3 of Cop Week, in which the daring Russ saves the day during a bank robbery when his pitiful cries wake up an unconscious security guard!


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Cop Week: Day 1 — The Meter Maid

Every day this week, I’ll attempt to entertain you with a tale of one of my run-ins with law enforcement! Here we go!

As an exemplary example of upstanding citizenship, I’ve had very few interactions of the cop variety. In fact, I can almost count them on one hand, but every time I get to 2, I get distracted!

As a child, I was rarely let out of the house, and even then, my leash only allowed me to stray so far from my parents without being choked, so beyond the occasional leash gnawing, I had little opportunity for mischief.

But all that changed when, at the ripe young age of 16, my parents took off the harness and forced me to get my learner’s permit. The only flaw in their plan was that they had to sit in the passenger seat for 6 months while I drove frighteningly close to parked cars, swerved into oncoming traffic, ran down cones, small mammals, and small, cone-shaped mammals, and was generally unable to control my new power.

With moderate power comes a similar level of responsibility, and now that I was behind the wheel of a car, I was subject to the rules of the road and the authority of the roadkeepers. Soon enough, there would be a head-on collision… metaphorically.

Encounter One: The Meter Maid!

The year was 2004. It was a crisp afternoon, the kind where the air smells like rotting seaweed and opportunity. The sun shone overhead, casting an aura of growth and joy upon me, and I thought then of fields of wheat, my favorite grain. My thoughts quickly turned to milling, literally, then bread, and finally settled into a lust for sandwiches. It wasn’t long before my maternal unit similarly succumbed to the sun-induced line of reasoning, and, taken by her desire, she phoned in an order for a Pastrami on Rye. She never could’ve known what that sandwich would cost us, never could’ve foretold the effect that simple order would have on our family.

That was one of the days I was practicing my none-too-reassuring driving, so it was I who turned the wheel and pulled up to the sandwich factory. But the fates conspired against us that day—there were no parking spots. My mother, bless her misguided heart, told me to park in the red—it was just for a second. I argued, but the sandwich frenzy was upon her like I’d never seen, so I grudgingly obeyed.

Critical Hit! From out of nowhere, a meter maid knocked on the window! Flustered beyond reckoning, I started weeping like a little girl trapped in too tight a leash.

But the meter maid was a ruthless Fräulein, and before I knew it, I’d gotten my first and only parking ticket, and also had my first encounter with the law, albeit the lowest and most loathsome form.

It doesn’t really count though, since I passed the blame off on my mom and didn’t have to pay for anything because she felt guilty.

Stay tuned for Day 2 of Cop Week, in which the intrepid Russ learns takes apart his car to determine if it’s a Transformer in disguise.


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